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Sep 18

Giant-Size Little Marvel AvX

Posted on Friday, September 18, 2015 by Paul in x-axis

How long have Skottie Young’s variant covers been going now?  Long enough that you’d have thought the joke would have worn thin, but in fact, they’re holding up pretty well.  The idea, and Young’s art, lends itself rather nicely to the one-panel gag format of the variant cover, and it’s now well enough established that it can start playing off its own trope.

So, sure, let’s do something with them for Secret Wars.  In fact, they’ve had a one-shot before, in orbit somewhere around the Avengers vs X-Men crossover.  And this is effectively the sequel.  While it’s technically set on Battleworld, the Battleworld trappings barely come into play.

This also makes it the book which represents Avengers vs X-Men in Marvel’s curious attempt to have a Secret Wars series that is at least named after every major crossover of the last thirty years.  You can understand the thinking when you look at the sales charts and realise that Civil War – an utterly peripheral and forgettable tie-in book – is actually one of the higher selling Secret Wars titles.  Some of these names still have connotations of significance.  (They won’t by October.)

No such games with the AvX-Babies, though.  And while their domain is notionally called Marville, in a nod to Bill Jemas’s notoriously misconceived 2002 miniseries, that doesn’t actually play into anything either.

So the basic set-up is that the Avengers and the X-Men are rival gangs of little kids in suburban America.  Issue #1 spends a lot of time on an escalating sequence of them competing for trade selling street food on opposite corners of the road, which is funny enough in its way.  And then, literally in the closing pages, an actual plot begins.  This took me by surprise.  I genuinely assumed, as I was reading the first issue, that it must be a one-shot with a series of unrelated gag sequences strung together.  But no, it turns out there’s four issues of it.

Four issues of the Avengers and X-Men as kids?  Does the idea really have the legs for that?

Young is a great comedy artist, obviously.  The central hook is neat in a meta way – a pair of twins have just moved into town, and the two gangs fight over who gets them.  And that’s a gag that works all the better because the book doesn’t feel the need to explain it.  There are lovely designs for everyone’s houses – Little Venom trots home from school to a house dripping with black goo.  Wolverine is on both teams but the X-Men haven’t actually noticed.

But about three quarters of the way through, it seems to run out of places to go.  The central gag here, after all, is that the Avengers and the X-Men try to one-up each other and it always ends in a crazy fight.  But you can’t just keep repeating that, and it’s pretty clear by the end that Young is casting around for somewhere to go next.  Issue #3 has a very odd sequence where Galactus and Thanos and talk about how confused they are on Battleworld (because they’re from outer space, which doesn’t exist any more) – which doesn’t play into anything and seems weirdly out of place in its sudden lurch into Secret Wars continuity.

And then issue #4 brings in the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Inhumans – who admittedly get a very funny sequence as they try to impress everyone with their Terrigen Mists and fail spectacularly – before just sort of throwing its hands up in despair and having the twins get recruited out of nowhere by the baddies instead.

Now, obviously it’s a joke book and I’m not suggesting it needs a plot that makes sense.  In fact, that’s probably the last thing it needs.  But one you’re committed to a four-issue story, it at least needs some shape to it, and ideally it needs a punchline.  Instead it peters out, and the last few pages fall flat.

There’s a better book in this idea, and probably a shorter one which doesn’t bother with having a plot at all.  Less would have been more.

Bring on the comments

  1. Eric Gimlin says:

    This is actually one of my favorite of the Secret Wars tie-ins. I do suspect it’s one of those very, very rare books that actually works somewhat worse as a trade. Reading each issue as it came out was a hoot; but like you say it doesn’t quite hold together.

    One thing that might have helped the last issue was actually calling attention to the 4-page “you need two copies to see this right” superpanel. That was actually a good gag, riffing on Steranko but not requiring you to know the reference. But I didn’t notice it was actually one image the first time through, so I missed the over-the-top that sells the gag.

  2. Dan K says:

    I actually bought 3 copies of #4 so I could frame that gorgeous 4 page splash for my son’s bedroom.

  3. Dave says:

    Does Secret Wars have a Secret Invasion book?

  4. errant says:

    Does Secret Wars’ (2015) Battleworld have a Secret Wars (1984) or Secret War (2004) tie-in book?

  5. Eric Gimlin says:

    Not sure if there’s a Secret War (2004) tie in, but there’s Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, which supposedly shows how Deadpool was involved in the original Secret Wars. (I haven’t read it.) So, sort of.

  6. Mory Buxner says:

    There are parts of this comic that are clever, but none that are funny. Chris Giarrusso’s Mini Marvels last decade was substantially the same idea, admittedly drawn more primitively, but because the writing was there (at least, when he was writing) it was a lot more successful.

  7. David says:


    This is a spoiler, but I think the reason there’s no Secret Invasion book is that the plot of that event has been folded into the Civil War book. Then again though, maybe that’s a coincidence and the real reason is that most of us are still fed up with skrull stories.

  8. Mike R says:

    @errant: This will be a bit of a spoiler, so feel free to skip the rest of the post, but what Marvel’s done concerning Secret Invasion was basically fold it into the Civil War book, with the big mid-point twist being that the reason why the Civil War conflict never stopped and only became more and more escalated in this domain was because the Skrulls had repeatedly sabotaged all events that could have led to Tony and Steve making peace, the end game being them waiting for the two factions to destroy each other and then take over what remains of the domain.

  9. Thomas says:

    Secret Wars (2015) is the Secret Wars (1984) tie-in book. In the original mini-series, Doctor Doom manages to use a special armor to steal the Beyonder’s power; I wouldn’t be surprised if the original inspiration for the event was “What if Doctor Doom had kept the Beyonder’s power at the end of Secret Wars?” (itself a story already published as a What If? in 2009.) The Battleworld set-up is of course also similar, although it lacks the confident, toy-driven absurdity of the original.

    I don’t recall seeing anyone predict that Doom becoming all-powerful would be the hook for the series, even after he was revealed to be a major player in Hickman’s New Avengers.

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