REVIEW: Avengers X-Sanction #4

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With Marvel Comics’ Avengers vs. X-Men event officially kicking off with “AvX launch parties” across the country tonight, we’re taking a look at the finale to one of the series promoted as a lead in, Avengers: X-Sanction. X-Sanction didn’t do as much to set things up as we’d expected, but Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness’ story was fairly entertaining and did succeed at altering the status quo for Cable, Hope and Cyclops and bringing them face to face with the Avengers. We were highly suspect of how this series would play out, and it appears it exceeded both of our expectations.

Spoilers for Avengers: X-Sanction will follow.

PTB : Avengers: X-Sanction #4 is basically another fight scene, but the Avengers earn their name in the book’s title as they pick apart a weakening Cable once they’re all back to their feet. I have to admit, I did like seeing Cable take them down one by one earlier in the series, and this was a case where Loeb’s style of rotating though the enemies seemed to work well.

KevinMLD : It is a very tried and true storytelling technique that he used regularly in his Batman work.

PTB : Hope being revealed as the Phoenix isn’t really news, but this is the first time its been explicitly stated. We know that will be a major plot point in AvX, but the real story here is that Cable survived. That fact was spoiled a bit by the free AvX preview that shipped several weeks before this issue listing him as a “wild card” in the upcoming super team battle. I can’t believe he’s back and I didn’t hate it.

KevinMLD : Well, I have no vested interest in Cable, but as I’ve said before I would have been really hard on Marvel for announcing a “Cable Reborn” series that ended with him dead.

As for Hope, I may just not be well versed enough in X-Men lore but has anyone other than Jean hosted the Phoenix before? I don’t really understand how this works at all.

PTB : No one has hosted the Phoenix quite like Jean. Rachel Grey, Cyclops and Jean’s daughter from Days of Future Past, was connected to the Phoenix force for some time, but never really presented as the threat that Hope appears to be. She recently saw the Phoenix leave her while in deep space during Mike Carey’s X-Men: Legacy. Other characters that are genetically connected to Jean, like her clone Madelyn Pryor, have tapped into the Phoenix force, but so have unrelated characters like Emma Frost, the Stepford Cuckoos, and couple of Ultraverse characters.

Cable without the virus is something we’ve never seen before. He should be the most powerful mutant mind ever and he was always using a portion of his powers to hold the virus back. He could certainly serve as a host to the Phoenix force going forward.

KevinMLD : That could be a really cool angle moving forward if he has an interesting agenda beyond protecting Hope.

PTB : Leaving him near comatose at the end of this issue suggests he may not have a big part to play in the short term, but I can’t imagine we won’t see him in some capacity during AvX.

Hope and her powers are still a bit of a mystery. We know she can mimic abilities (I still think either Mimic or Weapon Omega is her father) but she also has the ability to heal on an incredible level. She burned out the techno virus in Cable’s body and basically reset Rogue at the end of Messiah Complex. Thankfully that’s not Loeb’s mystery to solve since he’s terrible with them.

KevinMLD : Can you brief me on Mimic and Weapon Omega? Would it be more significant if one or the other was her father? 

PTB: Mimic is a classic X-Men character (mostly a villain) who first appeared in the ’60s. As his name suggests, he can copy mutant powers though he’s not actually a mutant. The only significance there would be connecting Hope to another established character and explaining some aspect of her powers. It’s also interesting to note that a version of Mimic from another Earth was the leader of the X-Men and had a big part in Judd Winick’s Exiles series. Connecting him to Hope could be a way to bring the character into the X-Men fold in the Marvel Universe.

Weapon Omega is a more current character first appearing after House of M. I believe Michael Pointer was a mailman in Alaska that absorbed all of the “lost” mutant energy that was seen floating above the Earth after the Scarlet Witch depowered most of the world’s mutants. I don’t recall him manifesting individual mutant powers but absorbing them could fit with Hope’s ability to mimic them. The other obvious connecting point is that Hope was first discovered and likely born in Alaska at the start of Messiah Complex, possibly putting Weapon Omega in the right place to be her father.

It’s interesting that both Mimic and Weapon Omega appeared in last week’s X-Men: Legacy #264. There was no mention of Hope anywhere in the issue, so it could just be coincidence.

KevinMLD : And there’s no way Hope is related to Jean or any of the other related red headed X-Women that I can’t keep straight?

