Avengers vs. X-Men – THIS is what every fanboy and fangirl really wants. Slugfest. Mano a mano. Superhero vs. superhero. We want to see our favorites in combat. That’s just the way it is. We love when Batman fights Superman. We wait with baited breath for the next Thing vs. Hulk match. One of my own favorite Marvel Comics stories is the Avengers/Defenders clash. And let’s face it, there’s a reason that just the thought of the Avengers battling the Justice League makes us all drool just a little. It’s what we want, so why not give the people what they want.
Marvel has been having huge success in movie theaters of late. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, all building to the big Avengers movie in May. Before that, and even now, they were doing well with the X-Men franchise. Everybody knows the characters now, even outside of the comics. And in the comics, other than Spider-Man, the X-Men and Avengers lines of titles are Marvel’s biggest. Talk about no-brainers, of course, they just have to do Avengers vs. X-Men, or as they’re calling it – AvsX.
Now let’s keep in mind, with the Marvel Universe continuity going back more than five decades, (at least, it does actually go back further) these two groups have clashed before. The first time in X-Men #9 was just a skirmish, a misunderstanding, but the next time they fight, they have a reason, something that keeps coming up again and again, and is also at the root of the AvsX conflict as well.
In Avengers #16, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch join the team. Why is this a big deal? Their former team was Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, that’s why. Hell – decades later (and we’ll get to this) they are revealed to be the children of Magneto. If you’re the X-Men, how can you ever trust Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ever again after they let two of your enemies, let alone the children of your greatest foe, join them? That’s a big wedge of contention.
That’s the center of the brief clash, with both the Scarlet Witch, her brother and Magneto at its center, that takes place over the course of several months in 1968 crossing over as a subplot between both teams’ titles. It’s important to note, no one knew that Magneto was Wanda and Pietro’s father at the time. Magneto turns up again when he pits a mind-controlled X-Men against the Avengers in #110 of the latter’s title. In one particularly creepy scene, he makes the Scarlet Witch dance for him.
Years later, when writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne were at the height of their X-Men work, a subtle crossover occurs while Byrne is also drawing Avengers. In the latter book, we’re in the midst of learning the true origins of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, with their mother both mentioned and depicted; while over in X-Men, Magneto laments the loss of his one true love, a woman named Magda, who under Byrne’s pen is the very same woman. Thus the parentage was revealed.
This particular era in the late 1970s is important, as it’s the beginning of AvsX. The X-Men face their greatest foe, one of their own, Jean Grey possessed by the Phoenix force, in perhaps their most famous story. They faced down Dark Phoenix, an entity capable of destroying universes. So powerful an entity and so powerful a story, that the franchise ends up repeating it numerous times in the decades since in one form or another.
At this time we also begin to see hints that the Scarlet Witch is more than she seems as well. It is a slow build, but it finally erupts in the “Disassembled” storyline in 2004, where it’s revealed that not only does she possess nearly uncontrollable reality-altering powers, but she’s also out of her damn mind. She succeeds in destroying the team to such an extent that it would never be the same again.
In the years between, the teams clashed here and there in stuff like Secret Wars, “Blood Ties,” “Onslaught,” the recent Avengers: X-Sanction, and even the aptly named miniseries The X-Men vs. the Avengers. There has also been a little incest between the groups. The Beast became a member in long standing of the Avengers. Ms. Marvel for a time was an X-Men ally. More recently, Wolverine and Storm have become Avengers, and the Sub-Mariner has become an X-Man. What a tangled little universe Marvel has.
Now as I said, the Phoenix force and the Scarlet Witch are at the center of the upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men clash. The Phoenix force never seems to go away, and odds are the Scarlet Witch will be back at the end of Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers maxi-series The Children’s Crusade. Or maybe not. That series is so late, it’s hard to say if it’s really in continuity any longer, which is a shame, as it’s some of the best Avengers storytelling in quite a while. The Children’s Crusade and the aforementioned X-Sanction seem to be leading directly into AvsX. The Phoenix force is coming back to Earth, probably to possess Cable’s daughter Hope – should she be stopped, or welcomed? And how does the Scarlet Witch fit into this?
The big event is hitting comic shelves interestingly before the big Avengers movie hits theaters, and the advertising campaign has already started. Across the top of many titles in the X-Men and Avengers franchises is an AvsX banner reminiscent of the “You Could Win a Toys’R’Us Shopping Spree” or “You Could Be in the Next Superman Movie” or the Bicentennial banners of the 1980s and 70s. It’s not just annoying advertising, it’s confusing. When I see that, I expect to see AvsX inside that issue, and that’s not the case. In my mind, it’s borderline false advertising.
Other types of advertising suggest other things about the conflict. The line-ups of the teams are intriguing. The Beast, Ms. Marvel and Wolverine all stand with the Avengers. On a particularly sinister note, especially from the perspective of the Avengers, the X-Men team includes Magneto, the Sub-Mariner, Emma Frost and someone who appears to be Juggernaut. If you were Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, what would you think?
Twelve issues of this, folks, for six months, featuring the best creators Marvel has to offer. Television advertising, crossover issues, big money. Are you ready for this? I just hope it’s good. But then again, that what I hope for in all comics events. And you know how I feel about crossover events. We’ll see.