by Brian Michael Bendis & Jason Aaron (writers), Frank Cho (art), Jason Keith (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: The Scarlet Witch is back in action and Hope becomes a crime-fighter.

The Review: How much you enjoy AvX #0 is largely contingent on what you expect to get out of this issue.  In many ways, this is somewhat falsely advertised as a prelude to the big Avengers vs. X-Men event and, as such, both Brian Bendis and Jason Aaron’s stories kind of fail in this regard.  Barring a final page in Aaron’s story that doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know, this issue doesn’t particularly set up any significant story beats or give us too much of an idea of what that story is going to be.

Instead, what you get with this issue are two character sketches, one of the Scarlet Witch and the other of Hope.  It gives readers new and old to get a little better acquainted with both characters and where they’re at in their lives right now.

Bendis’ story with Wands is no doubt the stronger of the two.  The action scenes are fantastic and really play to Frank Cho’s strengths, at times quite literally leaping off the page.  And hey, it’s MODOK.  Not just that, but particularly with Cho’s illustrations, Wanda’s powers are really cool to see in action and they make for one hell of an entrance.  Really, that’s what this is all about: Wanda’s return to the stage; Bendis succeeds in ensuring that she makes one hell of an impression.

I can also tell that Bendis worked harder than usual on this one.  The dialogue never falls prey to Bendis-speak or out of character voices.  Instead, the dialogue is brimming with emotion and sincerity.  Ms. Marvel’s dynamic with Wanda is a lot of fun, with Carol clearly being well-intentioned but overly optimistic, and all the more lovable for it.  The real meat comes with Wanda’s meeting with Vision.  Bendis manages to make Vision ice-cold, but brutally truthful and, nonetheless, also makes Wanda a sympathetic figure.  It’s a conversation that’s been a long time coming, and it delivers, scars and all.

It’s in this half that Frank Cho’s artwork also excels.  Not only is the action great, but he does an amazing job drawing Wanda.  Visually, she draws all the attention and is real visual anchor, or centre-point, just as it should be.

Sadly, Jason Aaron’s Hope story drags quite a bit.  There’s a lot of cliché, teenaged navel-gazing about not really knowing who she is and rebellion against authority figures.  It’s the same old, same old, and doesn’t make for the most exciting read.  It’s really cut and dry, stereotypical stuff, all the worse given how dialogue heavy it is at some points.

That said, once Hope gets in on some action and beats down some C-list bad guys, there is some fun and, dare I say comedy to be had.  It’s not overly intellectual, but seeing Hope play the badass does carry some fun.

I also loved Hope’s comments to Scott at the end of the issue, which were just brutal.  Much like X-Men Schism, it’s guaranteed to make you wince.

Really, it’s a shame that the first 2/3 or so of Aaron’s story is such slow, derivative hand-wringing, because it picks up in the last couple of pages to be sure.

Conclusion: Well, it really did nothing at all to set up AVX, so this issue didn’t really do what it was meant to and may, to some, even feel pointless as a result.  Aaron’s Hope story is also a bit dull, even if it picks up at the end.  That said, the art is gorgeous and Bendis’ Scarlet Witch story is absolute dynamite, delivering in spades in action, bombasity, and soap opera drama.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans