uxm513Comic fans know a hero when we see one.  Some are strong, others cunning.  Some wear spandex, others leather.  Some spend their summer on the beach, others hole up in the spare room of their mother’s apartment to review comic books that cross over with the real book they’re supposed to be reviewing, even though they start law school in a month and have a hell of a lot more critical things to get squared away than extra reviews for website about a man in nylon with sticky hands.  Should you encounter such a true hero today, thank him with the only thing for which he lives: comments!

"Utopia" Part 2
WRITER: Matt Fraction
Terry Dodson
INKER: Rachel Dodson
COLORIST: Justin Ponsor
LETTERER: Joe  Caramagna

With Cyclops playing fugitive from HAMMER and Professor Xavier and Beast locked down in Alcatraz as test subjects for Dark Beast’s power-siphoning Omega Machine, San Francisco Bay’s new dictator, Norman Osborn, delegates mutant law enforcement to Emma Frost and a hand-picked X-Men team: Mimic, Dagger, Cloak, Daken, and Weapon Omega, who receives power upgrades from the Omega Machine.  Norman’s imposter Xavier, of coarse, is Mystique, infused with explosive nanites to ensure loyalty.  Emma insists upon her own team addition: Namor.

As tensions escalate, Simon Trask displays mind control powers, Cyclops steadies his battle-eager troops, and Emma unveils the new X-Men to the public before announcing a citywide curfew.  Helion and some likeminded mutant hooligans protest the implementation by razing Union Square until Emma’s X-Men gear up and kick the snot out of them.  Cyclops, watching coverage of the fight, decides to go chat with Mr. Osborn.

For the sake of dwelling on this issue’s merits, I’ll avoid whining about having to buy X-Men to follow Dark Avengers.  The dozen pages of monotonous rioting bogged down the Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia one-shot, drowning out the personal drama, but Chapter 2 better balances the event’s scope with a sharp focus on the characters and developments that matter.  Stuff actually happened, with nothing feeling wasted or pointless.  I wish one could take that for granted, but Norman Osborn has done very little meaningful with his power in six months of Dark Reign, until now.  Matt Fraction kicked it up a notch, showing some bold restructuring of the Marvel Universe on Norman’s part, even if the story borders on the overly familiar.

The governmental exploitation of public hysteria to erode personal liberties has become a defining theme of this decade’s popular fiction, and for good reason, but writers have beaten that dead horse into glue and then beat the glue.  These stories usually involve a smarmy Big Brother type tightening his grip by demanding extreme measures to meet an extreme crisis.  To freshen up this arrangement, Fraction lets our smarmy Big Brother type replace Bush-style extremism and with-us-or-against-us rhetoric with Obama-style ostensive centrist positioning and inclusiveness.  Most people like to think of themselves as moderates, and Norman captures that appeal by painting his fascist platform as the middle ground between Simon Trask’s "extreme mutophodia" and Cyclops’s "separatist notions of leadership," both of which he labels as equally "out of touch with mainstream America" and Emma calls "poles of extremism" before implementing the sundown curfew.  Fraction may or may not be reacting to a real-world political atmosphere he sees as more of the same with different jargon, a sentiment I may or may not agree with.

Whew, I came dangerously close to revealing my political leanings there.  Let’s discuss something safer: Terry Dodson’s pencils.  Venom looks like an anteater and Emma Frost resembles a drag queen trucker.  Otherwise, it’s fun, cartoony artwork.

3.5 X-Heads out of 5.  Fraction has tightened the screws on this promising tale.



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