The premise is pretty solid. Following the world-wide war between The Avengers and the X-Men of that particular event series, Captain America thought long and hard about what his enemy Cyclops said about he and the other non-mutant heroes steering clear of mutant issues for years (which probably had more to do with Marvel editorial and the fact that Captain America had his own titles and the X-Men had theirs than with Captain America's own personal beliefs in mutant civil rights).
To help do his part to fulfill the dreams of the late Charles Xavier (who, you remember, was killed by the Phoenix force-empowered Cyclops at the climax of Avengers Vs. X-Men), Cap decides to form a superhero team that is half Avengers and half X-Men, with human and mutant heroes fighting side-by-side for the good of all.
And Remender chooses a pretty perfect villain for the first story arc, given that premise. The Red Skull (Or a Red Skull; if I read this correctly, this is a resurrected clone of the original Red Skull...?), who has decided to use mutants in America as the Nazis once used Jews, gypsies and other scapegoats in Germany, a sort of shared minority punching bag to unite the populace against and make them more easily ruled by a fascist strong man like, say, The Red Skull.
While the premise is strong and flows perfectly and naturally out of Avengers Vs. X-Men there is, of course, a problem with it: The Avengers have always included mutants in their ranks, at least since their first major line-up shake-up in the, uh, 1960s. That's when Captain America reformed the team as 50% mutant, with The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver joining him (and becoming among the longest serving Avengers in the team's history). Original X-Men Beast had a pretty good run as an Avenger, and Wolverine's been on the team for almost a decade now. Namor served a stint, and Storm was an Avenger for at least five minutes.
While Remender does a fine job writing the mutants in his roster, they seem more like the characters he was assigned, ones that no one else was using too prominently on their X-Men or Avengers teams, and, for the most part, they're therefore not really the X-Men or the mutants who seem like they are most ready to graduate into the sort of superhero one typically might associate with Marvel's A-List superhero team, or ones particularly well suited to a PR effort or sincere mission to live Xavier's ideals.
Of the four in the first story arc, which comprises four-fifths of this collection then, we get long-time Avengers The Scarlet Witch (who has never really had much to do with the X-Men formally) and Wolverine (who is on most Avengers and X-Men teams already anyway).
The more interesting choices are Rogue, who has some pretty serious issues with Scarlet Witch, given that whole "No more mutants" thing that decimated the mutant population and, in a roundabout way, set the stage for Avengers Vs. X-Men and the death of Xavier, and Havoc, the horribly-costumed brother of Cyclops, who is a fairly minor character in the Marvel Universe as a whole, and thus an interesting inclusion on an Avengers team, especially as its leader, which is what Captain America has made him (Although immediately has trouble taking orders from someone else, since he's always the leader of all his teams).
The non-mutants on the team, at least in that first arc, are, of course, Cap and, um, Thor, who is either a god or an alien, depending on whether you're an ancient norseman or not, and therefore doesn't really fit with the mission statement so well.
With the fifth issue, more characters are added: Japanese mutant Sunfire, a nice addition in how random and previously un-affiliated he is with the Avengers, and human heroes Wonder Man and The Wasp.
Backseat driving the line-up aside, Remender does a nice job of selling the premise and justifying the inclusion of most of the members, giving them interpersonal conflicts and alliances right out of the gate (Thor being maybe the only exception; he's merely written as the cartoon character he usually is).
The plot of the first arc includes a pretty shocking splash page ending to the first issue, and an extremely silly point that has a nice gross-out component and goes a bit further in making the Red Skull someone the X-Men might want to fight (Actually, I'm not sure why all the X-Men teams didn't go after the Skull...beyond, you know, different titles and Marvel editorial).
|DC's not the only publisher who can play the gross-out grand guignol game.|
This first story arc is drawn by John Cassaday, a talented artist with a few collections of pretty high-quality X-Men comics on his bibliography, but probably not someone you want on a monthly comic book, as evidenced by the fact he draws only the first four issues of this collection. The fifth issue is drawn by Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales, and is an all-around stronger piece of work, although I suppose I should take into account my preference for Coipel's more fluid, energetic style over Cassaday's, but it's a well-drawn book, from start to finish.
|I love the way Cassaday draws the Skull's smile.|
|Shut up, Alex.|
Remender has Havoc state during a press-conference that he doesn't like being identified as a mutant, and thinks that the world "mutant" itself is, in fact, a divisive term, meant to separate mutants from the rest of humanity, and he would prefer to be thought of as human rather than mutant. Putting aside whether or not that's a thing the leader of a The Avengers Unity Division showcasing human and mutant hero working shoulder-to-shoulder would or should say, and putting aside (Hey, I've done a lot of putting aside with this book!) how that works if you extrapolate the mutant metaphor the way it's generally extrapolated (replace the word "mutant" with "black" or "Jewish" or "gay" or "Mormon" or "teenager" whatever, and there's no way that speech doesn't sound pretty weird, and potentially offensive to a lot of folks), Havoc and/or Remender sort of fuck up two important points in that little speech.
First, Alex refers to mutant as "the M-word," which in the traditional reading of the X-Men metaphor would make it equivalent to "the N-Word," and "black" and "N-word" sure as hell aren't the same thing, nor is "Jewish"/"K-word" or "gay"/"F-word" or "Mormon"...I actually don't know any offensive terms for Mormons. If you know any, please, don't tell them to me. If there is an "M-word" in the Marvel Universe, it's "mutie," as in "you stinkin' mutie," not "mutant.
Second, mutants literally are a separate species than human beings in the Marvel Universe...aren't they? I am not the most well-read Marvel reader (I've "only" been reading Marvel comics for about 15 years now), and X-Men continuity is an especially confounding area of comic book knowledge for me. Also, I'm not a biologist, and know even less real-world science than I know comic book science. But that said, it was my understanding that the mutants in the Marvel universe had their own scientific classification—Homo sapiens superior—which would make them a distinct organism separated by species from Homo sapiens (i.e. human beings), no? Don't Marvel's mutants share a genus with human beings (Homo), but have their own species (superior, or sapiens superior).
Like, look at Neanderthals. They share a genus with humanity, but are generally considered a different species, Homo neanderthalenis...although Wikipedia says that's not exactly settled science, and that some believe them to be not a distinct and separate species than Homo sapiens, but a sub-species, classified as Homo sapiens neanderthalenis. At any rate, whether Marvel's mutants are their own species or a sub-species of humanity, what Alex says sounds pretty contrary to what Marvel history I know. (And man, when you factor in the Celestials in mutant evolution and all that ancient aliens shit, it's reeeaaaaallllly hard to make equivalences between the real world and the Marvel universe).
Anyway, that speech was a super-dumb part of an otherwise pretty good comic book.
Now look at this crazy looking Neal Adams variant cover: