Written by:  A whole bunch of Writers, Art by John Romita Jr. (pencils)  Published by Marvel.

Available via Comixology or your local comics shop.

Let me begin by saying I don’t like ‘event’ comics. They’re a black hole of pointless continuity, distorting the plots of all the books for the characters that take part for little dramatic payoff. The last big crossover I really liked was “Infinity Gauntlet,” or maybe “Secret War,” although I really only liked that one because it was clear to me that most of the characters were having sex between the panels. My point is, a big crossover event comic has to work damn hard to impress me, and this one just isn’t very good.

I read this on my iPad via Comixology, and it clocks in at a thick 99 pages. And in all that space, nothing really interesting happens. The comic itself opens with a splashy five-page spread of a giant firebird (The Phoenix, naturally,) destroying a planet. Cut to Ms. Marvel flying around New York. The Avengers are standing around on a rooftop being dicks to each other, and she lands to join in. This scene just sets the tone for the whole comic. This is a story about superheroes being unheroic. This issue feels like a successor to a previous big status-quo changing crossover, “Civil War.” That was a story about Iron Man having all his friends arrested because a Connecticut housewife spit on him.

But before the heroes can bicker or stand around anymore, a fireball starts falling through the sky, striking the wing of an airplane and the Empire State Building on its way to earth. This gives the heroes who can fly something to do, and they spring into action. This is a good sign that you aren’t going to see anything new in this comic, with ‘Stoping a Plane Crash’ sitting just behind ‘Punching a Guy’ on the list of things a superhero does with his day. The Avengers use their flashiest powers to save the day before the comic forgets this ever happened.

The art in this is kind of strange. It is clearly New York City, but aside from the Avengers standing around looking like action figures, the city seems deserted. Spider-Man catches some people, or rubble, or something, in a net. (It must be people, as one of them claims they are leaving the city) Two people are seen in a window being shocked at something awesome Iron Man does, and that’s about the whole population of this comic.

The Avengers that don’t have the privilege of cool powers to display investigate the fireball, and find out it’s Nova, whose name can only be spoken with via a flashy logo that takes up about a quarter of a page. He wants to warn them about something, presumably the big fiery avian that’s eating planets somewhere, but he passes out instead. For those counting at home, we are fifteen pages into this comic.

In case you’re worried that those weren’t the good guys, we spend the next five pages watching Cyclops beat up a teenage girl. Then she had phoenix powers, but I’ll fast-forward. Despite the fact that he didn’t actually tell them anything, the Avengers figure out that the falling guy was running from the Phoenix, and that it is therefore totally coming here to destroy the Earth, and the Avengers have decided that they are going to stop that from happening. Which would be fine premise for a comic, except that the thing has been showing up at regular intervals and trying to mate (or something) with psychic ladies in the X-men books for YEARS and the Avengers haven’t cared, nor has the world burned to a cinder. But its a good thing they are interested this time, because Cyclops has some vaguely defined plans for the Phoenix. This is also problematic because the thing has killed his wife, several times. You’d think he’d know better.

Also, Cyclops and the X-men live on a rock in San Francisco Bay now. This is a historical allusion so obtuse that it is shooting not just over the heads of this book’s target audience, but I’ll bet good portions of the writing and editing staff are missing it, too. And it makes the Avengers showing up and telling them to hand over the girl in a big flying fortress problematic to say the least. The issue ends with Cyclops shooting Captain America and pretty much holding the girl hostage.

Fin.

The story makes little to no sense, the art is blocky and unpleasant, and the rest of the 99 pages of the comic are a self-indulgent recap of Nova hitting New York again. This is a pricey, plodding prelude to a story about beautiful people punching each other. It’s poorly put together even if that’s your thing. Give it a pass.

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