Avengers vs. X-Men written by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, and others; art by John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel, Adam Kubert, and others
The comics industry is always looking for two things--a big epic storyline and an excuse for the heroes to fight each other. Fans are always debating who could beat whom if the heroes ever faced off against each other. Companies want a hook that keeps readers coming back for more. Have they pulled it off with this storyline?
The story starts with the discovery that the Phoenix entity (the one that drove Jean Grey crazy and to eventual death way back in the day) is coming to Earth. Presumably the entity is coming for Hope Summers (who apparently is no relations to Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclopes). She's a mutant whose destiny for greatness has been predicted since her discovery. She was the first mutant born after Scarlet Witch did something to reduce the number of mutants on Earth below 200. The X-Men and a bunch of the mutants (including Hope) live on an island called Utopia off the United States west coast. Once everyone knows about the Phoenix entity, Captain America and the Avengers want to take Hope into protective custody; Scott Summers and his X-Men want hope to embrace the Phoenix entity in the hopes that she will bring back the mutants. As the entity approaches, battle lines are drawn and the mayhem begins.
So the set-up is a little convoluted but this book contains enough explanation that it works as a stand-alone story. Back story is explained to get readers ready for the epic battle of epic epicness that ensues. The writers shoe-horn in a lot of characters (clearly hoping to please the fans) and have lots of battles all over the globe with all sorts of match-ups that are interesting and handled well. The main story keeps moving forward at a good pace and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
The book also contains six issues of a companion series to the A vs. X main storyline. In the companion, various battles between individuals are given in detail, though with a lot of humor thrown in for good measure. The companion stories are clearly fan service, the more outlandish being the more fun (like the Cyclopes vs. Captain America verbal abuse battle where they argue about who is a lamer character, or the Toad vs. Jarvis battle where Toad (who acts as a butler in one of the mutant schools) comes into conflict with the Avengers' master butler). Unfortunately there is a "Spider-woman vs. X-Women" that confirms a sexist attitude toward the female characters. Deliberate pandering to adolescent male attitudes is not good.
Recommended, except for that one page.