Graphic Novels Review: Uncanny Avengers: Prelude to Axis and Avengers & X-Men: Axis

Avengers & X-Men: Axis

Avengers & X-Men: Axis - Credit: Archant

Moral compasses are turned on their head in this epic Marvel crossover...

Uncanny Avengers: Prelude to Axis

Uncanny Avengers: Prelude to Axis - Credit: Archant

(Panini Books)

It’s one of the oldest tropes in fiction: what happens when your heroes become villains, and your bad guys turn over a new leaf as goodies, yet it has perhaps never been seen on such a scale as in this latest Marvel crossover.

The Red Skull has implanted sections from the brain of deceased super-psychic Charles Xavier into his own head, an act of desecration which has enraged Magneto, especially when he discovers the Skull is using the former mutant island of Genosha to set up concentration camps for Homo Superior.

Himself a victim of Hitler’s Final Solution, Magneto is horrified to see history repeating itself, and takes it upon himself to bring about an ultimate sanction on Skull’s actions. But instead of ridding the world of the Nazi menace, the all-powerful Onslaught entity is reborn.

Created from the dark side of Xavier’s psyche, this was the same creature that once virtually destroyed the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, and its return prompts an alliance between almost all of Earth’s superheroes to quell the resurrected menace, later joined by an unexpected team-up of villains who recognised the threat to their own continued existence.

In an attempt to turn the cards and awaken the spirit of Xavier within Onslaught, Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch unleash a powerful chaos spell which has the unexpected consequence of turning the personalities of the assembled costumed characters on their axis.

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So the Avengers and X-Men see their dark sides brought to the fore, while villains like Carnage, Hobgoblin, Enchantress and Sabretooth find themselves acting selflessly and on the side of righteousness…

Some of the other more interesting inversions include Tony Stark becoming a “Superior” version of Iron Man, no longer restrained by a sense of humility (not that he had much of one to start off with!), the Summers brothers Scott and Alex reuniting in the X-Men and seizing control of Manhattan as a new mutant stronghold, and Doctor Doom developing a conscience.

The Axis event does spill over into various other Marvel books, so the full experience isn’t contained here, but that’s not to say these collected issues don’t tell the entirety of the main story from beginning to end.

The Uncanny Avengers book also features the debut of the so-called Avengers of the Supernatural in a bizarre self-contained story, and picks up on the aftermath of the Apocalypse Twins arc featured in the previous four volumes.

With the Marvel Universe soon to move headlong towards the Secret Wars event, which has massive implications for the entire line of books, this is the last chance to enjoy a proper old school crossover before everything changes.