Back in 2012, wrote a series of Obsolete Comic Reviews for a website that has since itself become obsolete. The good news is that nothing is truly ever lost on the Al Gore Superhighway. Below is the recovered review; hope it pleases!
When I first heard about the upcoming Avengers Vs. X-Men twelve issue miniseries from Marvel Comics, my first thoughts were something along the line of, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Marvel being Marvel, the ad copy reads that this series “brings together the most powerful forces in comics for a super hero war like you’ve never seen before and will never see again“…but perhaps my memory is a bit sharper than those Marvel advertising hacks, as I can recall a miniseries that brought the X-Men and The Avengers into conflict, the 1987 four-issue limited series, The X-Men vs. The Avengers.
The limited series’ story revolved around Magneto and his past, and opened with the remains of his former space fortress, Asteroid M, falling down to Earth. While out on a leisure time excursion with the X-Men, Magento hears a radio report of The Avengers in action as they attempt to dispose of those pieces that threatened populated areas. So begins a four issue arc of Magneto’s pondering self-doubt of who he is: the villain of his past or the hero of his present. Will he suffer a Dantesque fall from grace to match Asteroid M’s fate? Or will he face his past and accept the judgment and consequences for his actions?
Interspersed between panels of his brooding are the reactions to the Master of Magnetism by the various heroes he encounters. The Avengers seek to capture Magneto to bring him before the World Court to stand trial for crimes against humanity. The X-Men consider a human court predisposed to judge against such a well-known mutant, and so protect their former foe (and current ally) from the Avengers. And the Soviet Super Soldiers are a wild card that seek to capture Magneto and return him to the U.S.S.R. to stand trial for his crimes against the state (for destroying the city of Varykino and sinking a Soviet nuclear submarine). As Magneto is a polarizing figure, everyone involved has an opinion of who and what he is and stands for, and it all played out during The X-Men vs. The Avengers.
The first three issues of the miniseries were written by Roger Stern, with art provided by Marc Silvestri. However, the Marvel editorial board did not agree with the direction Stern wished to go in the final issue (which was to show Magneto as an unabashed villain), and changed the plot against his wishes. Rather than staying on, Stern stepped aside and the final issue was written by Tom DeFalco. Stern stated that DeFalco had nothing to do with the editorial decision, but did not name the editors involved. Perhaps it’s not that difficult to generate a hypothesis on who was responsible, as the editors of the book were Mark Gruenwald and Ann Nocenti. By this point Gruenwald was an Executive Editor and the man in charge of Marvel Continuity (the “Continuity Cop”). It seems improbable that the “Continuity Cop” would permit such a departure from the accepted Marvel Canon for Magneto, and because of the respect his fellow editors had for Gruenwald, I doubt if anyone would have championed Stern’s story. (It’s also interesting to note that Stern was fired by Gruenwald from writing the ongoing Avengers series shortly thereafter…but I digress.) Regardless, Stern did not finish the series.
Stern’s absence was not the only one from the final issue: the talented Marc Silvestri, who would later go on to success as one of the seven founders of Image Comics in 1992 with the Top Cow imprint, only managed to pencil the first three issues. Between the third and fourth issue, Silvestri was tapped to draw the Uncanny X-Men, and since that series was the engine that kept the Marvel money machine chugging along, Keith Pollard picked up the pencils for The X-Men vs. The Avengers. It’s a bit of an odd situation when both the writer and the penciler of such a small limited miniseries move on before its completion!
There is a lot to recommend in The X-Men vs. The Avengers. A good story, lots of action with believable conflict and motivations for those involved, and with only four issues, it does not feel artificially extended. As part of the trilogy of VS. miniseries Marvel released at the time (Mephisto vs… and The Fantastic Four versus The X-Men were the other two), this is a recommended journey into late 1980s comic book storytelling. Thumbs up!