Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review # 72: "Dark Avengers/X-Men - Utopia"

Norman Osborn had secretly taken over the world. His Green Goblin persona under control, he had formed a secret cabal, taken command of SHIELD and formed his own Avengers team while keeping the originals on the run. Far more frightening as a villain smiling for the cameras than he had ever been with a glider and pumpkin bombs, life for Orborn was as good as it got.

Then he messed with the X-Men and got his tail kicked.

"Utopia" is Matt Fraction's best sole-written story from his time on "Uncanny." Crossing between his own issues and giving Brian Michael Bendis a break on "Dark Avengers," he crafts a wonderfully entertaining war, both quiet and very, very loud. Egged on by malevolent "activist" Simon Trask, the mutant community in San Francisco riots, giving Norman his excuse to bring in his Avengers to clean up. "Hawkeye" (actually Bullseye,) "Spider-Man" (actually Venom,) "Ms. Marvel" (actually Moonstone,) "Wolverine" (actually Daken) and Ares butt heads with the X-Men and things get ugly. However, San Francisco is none-too-pleased with the attack on the mutant community. Osborn's response is to try to replicate his own success by bringing in an X-Men team of his own.

The Dark X-Men make-up includes fellow Cabal members Emma Frost (in a public betrayal of Cyclops) and Namor, along with Cloak, Dagger, Mimic, Weapon Omega, Daken, Dark Beast and "Professor X" (actually Mystique.) Osborn uses this team to clean up a second riot, and to take down Simon Trask's followers when his true (and quite frightening) nature is revealed. While this is going on, Norman and fake Charles bury Scott Summers and the mayor of San Francisco on a media tour. After relentlessly pressing his buttons and making him watch as some of his young charges are arrested, Norman goads Scott into a meeting...

...where Cyclops demands Osborn surrender.

Bad. Ass.

The heart of this story is the demonstration of how brilliant a strategist Cyclops is. Osborn brushes off Scott's demand, thinking he has everything in his pocket. The result? Scott systematically destroys him piece by piece. The final issue where the X-Men, Dark X-Men AND Dark Avengers have it all out is glorious, drawn admirably by Mike Deodato and Terry Dodson. It is a joy watching Cyclops and his now extremely large team of mutants take Norman's pieces off the board one at a time until Osborn is forced to run away with his tail tucked between his legs.

I know I've practically given away the ending, but it's how the X-Men and Dark Avengers get there that's important. Gradually the veil is lifted on each of Scott's schemes, once again putting him over as a man (or mutant) you do not want to mess with. He gives the seemingly untouchable Osborn the first chink in his Iron Patriot armour and things were about to go south real fast.

Before I give a rating, I'll give another shout out for one of my favourite X-artists, Marc Silvestri who draws the opening issue and nails it. I've read this book a few times, and I'm always happy when I notice something I didn't before. In this case, the facial construction of Simon Trask's followers. After their nature is revealed, go back to the beginning and take a closer look at their appearance. He hid a great hint in there.

Also, there is a TON of supplemental material. You have the issues of X-Men Legacy where Rogue and Gambit return to the main team (during which Rogue, of course, meets up with "Ms. Marvel.") You also get all the stories of how the Dark X-Men were recruited. Most of them are merely OK, but Norman's attempt to recruit Northstar's sister Aurora stands out.

It's an impressive collection and kicks off an era for the team that I really enjoyed. You have all these mutants hanging out in the same place, creating a ton of possibilities... and another big player is about to enter the fray.

Rating: 9/10

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