Remember what comics used to be about? It was a pulp, a throwaway to find out who is fighting what this week. You’d ogle the front page with the giant block typeface, “VERSUS THE MAYHEM MAESTRO!” It spoke to a very childish part of our brains, the place that gave you a love of fireworks, from the same place that made you destroy your Lego starships because of a “Meteor Shower”; and it’s the same place that “A+X” appeals to.
The title spun out of the atrocity so lovingly called “Avengers vs. X-Men” condensed to “AvX”. Because the most successful part of “AvX” was the one-on-one fights. Nothing like seeing your favorite character in a grudge match—except all the fights were pretty disappointing.
“That was great,” said nobody except Axel Alonso and Joe Quesada.
“But we’d prefer you didn’t do that again,” said comic book fans.
“What? We couldn’t hear you over ‘Age of Ultron’. You want team-ups instead?”
So now we got stuck with the same format except two heroes meet and be buddies for a few pages before an amicable split. And despite its cheap sound, it’s actually decent. This is comics with all the story and the character development boiled out and just fighting, bantering, and saving the world. If I were a pretentious college knob head I’d say something like it’s a deconstruction of comics as a medium—and even though that’s exactly what I am, there’s no need to complicate this. “A+X” is just good, clean fun—well, not clean.
I remember as a kid seeing Spider-Man and The Human Torch team up in a book and I was so excited. It made the story so much better. Yeah, it was completely superfluous and was just there to bump sales, but as a comic book fan we get used to these kind of cheap gimmicks and learn to appreciate them for what they are. This book is like one big gimmick. When I see a cover with Gambit and Hawkeye paired with each other my brain is like, “Whoa! I never knew I wanted to see these two together until just this moment.” And it’s like that for every team-up. Did you know Kid Omega and Captain America don’t like each other? You figure it out when they’re thrown together in a psychic fight team-up. Does Kitty Pryde seem like a good fit in Stark Industries? Maybe there’s a down side. And all of this with the best character to character dialogue you could ever want in a team up.
In the latest issue, Captain America and Wolverine team-up for some jungle mystic fighting. It’s actually a pretty standard team-up. The Star Spangled Boy Scout is a man out of time and the Furry Cannuck is technically even older. These two are both battle hardened weapons of bygone eras and yet they couldn’t be any more different. Usually this troupe is played up with a lot of reverence on the part of Logan but this is the first time that I’ve seen the writer acknowledge that Logan is old and knows what he’s doing. Captain America doesn’t dictate this fight, instead Wolverine and Cap fight together, just bashing the crap out of giant snakes, giant ants, and a magic monkey. The B-side story is a team up with Kid Omega, Pixie (whoa, I totally thought she’d been forgotten from the universe), and Trevor, the eye kid. It’s also a good story, more so for the kids’ dynamics than any actual fighting but still entertaining.
Suppose I compared this to “Invincible”. Should I compare it to the gore fest that every fight evolves into? Perhaps I should compare it to the supporting cast that helps Mark Grayson in battle from time to time. In battles, no contest, “Invincible” is not only gruesome in its execution but every fight is choreographed so magnificently; every punch is specific to the character’s fighting style and it incorporates their powers. Am I excited for the companions that show up to help Mark? Yeah. Way more excited to see Deadpool and Hawkeye joining forces, both with bow and arrow as their weapons.
I guess it comes down to defining what this book is, its purpose. If you want something meaningful, leave it, it’s not for you. Do you want to pick up just one issue because it has your hero? Do it.