Imagine the most evil thing you can. Just try to picture it in your mind. And I don’t mean evil as in that teacher who always assigned homework on the weekend or the guy who cut you off in traffic. I mean something like the Red Skull crossed with Hitler crossed with Onslaught crossed with the Devil. Can you picture it?
Now imagine all of the superheroes of the Marvel Universe punching it and you’ve got Axis #1.
In a bold move, the first issue of writer Rick Remender’s new Big Event comic starts off with several storylines already underway, and the action already overflowing. Anyone who read his ongoing series, Uncanny Avengers, should have a good idea of what has been going on. But those of us out of the loop get one heck of a crash course in just how evil the Red Skull has become and who stands opposed.
I’m of two minds on this matter. On the one hand, you’re not going to find a more action-packed comic on the stands this week. Remender floods the issue with Avengers and X-Men, teaming them up despite any previous drama and pitting them against the most evil fictional being that has probably ever existed. If you like your heroes joining forces and punching evil, then Axis #1 is a good comic.
But on the other hand, there’s just too much going on in this issue to get properly on board. This reads more like a penultimate or final issue, where the villain has reached his final form and engages the heroes in climactic battle. There is a brief recap page at the start to get readers up to speed, but that doesn’t stop Remender from piling on the continuity and the cameos.
How did the Red Skull become Red Onslaught? Why does it matter? Why is everybody mad at Magneto for killing the Red Skull? If Magneto killed him, how his he alive? How did Cyclops get captured alongside several Jean Grey School students? How can Cyclops and his brother Havok so easily bury the hatchet? Where do the rest of the Avengers and X-Men come from? Magical cameo land?
Few of these questions are answered, and others require some research on your own on the side. And even though the comic is filled with people explaining themselves, there’s very little to explain beyond ‘Red Onslaught is evil, let’s punch him!’. No character has even an ounce of depth to their actions, especially the villain. Maybe the depth would be there if you read Uncanny Avengers, but Remender only pays a bit of lip service in the pages of Axis itself.
Artist Adam Kubert does his best to keep up, but his normally stellar pencils are a little sloppy with this issue. Either he was rushed to get it done or there was just too much to draw, but cramping tons of characters together hurts all of them visually. At least he manages to make Red Onslaught look sufficiently evil and threatening, though the tightly packed panels don’t come close to showing off his massive size.
It makes perfect sense to let Remender build this story in the pages of Uncanny Avengers and then have it explode in a big company-wide crossover, but he still needs to make Axis accessible and interesting to new readers. There is a lot of drama in the world of the X-Men and the Avengers these days, they have a lot on their plates, and adding the embodiment of evil itself without any warning or development is just a bit too much too quickly. He makes up for the sudden burst of comic by making everyone’s motivations paper-thin, but that hurts the story in other ways.
But the fight against Red Onslaught is not the overall point of Axis, so maybe Remender just wanted to get this part out-of-the-way with a big action scene. That I can understand. But he bit off more than we readers could properly chew with Axis #1.
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist Artists: Laura Martin and Matt Milla
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Rating – 5/10.
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