Welcome to review coverage of Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia, Marvel’s so-called “crossover event of the summer” for 2009. This six-parter runs through two one-shot specials and two issues each of Dark Avengers and Uncanny X-Men. With a Dark Avengers reviewer on the job who hates half-assing it, you can expect full reviews of the whole crossover! That raises my monthly review quota to insane heights, so make sure you express your appreciation (or whatever sentiment you feel) through the site’s comment feature.
DARK AVENGERS/UNCANNY X-MEN: UTOPIA #1
“Utopia” Part 1
WRITER: Matt Fraction
PENCILER: MARC SILVESTRI
PENCIL ASSISTS: Michael Broussard, Eric Basaldua, Tyler Kirkham & Sheldon Mitchell
INKERS: Joe Weems with Marco Galli, Eric Basaldua, Rick Basaldua, Jason Gorder, Jay Leisten, Sal Regla, Jon Sibal and Ryan Winn
COLORIST: Frank D’Armata
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
Simon Trask and a million anti-mutant activists march on San Francisco promoting Proposition X, a mutant reproduction-regulating initiative, and coaxing local protestors into violence. The skirmish snowballs into a citywide riot that neither the X-Men nor law enforcement can quell. The Dark Avengers arrive to suppress the chaos and declare martial law in the Bay Area.
Norman Osborn tells Emma Frost in private that Scott Summers has failed to control his people and that the mutants need stronger leadership.
Norman greets the press along side an imposter Professor Xavier, who distances himself from the rioters and falsely labels Summers as an instigator. The real Xavier psychically contacts Beast, who, like him, has found himself in a cellblock.
When the credits boast four pencil assistants and nine inkers, a harbinger of glaringly inconsistent art, I instinctively demand that Marvel plan these events better and start working sooner so I don’t blow my graduation cash on thirty plus pages of morphing faces and proportions. However, I avoid exposing my ignorance and naivety whenever possible, so I’m sure the realities of scheduling, printing, shipping, and the corporate structure conspired to make Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1 what it is. That doesn’t change the fact that what it is, is this: an ambitious, uneven, and unattractive disappointment.
It actually begins well enough, with an excellent, cinematic introduction of its politically steeped high concept. Matt Fraction claims he devised this yarn before the hoopla over California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, but the striking parallels can’t be a complete coincidence. The X-Men have always suited sociological metaphors well, so Fraction doesn’t have to shoehorn anything or write anyone out of character to address his themes, a criticism often levied against other ideologically charged tales. Fraction wields these ideas to build an intriguing scenario with Norman in control of San Francisco Bay and unanswered question about the fake and real Professors X.
Betwixt the great first and last few pages, however, drags a relentless montage of dull riot scenes. Fair enough for Fraction to spend an issue setting up this immense story’s stage, but he and the legion of artists neither pull back the lens far enough to convey the sheer scope nor hone in close enough to achieve a personal connection. Instead, we get one or two pages for each X-Man and Dark Avenger to hit someone or give a one-liner against all-but-identical backdrops of crowds and fire, with only a superficial landmark or two to distinguish one corner of the action from another. To an even greater extent then the writer, the artists deliver efforts too unpolished to pull the reader into the carnage and too unsubtle to pull off characterization beyond exaggerated poses and contorted facial expressions.
“Haven’t you heard? We’re the good guys.”
2.5 out of 5. Though it kicks off the grander epic interestingly enough, Part 1 on its own lurches under its own aspirations.
REVIEWED BY: CrazyChris