by Jason Aaron (writer), Nick Bradshaw (pencils & inks), Walden Wong & Norman Lee (inks), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Going to the X-Men’s aid, Jean Grey School teachers battle Avengers while Logan and Hope are intercepted by a squad of Shi’ar Death Commandos.

The Review: Two issues in, it’s become clear – AvX has effectively derailed one of Marvel’s best books, and isn’t that the eternal nightmare for comics readers wary of event tie-ins?

The problem is that focusing on Avengers vs. X-Men forces Aaron to move away from much of what’s made the book a rousing success.  We spend far too much time away from the school and from the students.  Indeed, much as the bit with Genesis was last issue’s best moment, this issue’s bits with Kid Gladiator and Kitty’s class’ reaction to Iceman’s fight with Hulk are the highlights, but these portions are far too brief.

No, instead, the bulk of the issue just features mindless action.  Once again, we get to see Avengers and X-Men punching each other in Wakanda/Tabula Rasa/Wundagore/Savage Land, exchanging dialogue that feels completely phoned in, with heroes reiterating their teams’ basic stances.  Most of these characters fighting have no real beef or connection to one another, so the fights really feel meaningless, while other characters have never even played a role in this book prior to this issue (Red Hulk and Doctor Strange, for instance).  Frankly, this “splitting the teams amidst four locations” has been a point I’ve really hated about AvX, as it’s just led to tie-ins like this one, spinning their wheels by filling pages with random heroes punching each other.  Perhaps it would be more forgivable for readers with less extensive pull-lists, but it’s starting to feel like every damned tie-in is doing these “checking in” action scenes; it was lifeless and tiresome to begin with and at this point, it’s simply irritating.

The plot with Logan and Hope isn’t much better.  It feels redundant.  It’s more navel-gazing from Logan about whether or not he can kill a kid and the Phoenix’s effect on Jean.  This is all stuff we’ve already heard from Logan, even in AvX alone.

Even the battle with the Death Commandos is entirely forgettable and predictable.  Aaron never establishes the Death Commandos as being anything more than random super-powered goons (hell, I think they may be nameless).  As a result, it just leads to more hollow, superhero action scenes.  And really, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that it results in ANOTHER Phoenix flare up from Hope and so not only is it shallow, it’s also entirely predictable and unimaginative and, like Logan’s reflections or the visiting of those four locations that has been done by several other comics already, it’s redundant.

The one big, big saving grace this is Nick Bradshaw’s art, which is absolutely excellent.  I can honestly say that I’ve come to vastly prefer his work to Chris Bachalo.  Bradshaw’s work, alongside Ponsor’s bright, energetic colours, looks like the greatest Saturday morning, superhero cartoon you’ve always wished for.  As always, it’s just so incredibly likable and, well, friendly, the sort of comic artwork that just makes you feel happy and upbeat.  Frankly, this book is becoming more and more of a showcase for Bradshaw, who I hope will become a huge name for years to come after he’s left this book.

Conclusion: Honestly, this issue is a showcase of all the downsides of “the event tie-in issue.”  On the plus side, it has that sweet, sweet Nick Bradshaw artwork.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans