Comic Book Review – Uncanny Avengers: AXIS Prelude & Avengers/X-Men: AXIS

Uncanny Avengers: AXIS Prelude (2015)
Written by Rick Remender (with Cullen Bunn)
Art by Sanford Greene, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Javier Fernandez, Salvador Larroca, Daniel Acuna, and Paul Renaud

Avengers – X-Men: AXIS (2015)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Adam Kubert, Leinil Francis Yu, Terry Dodson, and Jim Cheung

The Red Skull has been building his internment camps on the ruins of Genosha, once a mutant paradise. He plans to use the power of the deceased Professor X’s brain to turn man and mutantkind against each other. Havok, Scarlet Witch, and Rogue, the last remnants of the fallen Avengers Unity Squad have journeyed across the world to Genosha to stop the villain. Magneto has also made his way to the devastated island to settle his grudge as both a mutant and Holocaust survivor, remembering the Red Skull from the camp where he was a prisoner. The scope of the battle grows until Red Skull unleashes a deeper, darker power within Xavier’s mind and the heroes of Earth gather on Genosha to stop him.

This was the moment that, for me, signaled Rick Remender’s tenure at Marvel was coming to a close. AXIS is dreadful, but in reading up on the background of the series, it became clear editorial powers were more responsible than Remender for the final product. The first bad sign was that AXIS was announced while Marvel was still in the midst of the Original Sin company-wide crossover. There was barely a gap between the two, and it caused both mini-series to feel like they had no impact. Originally, Remender intended this to be another story arc in his Uncanny Avengers book. However, Marvel decided to take his idea: heroes and villains trade places and make it a multi-book event. The strain of this idea across a whole universe of title shows as soon as AXIS begins and Remender is tasked with writing a bevy of heroes he doesn’t have an interest in using.

AXIS heavily features Iron Man, a character that Remender had used only peripherally at this point. Having Tony Stark switch to an even worse narcissistic version of himself feels like a significant editorial demand as it would lead to the series The Irredeemable Iron Man, which isn’t resolved in any manner in these pages. Additionally, other subplots spin out of the AXIS mini-series, like the heroism of many villains, but these don’t get wrapped up or developed here, instead of in other books. The absolute worst moment of the series comes when we learn that the Hulk as a deeper personality he has to keep buried called…Kluh. Yes, Hulk spelled backward. This insane plot beat bleeds over into the pages of Nova, of all comics, where that young cosmic hero battles shudder Kluh.

The concept of this story is a good one, with the villains revealing heroic colors being much more interesting than any heroes going temporarily bad. Remender uses it as an opportunity to revisit Evan Sabah Nur, the newest Apocalypse, who is pushed to rise to his villainy by the AXIS event. He also highlights the relationship between Evan and Deadpool and brings it to a conclusion that ultimately got ignored by the next writer to include Evan in their stories. Evan redeems himself, proving he’s not eventually destined to be the villain everyone thinks yet has committed horrible acts as Apocalypse. He and Deadpool go into hiding with the idea that he will have to become an underground figure. Jump to a year later, and Evan is a member of the teenaged X-Men with no acknowledgment of AXIS. The only element that seems to have carried over at all was the inversion of Sabretooth which appears to be still intact. In the wake of Secret Wars, anything AXIS did was brushed off the table.

What gets lost in this overblown debacle was the very compelling stories of Havok, Wasp, Rogue, and Scarlet Witch. They all had great story arcs being developed in Remender’s Uncanny X-Men that become back burner plot beats or wholly ignored because Marvel editorial wanted the A-tier characters highlighted. So we awkwardly transition out of the AXIS Prelude with the characters mentioned above to a messy jumble featuring Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the X-Men, Spider-Man and others. The next four stories Remender told at Marvel rang with the sense of an ending. Even he knew AXIS was the beginning of the end.

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