An event comes to a solid end, but is too lacking to be anything more.
Avengers and X-men: AXIS #9Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Rick Remender, Jim Cheung
Publication Date: 201502
There's a constant clash between shaking things up and sticking with what works. All too often, those that try to be more efficient learn the hard way why certain inefficiencies persist. Characters are not machines. Even the robots in Isaac Asimov's stories had personality. If they only operated at their most efficient capacity, they wouldn't be very interesting. A story with those characters would be akin to watching a machine make a million paperclips one-by-one. That's why the whole concept surrounding Avengers and X-men: AXIS was so risky.
It didn't just attempt to tell a story about another struggle between heroes and villains. It attempted to completely flip the script, inverting the personalities and roles of these characters. This helped put them in a strange, unfamiliar situation. Some of those situations have been interesting. Others have been lacking. In fact, one of the biggest weakness throughout Avengers and X-men: AXIS was its constant lacking of details and depth. But that doesn't mean it can't be a complete story in the end. And if nothing else, Avengers and X-men: AXIS #9 makes this story feel complete.
It's complete in the sense that it resolves the main conflict. It ends the epic battle in New York City between the X-men, the inverted Avengers, the inverted heroes, and the heroes that weren't inverted. It's as complicated and chaotic as it sounds. It's like a boxing match where the boxers invite their families and distant relatives to participate. It's so chaotic at times that it's hard to get much depth from it. At most, it provides a visceral, action-packed struggle that's slightly more enjoyable than a standard Michael Bay movie.
Beyond the action, however, there are some solid insights that help give the story a sense of impact. The biggest impact of Avengers and X-men: AXIS as a whole is the extent to which these characters were inverted. It's not just that characters like Carnage were upstaging Spider-Man, going so far as to make Spider-Man look like an undrafted rookie. It's not just that characters like Loki became worthy to lift Thor's hammer either. These characters knew they were villains. They understood what had happened to them and they embraced it. They took the whole concept of being a hero and ran with it the same way slasher movies run with Wes Craven's movies.
This led to the inverted villains to do more than just fight the battle. They went so far as to plan for its inevitable conclusion. They made it so that when all was said and done, the world wouldn't completely turn on the heroes that became corrupted. They wouldn't completely undermine the foundation of how heroes were seen and how they functioned. In a ways, they preserved those old inefficiencies that keep the Marvel Universe going. It was a noble sacrifice. At the same time, it still felt like the equivalent of hitting the reset button on an old Nintendo game.
And while the inverted villains achieved some level of depth, the inverted heroes fell flat. There were times when some of these characters could've been replaced from the bad guys in an old episode of Looney Toons and nobody would've noticed. With the exception of Iron Man, none of the heroes really distinguished themselves as anything more than glorified Stormtroopers with slightly better aim.
This is the biggest flaw of Avengers and X-men: AXIS. It lacks depth in many areas. Too many elements feel rushed and forced. It's like a Stephen King novel with multiple chapters cut out at various points. There were a number of characters with intriguing sub-plots. Few were sufficiently explored. Who wouldn't want to read more about a hippie version of Deadpool or a meaner version of Storm?
In addition, the story goes too far in just reverting things to back the way they were. The way it ended ensured that very little would change in terms of overall impact. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, the struggle in AXIS was just another attack by Dr. Doom and his cronies. That sort of thing seems to happen every other week. It makes the end result feel somewhat bland, like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie that turned out to have raisins instead.
That's not to say there aren't some lasting impacts. Some of the characters did escape being reverted. It wasn't much and there were a number of characters that probably would've been better choices, but it did ensure that some of the intriguing aspects of this story would be preserved. It's not as much as it could've been and the lack of depth makes it hard to get too excited about. But it does shake things up in a way that won't completely disrupt the established order that Marvel has spent 50 years creating. Those at Marvel Studios seeking more material for future movies can rest easy in that respect.
With respect to other major Marvel events, Avengers and X-men: AXIS does not rank near any of the extremes. It is not as terrible as the Clone Saga. It's no Civil War either, although at times it really tried to be. It had the potential to be on that level, but its lack of refinement kept it from ever achieving it. There are some aspects to this story that are worth preserving. There are also some elements that'll have fans complaining on message boards for years to come until future reversions come into play.
In the end, Avengers and X-men: AXIS #9 completes the story in a way that isn't wholly satisfying, but it won't make anyone too sick to their stomach. It's a powerful struggle with a compelling concept that never got the refinement it needed. It was still a struggle worth following and while some of the impact was lost in the spirit of not fixing what isn't broken, it still has merit. There will be some who don't appreciate it, but that's one inefficiency that can never be inverted.