04 June 2012

Dark X-Men: The Beginning

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2010 (contents: 2009)
Acquired January 2011
Read May 2012
Utopia: Avengers/X-Men

Writers: Matt Fraction, Craig Kyle & Chris Yost, Mike Carey, Kieron Gillen, Paul Cornell, James Asmus, Shane McCarthy, Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman, Rob Williams, Jason Aaron, and Simon Spurrier
Pencilers: Marc Silvestri, Terry Dodson, Luke Ross, Bing Cansino, Dustin Weaver, Leonard Kirk, Jesse Delperdang, and Paco Diaz (with Michael Broussard, Eric Basaloua, Tyler Kirkham and Sheldon Mitchell)
Inkers: Joe Weems, Rachel Dodson, Rick Magyar, Mark Pennington, Luke Ross, Roland Paris, Edgar Tadeo, Jay Leisten, Leonard Kirk, Andy Lanning, and Guillermo Ortega (with Marco Galli, Eric Basaloua, Rick Basaloua, Jason Gorder, Sal Aegla, Jon Sibal, Ryan Winn, and Jesse Delperdang)
Other Artists: Mike Deodata, Daniel Acuna, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ibraim Roberson, Michel Lacombe, Jock, and Paul Davidson
Colorists: Frank D'Armata, Justin Ponsor, Rain Beredo, Dean White, Christina Strain, Edgar Delgado, Brian Reber, Matt Milla, John Rauch, and Dave Stewart
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulous, Joe Caramagna & Cory Petit, Rob Steen, and Dave Sharpe

Holy cow! Not counting cover artists or editorial staff, 64 different people worked on this 368-page book.  Even if you discount everything but the core story "Utopia," which has just one writer (Matt Fraction), there are still some nineteen artists at work on six issues.  Oh, the American corporate comic book factory: how delightful.

Suffice it to say that I'd never ordinarily buy such a book (X-Men comics alienate me in general, and their gigantic crossover events even moreso), except that Paul Cornell has a few stories in it: three shorts that were part of a miniseries called Dark X-Men: The Beginning. Originally these were going to be published as their own book, but that ended up not happening and so I had to by this whole fershlugginer crossover just to get 20-something pages of Paul Cornell goodness. I hope you're happy Marvel!  These stories see Cornell reunited with his Captain Britain and MI13 collaborator Leonard Kirk to tell the tales of superheroes recruited for Norman "Green Goblin" Osborn's government-sponsored X-Men team.

"Namor/Norman" is probably the best of the three, as Osborn attempts to figure why Namor, Prince of Atlantis, could possibly care about what's going on in the surface world. Given its placement in the book after the reader has learned the answer, it's a delightful example of two men out-out-thinking one another.  I also enjoyed "Hidden Depth," where Emma Frost probes Namor's mind herself.  The weakest was clearly "The Temptation of Cloak and Dagger," which didn't say anything that wasn't revealed in the earlier chapters of Utopia.

Utopia as whole is about X-Men leader Cyclops's attempt to keep the X-Men based in San Francisco in the face of growing anti-mutant hysteria and attacks by something called "Bio-Sentinels" whose origins are never explained, not to mention the arrival of Norman Osborn and his government-sponsored Avenger and X-Men teams. The first chapter is actually quite good, building a feeling of tension and unsettledness as the streets of San Francisco are filled with angry rioters, and no one's quite sure what to do. Reading it for the first time after "Occupy Wall Street," it actually feels very prescient.  After that, though, the story stretches out too long through its last five chapters. The characters do interesting things, but we're not privy to their interiority enough to really experience them; Emma Frost must be really conflicted over what's going on, but the plot precludes us from discovering how she feels about her role until its over.

Terry Dodson's art was an unexpected delight, though: nice, clean, and vaguely cartoony.  I got tired of Luke Ross's well-rounded butt shots, though, and the less said about Marc Silvestri's identical faces for women and poor story-telling skills, the better.

I was delighted to see Mike Carey here, after enjoying his work on Lucifer so much, and joined by Dustin Weaver, one of the better artists on Knights of the Old Republic, but their story (about what Rogue gets up to during the riots in the first chapter) feels like a pointless fill-in.  Otherwise, I found the rest of this volume fairly disposable.

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