Uncanny Avengers tried to sell the new status quo for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the Counter-Evolutionary arc, now available in a collected edition. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really accomplish what it intends.

Image provided by Amazon/ Marvel

As Counter-Evolutionary opens, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have traveled to Counter-Earth (a duplicate planet on the other side of the sun) to track down the High Evolutionary. The twins believe the twisted scientist can confirm the suggestion that arose in the AXIS event, that Magneto isn’t their actual father. A concerned Rogue assembles a new Unity Squad, including Vision, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Brother Voodoo and Sabretooth to follow the twins.

The heroes wind up scattered to different parts of Counter-Earth, mixing with both the minions of the High Evolutionary and the rebels opposing his program of genocidal eugenics. Along the way, the twins learn the truth about their origins and the heroes fight off the High Evolutionary. New characters introduced include the Low Evolutionary (the rebellious son of the High) and Luminous, a character with the powers of both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch whose origin ties into the twins’ new status quo. In the final pages, the High Evolutionary threatens a coming “Evolutionary War,” Vision is keeping an additional secret about the twins’ past from them and the fate of Wonder Man (whose energy and consciousness are extracted from Rogue’s body during the story) is unclear.

After writer Rick Remender did such a strong job with the first volume of Uncanny Avengers, Counter-Evolutionary feels like a significant letdown. He created an interesting scenario for the High Evolutionary and wrote the villain rather well. If that had been the focus of the arc instead of the retcon of the twins’ origin, it would have been on firmer ground. Remender also did some nice things with Sabretooth, repentant and conscience-stricken after AXIS.

Image provided by Amazon/Marvel

But too much of the rest of Counter-Evolutionary feels off. Remender had done some memorable things with the Scarlet Witch in the first series, but she comes across as curiously blank in this arc. Quicksilver’s characterization also is off; he seems more like Speed of the Young Avengers than his usual sour self. The usually sharp relationship between the twins doesn’t seem to translate, either. It was nice that the hard-won Rogue/Scarlet Witch bond from the first volume survives to this story, but Rogue, in spite of being the spur for the new squad, doesn’t have a lot to do.

Vision spends much of the arc in a left-field A.I. romantic plot that might have been interesting in another context but feels misplaced in Counter-Evolutionary. Brother Voodoo comes across as nothing more than a mystical deus ex machina. And Captain America is so sparsely used that his panels could be cut with no impact on the story.

More than that, the selection of the new Unity Squad was heavily weighted toward the Avengers. After most of the original cast was rendered unavailable by recent plot turns, some new blood was needed. But Rogue winds up the only X-Man on the team, along with newly rehabilitated X-villain Sabretooth. With so many colorful X-Men out there, that this series features only one X-representative, makes it hard not to wonder if the various “Marvel is trying to kneecap the X-Men” conspiracy theories aren’t quite so far-fetched after all.

Image provided by Amazon/Marvel

But the biggest problem with Counter-Evolutionary is the new origin of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. In short, it’s just not interesting. Nowhere near as compelling as their being the children of Magneto. Those family ties have been a crucial link between the X-Men and Avengers franchises for years. Losing it diminishes a potent source of drama in the Marvel Universe. All so that the comic book origin of the twins lines up with the one newly introduced for their movie counterparts. Is flipping a middle finger at FOX and their death grip on the movie rights to all of Marvel’s mutant properties really worth jettisoning one of the most interesting family dynamics in Marvel’s line? Because based on this story, it really isn’t. It plays as an editorial mandate that Remender sort of tries to make happen, even though the writer demonstrates no enthusiasm for the concept.

The usually dependable Daniel Acuña isn’t at the top of his game on art. His moody, soft-focus approach works for some parts of the story, especially the grittier, shadowy moments. But it’s not the best fit for the sci-fi aspects, which would have benefited from a sleek, shiny presentation. And Acuña’s characters can come off stiff and posed during some of the big action sequences. This seemed like not the best match of artist and material. Counter-Earth should really pop off the page, so Acuña’s native restraint worked against the storytelling and his muted, shadowy palette isn’t what the story needs.

It’s hard to recommend Counter-Evolutionary. Fans who followed the first Uncanny Avengers series and plan to follow the next iteration in the All-New All-Different launch will probably want to read it to keep up. Those curious about the new Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch status quo might also be interested. Otherwise, it’s not essential.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on August 27, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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