PTB : Hope’s mother was revealed to be a firefighter from Cooperstown, Alaska shortly after Second Coming. Could she be related to Jean, Rachel or Madelyn Pryor  (who is also from Alaska)? Of course, but that has seemingly been put to rest. 

While we’re on the topic of mysteries, Loeb teased a Talbot/Red Hulk connection earlier in the series, and in issue #4 implied a secret history between Wolverine and Cable. That’s something we won’t see more of for five years based on Loeb’s track record, and then we’ll find out they’re the same person.

KevinMLD : Talbot is Wolverine? I wouldn’t put it past Loeb. Another thing that struck me after reading this issue: Who isn’t an Avenger in 2012? I mean beyond classic Avengers like Quicksilver, Antman, Vision, the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man? It’s crazy. Actually even some of them are involved or were involved with Avengers Academy when I was reading that.

PTB : The Avengers cast has certainly expanded and with more than four monthly Avengers titles Marvel seems to be finding panel time for a lot of them.

McGuinness’ art is rock solid here after some panels and pages that just looked off in previous issues. There were a few close ups of the Wolverine/Cable fight that were just great. I wasn’t crazy about his Hope at all until things went back to Utopia. It seemed like she just wasn’t fitting his style during the action scenes and looked out of place.

KevinMLD : Agreed. I always think his art is going to be too stiff and that I’m not going to like it. Then I read the comic he drew and it’s surprisingly dynamic.

PTB : I do not get the color choices for the cover at all. Wolverine in his secret X-Force uniform? Black costume Spider-Man? And Cable with the black hair once again? What’s the deal there?

KevinMLD : That was a really odd cover. I have no idea what they were thinking.

So I’m not going to say that this is a great series, but I certainly enjoyed it more than I expected to for a Loeb written series starring Cable. Having said that, I thought it would set the table more for AvX. The Avengers must have walked away thinking, “Well, that was weird. I wonder what got into him.” They never really bothered to try to find out what Cable thought was going to happen. They never learned anything that would take them a step towards that series. Though Cyclops did learn that Hope is tied to the Phoenix officially. That’s looking like the only important moment setting up AvX and it certainly didn’t need a four issue series to set it up. Though obviously the series also puts Cable back on the playing field.

PTB : I can’t disagree with any of that. I certainly enjoyed the series more than I was expecting to, but I’m particularly invested in Cable and Hope. This confrontation itself could be a source of friction between the two teams and might add to the escalation of events in AvX, but I really thought this is where the Avengers would discover Hope’s importance to the X-Men and the mutant population.

KevinMLD : So when does AvX start and how many of the dozens of tie-ins look essential (if any)?

PTB : AvX started with a “zero” issue last week. The book is basically an introduction to the Scarlet Witch and Hope and the first issue of the main series is available this Wednesday. Some stores are having launch events tonight giving fans the opportunity to get the book a day in advance. Comic shops have also been asked to choose a side and represent as an Avengers shop or an X-Men store, receiving team exclusive variants and other merchandise. Thankfully two local shops, Comics and More and Brave New Worlds, each have two shops in the area so both teams will be well represented around Philadelphia.

As far as essential reading, that’s always a tough call. The main Avengers vs X-Men series ships bi-weekly for twelve issues from April to October and should be all that anyone “needs” to read. There’s one additional miniseries to go along with it that has the confusing title Avengers vs. X-Men: Versus. That ships monthly for six issues beginning next Wednesday and just focuses on the fights that spill out of the main book. Each issue features two battles and I believe issue #1 features Namor vs. The Thing and Iron Man vs. Magneto. Other than that, there are tie-ins for most of the ongoing Avengers and X-Men titles over the course of the event. I would only look at those if you’re currently reading those titles or there’s a specific footnote pointing you that way.

Finding information on these series has been challenging with the overlapping names for the two mini series. The “versus” in any of those titles seems to vary between being abbreviated to “vs” and being spelled out completely in the solicitations, but the logos always seem to only use the abbreviation. The logo for the mains series is a giant “A vs X” but the full title is written out above it. The logo for the “Versus” series is a giant “VS” with “The Avengers” and “The X-Men” written into it. Even if online searches might not get you the information you’re looking for, they should be easy to spot and differentiate on the shelves. 

Read more about  Avengers: X-Sanction  including a look at  each issue’s variant covers  and this Summer’s  Avengers vs. X-Men  on  MyLatestDistraction .

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