Friday, September 21, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 24 (Avengers #30)

I have only a limited amout of control over what these posts will be like. That's a counterintuitive thing to write, but it's also fairly obvious. After all, I'm not 'choosing' what to write about each week (beyond choosing to continue this series of posts). That's determined by Marvel's release schedule -- and, then, by the people involved in actually making the comics. Last week, there was a wealth of material to explore and an approach that I could latch onto with ease. "Scott Summers is the hero of Avengers vs. X-Men!" Just say the opposite of what is generally believed and, boom, instant material. Helped by the four comics released last week, specifically Avengers vs. X-Men #11. This week, the Avengers vs. X-Men comic released is Avengers #30 and it takes place after the event is over. How am I to write about the event then? This is an issue where Spider-Woman spends much of it acting as a means for Brian Michael Bendis to convince you that he's an awful writer before she turns around and acts as his in-story critique of that sort of portrayal of women... for no real reason. You could lose the first half and probably have a stronger comic. In the end, it's a comic that's not terribly good or memorable or worthwhile, even when taken out of the context of Avengers vs. X-Men and placed back in the context of Bendis's Avengers work. Were I reviewing it for a site like Comic Book Resources, I would probably spend 500 words saying those things in, possibly, nicer ways, but not too many people would read those words, because the one-and-a-half- or two-star rating would be enough.

But, here we are and I guess I should try to get something out of this comic...

I'm a little fascinated by the fact that both New Avengers #30 and Avengers #30 seem to take place after the end of Avengers vs. X-Men and... things are fine. We all expect that to be the case, but it's more than that. Things aren't just fine, they're almost 'normal.' You could put either issue in a different place in Marvel's history and not much would change. You'd need to rework some of the specifics in New Avengers #30, sure, but the basic idea of that issue was, after a big superhero to-do, Luke Cage struggles with what it means to be a husband and father while also being a superhero, and joins some other Avengers in fighting some bad guys before quitting the team. Take out Emma Frost and the fact that the bad guys hate mutants and... nothing that matters would change. The same thing applies in this issue, except in an even bigger way. You literally just need to take out the opening double-page spread and I'm not sure there's a specific Avengers vs. X-Men reference in the comic.

This is the event that Matters (capital M, of course) and Will Change Everything Forever (for now) and, before it's over, we're being treated to comics that demonstrate just how much it doesn't matter. At all. It's just another crisis -- another big event. Another giant threat to the planet that the heroes have to stop. The specifics don't matter. Phoenix? Might as well be Thanos or the Beyonder or Norman Osborn or an act of congress or the Scarlet Witch or Apocalypse or Kang or Ultron or Dr. Doom or the Skrulls or the Kree or the Kree and the Skrulls or Galactus or anything else. Because it doesn't matter.

Do you know the sort of balls it takes to put out comics that send that message before the event is even over? Avengers vs. X-Men #12 comes out in 12 days and Brian Michael Bendis has already moved on. Marvel clearly has with its promotion of Marvel NOW!

That's the reality that we all know when it comes to event comics. No one really thinks that this is the end-all, be-all of the shared superhero universe we are dropping in on. Next month, Avengers and X-Men comics will come out. And the month after that and after that and after that and after that... We know that. Marvel knows that. The creators know that. And we all know that everyone else knows it, too. But, I guess what I'm struggling with is this:

Do they have to be so obvious about it? Can we not at least pretend that this matters until it's done? Do they really not have the stamina to keep up the bullshit through to the end?

Tony Stark has the answer to all of those questions and more: "I'm zonked. [...] Can't SHIELD take care of it? [...] Ugh... Avengers Assemble."

Next week: Wolverine and the X-Men #17. (In the solicitations and house ads, this is listed as an Avengers vs. X-Men comic, but it doesn't have the 'AVX' code on the Diamond list like every other Avengers vs. X-Men book so far. So, we'll see if it's actually an applicable comic or not when it ships on Wednesday. If it is, great. If not... well, I guess I'll have to do something quick thinking, eh?)