Group Review: Avengers & X-Men – Axis #1

If there’s an event book then you know that Comic Bastards is going to review it… for at least one issue. In the wake of New York Comic Con we were delayed in posting this review, but now the three participating writers (Steve, Andrè and Dustin) will all give their thoughts and opinions on Marvel’s latest hype machine event book. Normally we’d post the synopsis for the issue here… ah let’s just say Red Onslaught is filling the world with hate and only the X-Men and Avengers can team up to take him down… which actually makes the issue sound tolerable.


That’s right, I’m busting out the “WTF” score which is rarely used. It’s reserved for a comic that’s so fucking stupid and nutty that it doesn’t even deserve a score. Think of it as a negative five if you want to.

Now I’m going to say something crazy… I loved this issue. No, no, not for the story or the art (which had too many splash pages), but for what it’s going to do for future events books and that’s kill them. Not only does this show that Remender can’t fucking handle event books, but it shows that Marvel can no longer handle them either.

The two page recap that catches you up on the last two years of Marvel events perfectly showed that everything that happens in-between events is regarded as useless unless it can serve the next event, i.e. Alex and Wasp’s baby drama. Whoever paired those two tougher is an asshat by the way. I couldn’t even pretend to care at being interesting.

Seriously though I loved how this issue showed how clichéd and gimmicky these events are. They rely on cheap pops like Beast not wanting to play favorites by yelling “Avenger’s Assemble” or the entire Avenger’s B-Day speech. Right up until the X-Men put aside two years of differences about the murder of their mentor and say, “We’re family, not just X-Men.”

The ending in particular showed that Marvel is just a bunch of liars as two giant godamn sentinels that Tony Stark designed emerge from the ground created from Adamantium… the rarest substance on earth… so we’ve been told since the shit was made up for the comics… suddenly there was enough of it to build two robots entirely out of it that stand four to five stories tall… it’s rare… see what I’m getting at? The rules don’t fucking mater for event books. Just do whatever.

I can’t be mad at this issue, well actually I can be, but I’m just so done that it doesn’t matter. I don’t read Marvel and they clearly don’t want me reading Marvel because I have expectations in continuity that they groomed me as a reader to expect. I have expectations that their stories will makes sense and not break the rules of their universe just for cheap sales. I have expectations that when you tell me the Red Skull stole Xavier’s brain that somehow that will make scientific sense because every fiber of logic that I have says, “that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” I have the expectation that they’ll stop creating make believe children for C-list characters to become attached to only to have them ripped away so that there’s something interesting about their character. I have expectations and that’s the problem which is why I’ll take my expectations to books like The Woods, Unity, Mind MGMT, Thomas Alsop and dozens of other titles that are actually trying to meet expectations. They’re making the grade while this event book is really just a cash grab. Marvel’s trying to get as much as they can before the market pops. When it busts this time I hope that a new number one will emerge and start steering the ship in a positive way because this shit is going to kill comics or maybe just superhero comics.


I don’t know how I let myself get repeatedly duped into thinking that a crossover event comic from one of the Big Two will be a smash hit with me. As someone who doesn’t keep up with most ongoing Marvel titles, excluding She-Hulk of course, there wasn’t very much here that I found compelling. Avengers hit Red Onslaught (RO), RO tries to use X-men abilities to further nefarious ends, and then more Avengers and X-men show up. When I was younger, all it took was for all my favorite characters to join up in double-spread splash pages for me to lose my shit. Now whenever that occurs I can’t help but thinking, “Some of these characters need to leave.”

Despite my overall dislike of this opening issue though, there were some redeeming qualities that sadly don’t frequently appear in event comic, such as character interactions that have some actual pathos to them rather than just moving the plot along. For instance, late in the issue we get a great scene between Rogue and Wanda as the two ruminate over what they’ve recently loss and whether the planet is worth serving despite their tragedies. Not only do we get to see how far their relationship has come since the first arc of Uncanny Avengers, but the brief conversation also serves to show that Cap’s Unity Squad has provided some personal good for mutants.

Additionally, the action here is pretty stellar, particularly the opening fight between the Avengers and Plantman. Kubert manages to spotlight each Avenger while never losing his pacing. It makes me wonder why the later fights with Red Onslaught feel so much less uninspired. Perhaps it’s because RO is just a huge hulking telepathic beast that everyone hits or blasts with whatever energy projection they have with no clear tactic to it other than to overwhelm him with power. Or it could be that after seeing Red Skull’s new form for two pages it starts to look much less menacing, and more like a rejected character from the Spawn live-action movie.

Now that most of the major characters are on the board, I’m hoping things change from just fisticuffs to the type of complex moral quandaries that Remender has succeeded at since Uncanny X-Force. One character death this issue will definitely hold some repercussions that I anticipate will play out in this event, and not in a later epilogue series. I’ll be checking out the next issue, but the Guardians of the Galaxy better not make a final page appearance.

STEVE: 1/5

Even though I barely paid attention to AvX, I’ve really enjoyed the build-up to Marvel’s AXIS. It reminds me of 1999’s Earth X, where a super-telepathic “Red Skull” takes over the world: still a concept that makes me want to take a hot shower and have a good cry. I thought that’s somewhere near where this was all going - as was hinted at from the beginning of Uncanny Avengers - but wow ... I made a huge mistake.

Let’s ignore for a moment some of the random inaccuracies in AXIS #1, like why Hulk is wearing ripped purple pants if he stopped changing back into Bruce Banner; or why Cyclops - who emits force beams from his fucking eyes - doesn’t just push Ahab’s harpoon out of the way, rather than doing something stupid like jumping in front of it.  Luckily, it only seems to graze his shoulder, unlike Genesis, who gets speared and presumably killed. Not that anyone cares, mind you, since they’re all too busy cracking jokes and smiling warmly at each other.

And that’s my biggest problem with AXIS #1: the dialogue and attitude Remender crams down his cast’s throats. This is truly horrible stuff, especially for someone of his caliber. Each and every single one of these characters is an indistinguishable wisecracking mess. In a way, that’s fine for guys like Iron Man and Hawkeye, but Hulk, Vision and Colossus, for example? Nyet. Even if you did want to spice up their repartee, at least make them sound different from one another, rather than just the worst possible version of Spider-Man.

This book feels hokey, trite, too thickly lain and completely out of place; almost like Remender is writing a Little Tyke’s My First Marvel Comic; or worse, fan fiction. With the kind of generic heroic banter and vacuous villainous grandstanding he beats us over the head with, the threat posed in AXIS #1 - wherein a goddamn NAZI is trying to recreate reality in his image and likeness - rings sadly hollow.

In one issue, I’m already done with this so-called event. Besides, I liked it better the first time ... when it was called JLA: Tower of Babel. Even then, at least Waid's story about a billionaire hero providing ways for his greatest enemy to exploit his friends’ weaknesses had some nuance, rather than just throwing in two humongous, indestructible murderbots.

In terms of art, AXIS #1 is all over the place, with the issue’s sketchy line work and basic colors both getting progressively worse with each turn of the page. Like Remender’s writing, there are one or two impressive flourishes, but it all feels quickly thrown together, probably because of some editorial mandate demanding an event book for the sake of it. There’s obvious talent here, but it’s all squandered and neutered in hype-driven pomp and circumstance. In short, it’s like the 90s all over again.

I honestly want to believe that Remender and co. are fudging this book on purpose, out of artistic protest or something, because otherwise I simply can’t grasp how AXIS #1 could fail so spectacularly.

Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Adam Kubert Publisher: Marvel Comics Price: TOO MUCH! Release Date: 10/8/14