Wednesday, July 10, 2013

train kept a-rollin' 001 - what if? avx #1

by Chad Nevett

What If? AvX #1 (Marvel)
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Jorge Molina, Norman Lee, Rachelle Rosenberg

I didn't already know all of this. The biggest Marvel press promotion ever with the biggest event of last year and what did they deliver? A comic that reworks some of the things that the massive amount of comics released last year showed us. I'm almost at a loss over what I can possibly say about this comic. The Phoenix is coming, the Avengers think it's coming for Hope, they want to stop that, Magneto has gone all crazy Mutant zealot, and... fight! But, seriously, I knew most of that going in. That's basically the same premise. The first issue tells me the premise. Again. In a slightly altered form. And guess what? It's not significantly better that way. It's not such a vast improvement over 'Avengers vs. X-Men'.

It's not even that 'What If? AvX' #1 is a bad comic. It’s not a good 'What If...?' comic for one thing. It lacks that central bit of information that drove almost all issues of 'What If...?' throughout its various incarnations: a simple question and answer. “What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?” “What if Captain America was never unfrozen?” “What if Wolverine was king of the vampires?” “What if Captain America and Iron Man learned to just fucking talk to one another instead of hitting?” I don’t know what the question here is. “What if Avengers vs. X-Men happened differently for no good reason?” There’s no clear point of diversion from what happened in 'Avengers vs. X-Men' #1 last year. There are differences, sure, but that’s just rewriting. 'What If...?' was also rewriting, sure, but in a specific way, with a specific point and a clear purpose. This... this is change for the sake of change. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

I don’t particularly care for this issue. I guess the name 'What If...?' raises certain expectations and this does not meet them. I’m not sure what this actually is. In the same way that DC’s Elseworlds line of books was different from Marvel’s 'What If...?', this issue seems like a third thing, one that we’re used to: the remix. Warren Ellis called his work on Marvel’s Ultimate line of books a remix. Taking a story you already know and changing it around for the purpose of doing something quasi-new. Except, instead of having the distance that the Ultimate books have or even the distance that Brian Michael Bendis writing a new story about Ultron has from previous Ultron stories, this is another version of 'Avengers vs. X-Men' #1 except with random changes that don’t seem any more or less logical. The only function they seem to have is pointing out how artificial and random these stories are.

Why were the “Space Avengers” in 'Avengers vs. X-Men' those specific characters? Because someone decided that those characters should be the ones sent into space. Here, Jimmy Palmiotti decides to send a different roster into space to confront the Phoenix. Why? Because. Why was Cyclops sparring with Hope in 'Avengers vs. X-Men' #1? Because that’s what Brian Michael Bendis wrote. Why is Magneto sparring with Hope in 'What If? AvX '#1? Because that’s what Jimmy Palmiotti wrote. Why does the Phoenix kill the Guardians of the Galaxy? Why does Magneto confront Captain America when he comes for Hope? Why...?


Because this isn't really 'What If? AvX' #1. Oh no. It’s 'Avengers vs. X-Men' within the world of “What if Magneto was the leader of Utopia?” It’s only hinted at, only suggested, but it’s clear that what’s missing is a previous story where Magneto led the Mutant race coming out of 'House of M', not Cyclops. Where Magneto spearheaded their move to independence on Utopia in response to Trask and Osborn. Where Magneto leads the Extinction Team. He is the face of mutant-kind, the teacher of Hope, and the man that says no to Captain America when he comes to take his people’s messiah. If you thought Cyclops was a crazy motherfucker...

Within that context, this issue begins to make sense, except for one thing: why in the world would Captain America go to Utopia to reason with Magneto? (I know, I know: because that’s what Jimmy Palmiotti wrote! Aw... fuck you.) That’s the moment that does not totally ring true. If anything, Magneto leading the X-Men seems like it would mean a swifter move to violence. A calculated strike on Utopia with a shoot first, ask questions later. A comic where the Avengers are the crazy zealots of a cause to save the planet. That would have been a nice inversion, don’t you think?

(But, look at me, talking about what the comic is not, what the comic is. Gotta work the rust off somehow, I suppose.)

Right now, 'What If? AvX' #1 is a simple alternate to 'Avengers vs. X-Men' #1 where Black Panther goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy get blown up, and Wolverine stabs Storm accidentally. That is to say: it’s not that much different from a comic I read last year.

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

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