I recall a time from the 1980s when it was joked that too many chance encounters between Marvel heroes proceeded in identical fashion. Heroes meet; heroes fight and fight and fight; heroes pause to recuperate and compare notes; heroes team up against the real villain. I’d wager this was the premise of at least 200 of the 250 combined issues of Marvel Two-in-One and the original Marvel Team-Up.
Sure, fans loved debating the old “Who’s stronger?” arguments. Having two heroes meet and fight was a great way for writers to present their position, however skewed the answer would be, depending on whose series was hosting the showdown. After decades of Hulk/Thing and Hulk/Thor cage matches, we still don’t have an ultimate, decisive victor for either comparison, but fans love ’em anyway. They’re like literary sports. Since the teams are different each year, there’s every chance that the game’s outcome will be different than their previous face-off.
I can understand how younger fans might hop aboard the Avengers vs. X-Men company-wide crossover train. Not since Marvel vs. DC/DC vs. Marvel have we seen so many good guys pummeling each other senseless for no-stakes us-vs.-them excitement. That was fifteen years ago, though. Times, heroes, secret identities, continuities, pasts, and artistic preferences have changed. Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it deserves to be written off as a retread.
Odds are a small portion of the audience may also have changed. It stands to reason that somewhere out there are a couple of newer fans who missed out on that event and want some hero-boxing to call their own. They wouldn’t be opposed to something more recent, something composed by today’s well-regarded talents, and something a little more imaginative than their local HeroClix tournaments.
Here’s my issue, simply put: I have no vested interest in a large-scale skirmish that is the moral equivalent of policemen versus firefighters. When it comes to teams whose purposes and goals frequently intersect, I’m not interested in knowing which brotherhood is stronger, faster, better, or more awesome. After decades of coexistence, successful team-ups, and countless tragedies in which they’ve mourned each other’s losses together as one big Marvel family, you’d think at least one hero among them would have the common sense to raise a hand, suggest there might be a better way, and prevent a few dozen tie-in issues from taking place.
(I’m generously assuming, of course, that the entire conflict isn’t predicated on a simple, stupid misunderstanding along the lines of every episode of Three’s Company. As every bad writer knows, such misunderstandings are an unstoppable force of nature that no amount of effective communication skills could possibly hope to resolve. Can’t be done, don’t try, and don’t bother blurting out the plain truth, because making things even more awkward and excruciating is always the nobler way to go.)
(While I’m thinking parenthetically: this setup has given me one horrid mental image I can’t shake. Imagine if a bevy of surviving 9/11 responders were conscripted into the Hunger Games. Whee?)
As it is, I’m already inundated with all the us-vs.-them stories I can handle. They’re called “the news”. I can read real-life tales every day of good people in heated disputes with other good people over what “good” should look like. Most of the combatants wouldn’t consider themselves evil, but they’re fairly certain the other side is. At the very least, the other side’s sheep are the unwitting, helpless pawns of Big Evil. I have no doubt this is true in select cases, but good luck persuading both sides to agree on which cases. I don’t enjoy watching, nor do I seek out allegories of same, intentional or otherwise.
I firmly believe the writers and artists involved in this project are talented folks. I’ve bought works by most of them, and hope to buy more in the future. In this case, I don’t care who’s responsible or what the premise is. They lost me at the title, and kept me fenced out when the Big Picture was revealed as a widespread crossover. Ten times the story I’d prefer not to read is still a story I’d prefer not to read.
Even allowing that AvX might be intended as nothing more than mindless, literary sports, it’s worth noting that I generally don’t like sports, either. Gave up my man card years ago over that.
Worst thing about all this: when it’s over at long last and the rubble has settled, I bet we still won’t know which team is stronger.