Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Javier Garron
Color Artist: David Curiel
Cover Artists: Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
It’s the finale to the Avengers vs. The Phoenix Force! The infamous cosmic force has returned to Earth to select a new Phoenix Host from Earth. But it did things different this time. It hosted a tournament to determine who would be its new host. And now Avengers #44
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It’s finally over. This whole Phoenix Tournament has concluded with all of its weird selections, divisive big revelations, and a few character fights. The tournament style itself was reminiscent of last year’s X of Swords event, where readers get brief, very brief moments of fighting between characters they weren’t too invested in other than the X-Men. In this case, it’s the Avengers vs. a few A-listers and various C-listers and so on readers won’t see very often in Marvel comics.
So, the comic has set up the final rounds with the contestants getting right to it. Cap vs. Black Panther, Namor vs. She-Hulk, and Shanna of the Savage Land vs. The Red Widow. They sound like cool fights and were. Who among these mighty warriors becomes the new Phoenix Host?! None of them. And Jason Aaron makes the big reveal feel so forced and provides a half-baked reason behind why the character in question becomes the new Phoenix. I will explain in the Spoilers section.
Now, there were a few good moments. I especially liked the brutal fights with Namor and Shanna The She-Devil. Seeing them cut loose a bit with the Phoenix Force’s powers was cool. Sadly, we don’t get too much of Shanna and Red Widow’s fight, and Namor’s fight with She-Hulk was a bit weird. There was even a particular moment that will come off as unintentionally funny to some readers in Namor’s fight when they see it.
Surprisingly, the fight between Cap and Black Panther didn’t conclude the way I thought it would, and that was a genuine surprise. The only good one in this entire story arc.
So, the new Phoenix Host is Echo. I previously predicted the Red Widow would be the new host, but hey, I’m okay with being wrong. My real issue is not the character herself, but why Aaron made her the new Phoenix Host. Ultimately, his reasoning, through Echo’s narration, is that she was chosen because she had “fallen”.
For those who don’t remember who Echo is, she’s the one in the variant cover preview below. Remember, she didn’t win her battle against Namor. We last saw her 2 or 3 issues ago getting chewed by Phoenix sharks and left to die at the bottom of the sea. Here is what she says in her narration. “Getting chosen is never about being a winner. To be the Phoenix, you have to suffer. You have to have fallen.” And she doesn’t elaborate anymore than that.
It feels so half-baked and forced, like Aaron just couldn’t come up with anything better. Not even anything simple, like she suffered and continued to persevere, she stood her ground against insurmountable odds, or had a passion and will that shines like a supernova. No, it’s simply because she nearly died.
Which is a truly weird criteria for becoming the Phoenix’s new host, since Howard The Duck (yes, he was in this for some reason) would be a good candidate too. He was straight up killed by the Red Widow, who forced a spear right through his chest and we haven’t seen him since. Plus, by this logic Wolverine would be the next host, since he’s had more deaths, near-death experiences, and rebirths in his life than anyone in the Phoenix Tournament.
Plus, it’s not like Echo was set up as a major character or anything in the previous issues. She was mostly in the background and had one small panel of dialogue before fighting Namor, and that’s that. No narration, no build up, nothing. Meanwhile, Jason Aaron was putting in the legwork to set up T’Challa as the next Phoenix Host, or at least the winner of the tournament. Even going so far as to have the original Phoenix host try to tempt him to accept its power.
I can already imagine most comic media sites will applaud this decision to make Echo the new Phoenix. If nothing else, it could’ve been a stronger reveal if there was more to it than Echo’s near-death experience or suffering being the key reason.
Avengers #44 finally finishes “Enter The Phoenix” and delivers a new Phoenix host. However, Jason Aaron’s in-story reasoning for the choice is very weak and the reveal comes out of left field. The art by Javier Garron and colors by David Curiel is good. Sadly, that’s about the only good thing in this comic. We’ll see what Jason Aaron has in store with the new Phoenix going forward in Avengers or in the upcoming Heroes Reborn.