Review: “Avengers Vs. X-Men” Launches Marvel’s Biggest Story Of The Year

Review: “Avengers Vs. X-Men” Launches Marvel’s Biggest Story Of The Year

In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on April 04, 2011.

Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Avengers vs. X-Men #1

What it’s about: We’re getting closer and closer to summertime, so that means Marvel Comics is gearing up for its yearly mega crossover event. This time, the company is pitting two of its most popular super teams against each other in Avengers vs. X-Men. These crossover events are both lauded and hated amongst comic book fans as they always pack a metric ton of entertaining action into each issue, yet they usually wind up getting very complicated towards the end.

For this series, the premise is refreshingly simple: The Phoenix force has returned to Earth. The Avengers see this as a harbinger of deadly events to come, but the X-Men view it as a sign that the mutant race will be reborn after the events of House Of M eradicated their numbers. Like in any good comic book narrative, this leads to a fight to the finish between the two teams. Captain America and Cyclops serve as the two main characters here, and a brief skirmish between them is the catalyst for the start of the war, which won’t begin in earnest until next issue.

The main story is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who has been scripting Avengers stories for the better part of a decade now and has an intimate knowledge of these characters. But the real highlight here is the art by John Romita Jr. His characters are all near-flawless and his action scenes are fluid to the point that every blow and optic blast can be felt right in your gut. We simply can't wait for him to unleash epic fights between the likes of Iron Man, Magneto, Colossus, and Wolverine in future issues.

This event feels like it will wind up being more personal and meaningful, like Civil War, rather than overblown and emotionally distant in the vein of Siege or Fear Itself. The main thing to keep an eye on here is the path that Cyclops goes down; it wouldn’t shock us if he’s a full-blown baddie by the time this series is over as his hard-line stance on the issue of the Phoenix borders on dogmatic. If you like big-time action comics, we can’t think of a better book for you to pick up than this one.

Chew #25

What it’s about: Chew is one of the rare comics that isn’t afraid to buck the industry's grim and gritty trends and go completely off-the-wall with humor and outrageous plots. The book focuses on FDA agent Tony Chu, who's a Cibopath; meaning, Chu can get a psychic impression from whatever food he eats. This makes him an excellent detective, but it also means that sometimes he has to do some corpse munching in order to get to the bottom of a murder mystery.

In a recent issue, Chu was kidnapped by a sociopath who was looking to write a tell-all book about the secret sex lives of famous baseball players. In order to do this, he forced Chu to ingest numerous dead ballplayers so he could to absorb their memories and give him material for the book.

What to expect this month: The race to rescue Tony is on as his girlfriend, Amelia, tries desperately to track down his whereabouts. Writer John Layman again packs every panel of this issue with non-stop humor and grotesque images. Baseballs being thrown through skulls and the unsightly image of a nude old nymphomaniac are only some of the disturbingly detailed events on display here.

So much of the success of this issue has to go to artist Rob Guillory. His obscene illustrations and penchant for gross-out humor perfectly compliments these zany scripts. There isn’t one facial expression that goes to waste here as Guillory uses every inch of each panel to its fullest potential. This issue marks the last part of a five-part storyline, so it’s best to collect them all before reading this one.

Fatale #4

What it’s about: Ed Brubaker’s noir/horror title has quickly established itself as one of the best comics on shelves today. Following the story of an ageless woman named Josephine, Fatale explores just how dangerous a beautiful woman can really be. Josephine’s immortality and habit of causing trouble have lured reporter Hank Raines into her seedy world of murder and the occult, and, so far, it's all led to deadly consequences for his loved ones.

What to expect this month: The mystery surrounding Josephine continues to deepen as Hank Raines tries to put the pieces of his broken life back together, after the police inform him that his wife and unborn son had been slaughtered. This issue is heavy on exposition, with Brubaker putting plot points in place for the story’s latter half, but the intrigue never stops as more about Josephine's real identity gets revealed.

However, the most interesting character in the series continues to be Hank Raines. He is simply a man mixed up with the wrong crowd, and he lost everything because of it. Brubaker’s writing is about as delicate as a chainsaw here as he tears through this man with tragedy on top of tragedy. If you like watching characters twist in the wind a bit, this book should fulfill all of your sociopathic tendencies.

Action Comics #8

What it’s about: It’s never easy to try and reinvent a 70-plus year-old character. But that’s exactly what Grant Morrison has done so far during his run on Action Comics. He has turned the Man of Steel from an unapproachable demigod into a more modern superhero with a fleshed-out personality and real-life problems.

For the first time in decades, Superman feels like he did when he first arrived on the scene. He’s a crusader for social justice and the little guy, as opposed to spending his time off Earth fighting aliens and monsters. And now he’s up against his biggest challenge yet: Brainiac.

What to expect this month: It’s Superman against Brainiac, with the fate of Metropolis, and its shrunken citizens, at stake. The version of Brainiac that Morrison has gone with here is the one from Superman: The Animated Series. Meaning that he’s an intergalactic collector obsessed with downloading a planet’s information, then destroying it.

The art by Rags Morales fits the book perfectly as he combines dynamic action scenes with smaller, more nuanced character moments. And Morrison's portrayal of Lex Luthor continues to be one of the highlights of the book as he makes Superman's arch-rival as slimy and manipulative as ever. Anyone who thinks Superman is nothing but a stale relic of an older age should give Action Comics a chance—it should completely change your opinion.

Legends Of The Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 1

What it’s about: Over the past year, DC has done a superb job of reprinting classic Batman stories from some of the premiere writers and artists from the Caped Crusader’s stories history. This latest mammoth hardcover collection features the work of famed artist Jim Aparo, the man that helped redefine Batman from the ‘70s through the ‘90s.

This book includes the early work of Aparo on the character from the team-up title The Brave and the Bold. Each issue features Batman joining forces with other heroes like The Black Canary, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Sgt. Rock, and even a team-up with the Joker himself. The Batman we see here isn’t the grim specter of the night like he has been portrayed as recently, yet he also isn’t as campy as the old ‘60s TV show. Legends Of The Dark Knight strikes a happy medium where the Dark Knight is more like a suave James Bond-esque detective.

But the stories themselves take a backseat to Aparo’s art that helped bring Batman out of the Silver Age and into the Modern Age's more realistic look. His Batman is sleek and lean like an Olympic swimmer, his Joker is gangly and ghastly, and his version of Man-Bat is appropriately terrifying as he shrieks through the night sky. When old-school comic fans close their eyes and think of the Caped Crusader, usually it's an Aparo version that they see.

Don’t expect The Dark Knight Returns-like (or so we hope) levels of brilliance from the storytelling here, but if you want to catch up on some classic Batman stories and witness a pivotal point in the character’s visual evolution, Legends Of The Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 1 is a must-have.

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Tags: avengers-vs-x-men, avengers, x-men, marvel-comics, dc-comics, image-comics, batman, superman, grant-morrison
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