By Todd Allen
You may have witnessed some out of control hyperbole about Marvel’s recently announced Avengers Vs. X-Men. My personal favorite, courtesy of Newsarama’s recap:
Pre-taped words from all five writers. “There’s never been an Avengers vs. X-Men super-blowout, so it’s like, we have to do it,” Bendis says.
Never been one? Seems like I own copies of something answering that description…
1987: The X-Men Vs. The Avengers
2012: Avengers Vs. X-Men
1987: The Russians want to ambush Magneto and kill him. The Avengers want to capture Magneto and put him on trial. The X-Men want to protect Magneto. A lot of fighting ensues.
2012: As I’m interpreting the hype, the Phoenix Force is returning and everybody is assuming some character introduced in the X-Men since I stopped reading it called “Hope” is going to be the host for said Phoenix Force. The Avengers want to lay hands on Hope, possibly to do something drastic. The X-Men want to protect her. Fighting ensues. It’s probably more nuanced than that, but the initial premises aren’t that far off.
Now maybe Brian doesn’t think The X-Men Vs. The Avengers qualifies as a “super-blowout.” (Or maybe someone from marketing fed him that line.) In the interests of documenting what has gone before vs. current hype, let’s take a look at the original The X-Men Vs. The Avengers mini-series.
The original mini-series goes back to 1987, so your Avengers team is Captain America, Thor, Captain Marvel, Black Knight and Dr. Druid. Your X-Men are Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Havok and Magneto. Your first 3 issues are written by Roger Stern with art by Marc Silvestri and Josef Rubinstein. The last issue of the 4-issue series is co-plotted by Jim Shooter and Tom DeFalco with breakdowns by Keith Pollard and finishes by Rubinstein (and a few assistants). Perhaps Jim Shooter will tell the story of that last issue on his blog?
This story takes place during the first period where Magneto has reformed and joined the X-Men. In Uncanny X-Men #200, Magneto was tried before the World Court and then disappeared from the court room.
An asteroid splits in two and crashes to Earth. One half will hit in the U.S. and one in Cambodia. As the Avengers clear up the meteor shower, they discover the asteroid is actually part of Asteroid M, Magneto’s old orbital HQ. The U.S. government leaks this to the Russians. The Russians are (justifiably) angry with Magneto for sinking one of their submarines (killing the crew) and creating a volcano in and destroying one of their cities. They want to lure Magneto to the wreckage of the second fragment and kill him in an ambush.
The Avengers get wind of this and decide, while nobody would shed many tears at the thought of Magneto getting killed, it’s a better idea to grab him themselves and make him finish standing trial. (If he gets executed then, eh… ok.) Magneto is looking for some tech from his old satellite, so we set up a three-conflict. The Avengers; the Russians in the form of the Soviet Super Soldiers and (the KGB-backed) Crimson Dynamo; and the X-Men. For three issues, the Avengers and Soviet Super Soldiers struggle with the ethics of an assassination. The Crimson Dynamo tries his level best to snuff or at least nab Magneto (well… he’s KGB). The X-Men try to decide how far they want to push it while protecting a fellow mutant they’re not completely sure has reformed. Magneto agonizes over whether to use some mind-control-based tech salvaged from Asteroid M to eradicate prejudice against mutants. But mostly the three groups fight with each other.
Yeah, we’re not talking intricate plotting here. There’s a little bit of subtext in the form of due process, but it’s mostly just “fight and team up” without that much teaming up.
Issue #4 is a major seismic shift. Magneto is compelled/convinced to stand trial with the issues of court jurisdiction and who’s actually prejudiced against mutants taking center stage as plot devices. The ethical issue of mind control is explored a bit more, but it truly feels like a different book.
The X-Men vs. The Avengers is not the best work from any of the parties involved with it. It’s the comic equivalent of b-movie with lots of things blowing up… at least for three issues. You can get this in a couple of collected editions.
I’m not saying that Avengers vs. X-Men won’t be better than The X-Men vs. The Avengers. It wouldn’t be that hard. I do think the hype machine has gotten ridiculous. The last time they had a “super-blowout,” the teams were merely inverted in the title.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.