by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Olivier Coipel (penciler), Mark Morales (inks), Laura Martin (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story: The Phoenix Five begin to reshape Earth; the Avengers make a daring raid on Utopia to snatch Hope.

The Review: I’ll admit that after last issue, I thought AvX had jumped the shark.  As a result, I was pretty worried when I started reading this issue.  Instead, against all odds, I had a reason to be excited.

Hickman has done some great work here with the Phoenix Five.  What we get is a story of gods among men and the resulting intersection and conflict between the two.  The result is a story that is much smarter, more meditative, and more global and nuanced in nature.  AvX has suddenly become a whole lot more than Avengers and X-Men punching each other.  Better still, Hickman muddies the waters at just how godly the Phoenix Five really are and the extent to which they are merely mortals gifted with godly powers.  The result is that the intersection/conflict isn’t just between gods and men, but also between the godly powers of the Phoenix Five and their human/mutant cores.

The result is a strange sort of antagonist: their acts are amazing and philanthropic, and yet they feel so alien that you can’t help but find them somewhat sinister.  Scott only continues to be more disturbing; while he acts and talks like a god, he still carries that vengeful chip on his shoulder.  This leads to scenes where he’ll drop his godly guise and seem like…Scott, with powers he shouldn’t have.  There’s also an especially strong scene where Scott plays the nasty, biblical God: teasing and tempting Hope only so he can chide and reject her for her lack of blind faith in some form of sadistic “test.”  For all the good the Phoenix Five do, it’s the hints like these that Hickman uses to suggest that men cannot and should not be gods.

Olivier Coipel’s art refreshes AvX just as much as Hickman’s script does, if not moreso.  While Romita Jr. truly was doing his best, Coipel blows him out of the water.  Coipel is everything you expect out of a “big event” type book, with an incredible sense of scale and drama and a polished, “big budget” feel to his work.  His art goes a long way to rejuvenating AvX and making the book an exciting one.

The Scarlet Witch also comes into the series in a big way with this issue and is put to fantastic use by Hickman.  Her entrance is grand and her exit is a great cliffhanger to end the book on, leaving you hungering for the next issue.

All told, this issue does what a first issue should: it excites you for what’s to come.  Hickman teases the reader by introducing some cool little plot elements.  Are the Phoenix’s Five’s need to do good part of some need to create that threatens to overwhelm them (they can never do enough)?  What’s with Iron Fist’s relationship to the Phoenix and his out of nowhere defense against its powers?  Why are the Phoenix Five so rebuffed by the Scarlet Witch?  All are compelling plot elements that I can’t wait to see addressed.  Moreover, it empowers and showcases two beloved characters: Iron Fist and Scarlet Witch.
If there’s one downside to the book, it’s that the last page would’ve been much more effective had Marvel’s solicitations not already used Scott’s words as a marketing tool, but that’s comics.

Conclusion: Against all odds, AvX #6 gives us plenty to be excited about.  If you’ve been unhappy with AvX thus far, give this issue a chance; Marvel promised that this was the start of “Act 2” and that last month really changed the game, and they’ve delivered.  This is a very different book from what we’ve been getting for the past five issues.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans