The closest thing to a line-wide event that Marvel has this summer is the “Dark Avengers” and “Uncanny X-Men” crossover: a six-part story spanning four months, bookended by two specials. The first special, “Utopia” is a solid set-up issue that clearly establishes the conflict between the two groups, but does so in a drawn-out manner.
As the initial pages show, the conflict stems from a confrontation between mutants in San Francisco and a group of humans led by Simon Trask who have marched from Sacramento in protest of mutants congregating in the city and, ultimately, in protest of mutants existing at all. This leads to a city-wide riot with both mutants and humans equally at fault and causing an equal amount of damage to each side.
Caught in the middle are the X-Men, as Cyclops tries to hold the mutant community in check to no avail. Matt Fraction builds the tension well, leading up to the involvement of Norman Osborn and his Avengers, called in to restore order and, naturally, Osborn uses this as a chance to eliminate a few of the old guard superheroes that comprise the X-Men and, perhaps, as solicitations suggest, put his own group in its place.
There are two main problems with this issue. The first is that the length of story seems drawn out to accommodate the increased page count that a special of this nature demands. Fraction does try to fill the pages with different aspects of the riot, but even that doesn’t hide the fact that this could have been a regular-sized issue without anything getting lost. Some scenes work nicely, like Cyclops confronting Toad, or when the Avengers arrive on the scene. The way that Spider-Man/Venom sizes up Colossus and leaps in battle with joy is wonderful.
The other main problem is the art, which suffers from twelve artists in addition to Marc Silvestri doing ‘pencil assists’ and inks, giving the book an inconsistent look with some pages obviously more ‘assisted’ than others. Not only that, but this is an issue that requires a bit more subtlety in the quiet scenes since a lot rests on facial expressions and body language, and Silvestri and company just can’t pull that off. They do well in the riot scenes where the cluttered masses and energy work well with this style, but scenes like Cyclops meeting with the mayor, or Emma Frost demanding answers from Osborn fall flat with ludicrous poses and unreal expressions.
“Utopia” isn’t the strongest of starts to this crossover since so much of its power rests in the ending, but it is an intriguing and compelling end. Where Fraction goes from here should be interesting.
(Judge the art for yourself in CBR’s preview!)