This third issue of Avengers versus X-Men is decidedly slower paced than the second issue, but it does provide a bit of a breather for the reader, while at the same time nicely moving events on Earth forwards, and deepening the personal conflicts at the core of the storyline. After reading this issue, it made me realize that the bi-weekly release schedule works quite well in this series’ favour. If this was a monthly series, this issue may have bothered me quite a bit, because it’s such a slowdown compared to last issue, but since the series is bi-weekly, it doesn’t feel like we’re slowing down nearly as much, and the pacing works extremely well to ramp up the suspense brewing as it won’t be long before the teams are once again in major armed conflict. If there was a major flaw in this issue, it’s that the actual approach of the Phoenix has been completely ignored, for the most part, and considering how its impending arrival was such an important factor at the series’ beginning, it seems odd to neglect it completely.
Brubaker does a fantastic job on the scripting here, as he makes it clear that neither team is really a united front, with Captain America and Iron Man having some disagreements over what to do with the X-Men, which directly brings up their prior differences in Civil War, and not everyone at Wolverine’s school is staying completely out of the conflict, with one particular character making the obvious decision to support Cyclops and give him some advance information. The big dissension here is Wolverine and Captain America having a major disagreement over what to do about Hope, and what’s interesting here is that Cyclops would have the exact same disagreement with Wolverine, if it came to that. The disagreement isn’t a huge surprise, as it was only a matter of time until Wolverine broke ranks, but I liked that it made perfect sense given the characters’ stances on killing, etc. It brings to mind the deliberations held at the beginning of House of M, as Wolverine was supporting the movement to kill Scarlet Witch, and Captain America refused to condone such a course of action, just like he does here. The sequence where they fight in this issue makes complete sense, it’s well-written, and Romita brings his A-game to the sequence. It’s a great looking fight, with lots of power and energy, and the reader can feel each and every punch and slash. Romita’s artwork looked a lot more consistent in this issue than the last two issues, it felt much more substantial, and carried the action even better than it had previously.
Yes, this issue was a bit of a slow-down compared to the intensity of last issue, but there were enough strong character moments, plus build-up to the next big action sequence, that the dip in tension and action didn’t negatively affect this issue. This storyline hasn’t yet disappointed, and can’t wait to see what happens next, plus how the approaching Phoenix Force will be handled in upcoming issues.