The secret is out: this is the official prelude to the "Avengers Vs. X-Men" mega-event coming up next year from Marvel. It seems only fitting, then, that the double-secret prelude should have a creative team known for making a big, visual spectacle of things.
Jeph Loeb's stories, when combined with Ed McGuiness' art (with Dexter Vines on inks and Morry Hollowell on digital crayons), are ambitiously boisterous. I've come to expect big-budget stories from Loeb and crew that can only happen in comics, as they'd just be too darn cost-prohibitive in any other medium. Essentially, Loeb and McGuiness deliver the tales that are the comic book equivalent to summer blockbusters. The story needs to be there, but it's the effects, the on-screen visuals and the artistry of the shot that really carries things forward.
That is exactly what "Avengers: X-Sanction" is: big, loud and most importantly, fun. Even if you disregard the backdrop of the big-time throwdown between Team Avenger and Team X-Man coming up in 2012, this issue still gives you the matchup of the (arguably) greatest soldier from each side: Captain America and Cable, respectively.
Yes, Loeb addresses the logistics of Cable being (not quite) dead. Yes, Loeb does manage to shoehorn the Hulk into this first issue. That all makes for a tight, no pre-reading required story. There's a lot going on, and through Cable, Loeb sets the stage for this series and the event set to follow. Most importantly, Loeb remembers to make this a story that gives the reader a sense of wonder with each page turn, a sense of dread at the last panel and an increased sense of anxiety over what this all means and how it's all going to come together.
Running stride for stride with Loeb's big-screen tale is the over-the-top awesomeness of Ed McGuiness' art. A friend of mine referred to McGuiness' style as "too Saturday morning cartoony." My counter is that this is a comic book with a plethora of marvelous beings bounding through the panels. What could possibly be more worthy of "Saturday morning cartooniness?" McGuiness' characters are stunning in there heroic stature, the action sequences are filled with the clutter of life and the suspenseful moments are well staged, playing up camera angles, expressions and lighting. Dexter Vines aids McGuiness' efforts on that front with strong linework, dense shadows and a crawling murkiness that plays up to the strengths of the story. Morry Hollowell's colors are keenly matched with and superbly blended to the art, inviting one and all to consider the possibility that McGuiness, Vines and Hollowell might be one person -- or at the very least share a single creative brain.
This is the first shot fired in the war between Marvel's biggest franchise superteams. It is a giant tease of a story, but it is also a fun yarn in and of itself. It's a mere twenty pages in length, but there is no doubting repercussions are set to resonate from this adventure. It's a fun ride that precedes what should be an engaging event. Regardless of the future storylines spinning out of "X-Sanction," however, the first issue delivers fun, excitement and adventure -- all the things we read comics for, right?