Picking up where the “Avengers vs. X-men” spinoff fight title left off is this new anthology series teaming up -- wait for it -- an Avenger and an X-man in adventures that are as wacky as they are random. That’s the catch here as most of these stories have very little significance to them outside of the creative teams involved. You’ll be getting twelve stories with the six issues collected here and the hit-to-miss ratio is... well, let’s just say that the volume’s title tends to be more clever and imaginative than what’s inside. Anyway, since there’s so much to cover here, it’s time to welcome back the lightning round:
Captain America + Cable: Cap and Bucky get involved in a time-traveler’s plan to give the Nazis sentinel technology and Cable shows up in time to help foil it. Ron Garney gives us some decent art as does Dan Slott with his script, which manages a few amusing moments at the end. Not bad, but it also sets the tone for the overall quality of the majority of the stories here.
The Incredible Hulk + Wolverine: It starts out as an argument over cake and then turns into another time travel throwdown as the Maestro and “Days of Future Past” Wolverine show up to take out their past selves for undisclosed reasons. Well, it’s revealed at the end that they were acting under the orders of FUTURE PRESIDENT RED HULK and if this was the 90’s that revelation would have blown my mind! We’re in 2013 however and this story does nothing but underline the steep decline in Jeph Loeb’s scriptwriting. At least it has some suitably intense and detailed art from Dale Keown.
Black Widow + Rogue: Chris Bachalo writes and illustrates the two heroines putting a stop to more sentinel trouble. It’s a fast-paced action story that hinges upon the latter utilizing the former’s skills and knowledge for a last-minute save. Rather than just have the two of them shake on it to allow Rogue to absorb the necessary knowledge, Bachalo spices things up by having them swap spit instead. Whether or not this is a good thing is left up for you to decide.
Iron Man + Kitty Pryde: Tony Stark tries to recruit Kitty to come work at Resilient and winds up getting an infestation of Brood for his troubles. Peter David has some fun with the out-there setup and even gets some nice chemistry between the two as they come to a quite logical conclusion as to why an arrangement such as this would never work. Mike Del Mundo provides the art and he comes off much better here than when he was tasked with providing fill-ins for Daniel Acuna in the “Avengers vs. X-Men Companion.”
Black Panther + Storm: One of the few stories here to have any real ties to continuity as Jason Aaron deals with the fallout from the pair’s failed marriage. Regardless of what you thought about their pairing, it gets a nice “no hard feelings” sendoff here that allows both characters to move on without any unnecessary baggage from the event. Pasqual Ferry gives it a nice, stylized (I almost want to say science-fictiony, but that would be terrible) look that helps it stand out amongst the other stories here.
Hawkeye + Gambit: James Asmus has the two rogues engaging in a game of one-upsmanship as they try to save an actress from a monster. Billy Tan’s art is serviceable enough as is the banter between the two characters. Any affection I have for this story mainly comes from the fact that Gambit winds up getting the last laugh in the end.
Beast + Amazing Spider-Man: Easily one of the more ambitious stories in the collection, Kaare Andrews has the heroes fleeing through a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic New York only to be caught by Beast’s descendants who have taken over. As the feline X-man has to deal with one of his descendants putting the moves on him, Spider-Man winds up serving as the afternoon’s entertainment in a colosseum battle. It’s ultimately pretty inconsequential, but Andrews art and the scope of his storytelling do leave an impression after the story is over.
Captain America + Quentin Quire: This gets points for being one of the oddest team-ups in the collection if only because it’s hard to imagine Quire working with anyone, let alone the sentinel of liberty. That they do is accomplished by writer Jason Latour and artist David Lopez in a fashion that is more familiar than it is satisfying. Even with that last page.
Iron Fist + Doop: File this one under “trying too hard.” I can appreciate the non-linear storytelling Kathryn Immonen tries out here but the pseudo-banter between the two characters ultimately signifies nothing. As do all of the names she gives Iron Fist’s moves which are more dumb than anything else. At least we have some lively art from David LaFuente to give the proceedings some visual zest.
(Kid) Loki + Mr. Sinister: If you’ll recall, this was one of the stories that thought would be worth picking up by itself. After all, it has Kieron Gillen scripting a team-up between two of the character that he has made the strongest impression on while writing at Marvel. The plot involves Sinister infiltrating Castle Doom in order to retrieve some of Loki’s genetic samples, and the child incarnation of the trickster showing up to add a little chaos to the proceedings. Gillen’s prose is great fun to read and he packs a lot of ingenuity into these few pages. Joe Bennett also provides some good art and I’m left wishing that ALL of the stories in this collection could have been as good.
Wolverine + Captain Marvel: Another Peter David contribution with Guiseppe Camuncoli and Michele Benevento providing the art. It’s a “words speak louder than actions” story as the two work out their differences in a game of cards until a supervillain crashes the party. The art communicates the characters’ emotions well while David makes some nice points about the characters and gets some good mileage out of the “astronauts vs. cavemen” argument that kicks things off. Overall, it’s good fun.
Thing + Gambit: As is this, which is good because it lets things end on a high note. Determined to beat the member of the Fantastic Four at a game of cards, some Yancy Street toughs bring in the Cajun X-man as a ringer. The two heroes have some history between them and things wind up getting ugly sooner rather than later. While I’m not familiar with writer Mike Costa, he gives us a sharp story here that has some nice surprises in store for the reader. As for the art, Stefano Caselli gives us some detailed work that is up to his usual high standards.
So this first volume of “A+X” is not an essential read by any means. Though there’s only one truly awful story here, the rest aren’t on the same level as Gillen’s “Sinister + Kid Loki” story. I guess the ultimate decision in whether or not to buy this would depend on how much one likes the creative teams involved here. Even then this is still one that is mainly for the completists.