Well here goes nothing, there are various aspects of this review that I am sure I will get what for about. Just remember, I call them like I see them and boy, am I glad someone else got assigned this book.
My long standing problem with the X Books is that they lack any subtlety. For much of their history, they have been an overbearing allegory to the equal rights movement and racial tensions. I am fine with these as subject matter, think they are important even, but much like Ennis talking crazy about WWII and Superheroes, something about making an action comic be a statement on this important issue rubs me the wrong way.
This issue finally brings the books to what I feared when the X-Men relocated to San Francisco. Now the book seems to have given up its racial theme and taken on gay rights. Let it be said now, that I, actually, as a white male heterosexual Christian, am in full support of the marriage between any two people who make the commitment to have a monogamous relationship - no matter their sexual orientation, races, creeds, yada yada yada. My problem is that having a debate over “mutant breeding” and having protestors hoisting signs one way or the other over “Proposition X” lacks any thought process and actually seems to kind of belittle the actual real world concerns that are being debated across the country.
That being said, it also brings a smile to my face, because it reminds me of Kevin Smith on the Tonight Show talking about how disappointed he was that Bryan Singer had left the X-Men franchise. He was hoping X-Men 3 would be a big gay musical, it was one of the funniest things I had heard at the time and I was astonished at the level he was allowed to be irreverent on national broadcast television.
Anyhow, now that I have lost e-friends, let me talk more about what I like about this comic. There are lots of things to dig about this story. It is cool to see things heat up in this issue. It all smacks of normal X-men though which was another problem I had with the move, in the end it was just a different setting not the big status quo change that was promised. This is seen when Cyclops is handcuffed or when the police move on the Mutants.
What really impressed me was Fraction’s handling of the Dark Avengers. By isolating them and giving them solo missions, he shows an ability to voice many characters at once, something that has defined his Uncanny run and made it all the more enjoyable. He shows both Trask and Osborn making the kind of spin maneuvering that makes at least old goblin head an interesting character. The way that Trask weasels out of his group really starting things is genius in its execution and again, we have a writer other than Bendis really making the political machine behind the Dark Avengers seem plausible. It would be nice if Bendis could manage that feat.
Showing each of the characters on their own shows their flaws. Even after being told that cameras will be everywhere, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye spout off things that would best not be said in public, hopefully Fraction will capitalize on this later. Sure, the team does crap like this all the time, but Bendis shows no reaction to it outside of the rogue Superhero community, what happens when real people hear Hawkeye say he wants to kill?
There are also some annoying things. Seems Fraction only wants to box the characters that are on the Marquee. Some of the Young X-Men and others running around need identification and power explanations more than the people he has repeatedly done it for many issues now. I do like the smart assedness of some of them though.
On to what I really truly dislike about this issue though. The art. First of all, let it be known that I am not a Silvestri fan. Of all the Jim Lee clones that appeared in the nineties, Silvestri is the one I liked the least. He never really seemed to get his own thing going and even here seems to be paying homage to some of the people who spawned from him. The fervent manner in which some people follow him and his school is disturbing.
That being said, I don’t think a lot of the problems here are purely his fault. There is a small army of pencillers and inkers listed here, consistency will become a problem when you have that many cooks in the kitchen. It also makes me wonder about Silvestri’s commitment to the project. If he is only doing this one shot and the normal teams are doing the chapters and Deodato the other bookend, then why could he not complete the pencils himself. There was plenty of lead time assuming that he had already started the project when it was announced and worked on it for those months that the Dark X-Men postcards set on the counters of shops across the country. But, I’ll stop soapboxing about the unprofessional nature of the comics industry today (for now).
The end result hurts this book. There are mad crazy morphs of characters along the way. There are even moments of Liefeldian inproportionness. Hawkeye has a giant arm. Cyclops inherits Leno’s chin in one frame. It’s a shame too, because there are shots of pure comic gold, like Ares leaping from the sky.
Then there are the questions... what does the folder with the big X say? Is that Dark Beast Emma is presented with? I though Prof X could walk now? What is the deal with the Dark X? If Beast was arrested, is the mayor in cohoots with Norman? What’s got Emma so excited? Will this be the beginning of the end for Norman’s new world order? Tune in next time.
Story 8 (despite my problems with thematics and nit picking, I really enjoyed this, especially for an X title)
Overall 7 (not letting my distaste for the artist drag the score down too low)