Marvel NOW! is...well... now! With the arrival of Uncanny Avengers, Rick Remender and John Cassaday herald in what is meant to be the new era of the Marvel Universe. Humans and mutants. Working together. Oozing with hypocrisy.
The issue begins with the Red Skull scheming to incite the tensions between humans and mutants created by the Phoenix Five, and he has a rather interesting and almost objective take on how the mutants reacted to their near extinction. I think Remender has chosen well for his primary villain to kick things off with. Sure, the Red Skull is supposed to be dead, and Remender will have to go through some hoops to get past that. It’s an endeavor that seems like it will be worth it in the long run, though. Besides, none of us expected Red Skull to be gone for good. And as much as I loved Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run, Sin didn’t cut it as a replacement.
The big win here is the return of Cassaday, though. This is very reminiscent of Astonishing X-Men, but mainly because of Wolverine’s presence. To be honest, I don’t think he’s done interiors like this for a while, and it kind of shows. This is not really up there with the greatness of Planetary or Astonishing X-Men. Still, it is Cassday so it is good. It will probably take him some time to get a handle on the newer characters like Rogue and Thor. And even he cannot sell Havok’s headgear.
What hurts this debut issue, and what is hurting other Marvel books at the moment, is the ridiculous treatment of Scott Summers. It’s really confusing. Did anyone at Marvel actually read Avengers Vs. X-Men? Because Cyclops isn’t guilty of doing much of anything. I read that story. He got taken by the Phoenix Force, and he ended up being right about Hope. So what are we supposed to be blaming him for?
Sometimes, I think Marvel misunderstands the story they told. It’s like they think they told a story about how absolute power corrupts absolutely, as if Cyclops and the others simply got great power and nothing else. It didn’t happen that way. The Phoenix Force isn’t just power. It’s an entity known for mentally compromising some of the people it possesses, as happened with the Phoenix Five. Cyclops is not responsible for what he did as the Phoenix. He quite clearly was no longer in his right mind. Avengers and X-Men alike should be fully aware of this, considering this kind of thing happens so much in comics.
But Captain America and Wolverine? They don’t have any excuse for their actions. Wolverine betrayed the X-Men and pushed for the Avengers to be ready for war against Cyclops. Captain America went along with that and brought an army to Utopia. Then, the Avengers’ interference created the Phoenix Five, making them at least as equally responsible for what happened as the people who played host to the Phoenix. Plus, their continued interference pushed Cyclops to go Dark Phoenix. And finally, they ended up doing exactly what Cyclops wanted to do in the first place to end it all, by letting Hope become Phoenix.
Basically, things could have happened far more peacefully had Captain America and Wolverine chosen to work with Cyclops rather than pick a fight.
Yet, who are the ones condemning the man while he takes responsibility for everything and sits in a cell?
This is a problem. I’m supposed to like these characters, right? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do it when they are being portrayed as petty and cowardly. Even Havok is fine with letting his brother be a scapegoat. I swear the only characters being honest with themselves in this issue are Cyclops standing up for himself and Thor stating his preferences for lattes.
Moving on to other characters, Remender has his own preferred take on Rogue. Fans may be divided on it too. His take doesn’t really track with Rogue as we just left her in X-Men Legacy. It’s about as detached from it as you can get, actually. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. Rogue is one of my favorite X-Men, but I was admittedly not 100% behind the direction she was being taken in X-Men Legacy. So I’m open-minded about where Remender may want to go with her here. With the attitude she has, she may even prove to be the voice of dissension to all those wanting to sweep Avengers Vs. X-Men under the rug with Cyclops. I can hope, can’t I?
The portrayal of Scarlet Witch is less startling, but Marvel is going to need to make a damn decision with her already. Avengers: Children’s Crusade tried to wash her hands of all responsibility for what happened. Avengers vs. X-Men preferred to still have that black stain on her for it. Let’s not try to have it both ways. Remender seems to be sticking with the stained Scarlet Witch, and to be fair, I think that is the most interesting way to go with her.
Uncanny Avengers delivers a strong first issue, and credit goes to John Cassaday’s art for elevating it to a certain level. But Remender does avoid giving us too much of a stock team-building first issue and has chosen a potentially interesting cast. The mishandling of Cyclops and the rest of the former Phoenix Five is an impediment, but there is hope that the series can move on and away from the drawbacks of Avengers vs. X-Men.