"Dark X-Men" is the sort of mini-series that ends up being more fun than it deserves. After all, this is a mini-series that takes the remnant reject members of Norman Osborn's X-Men team from the "Utopia" crossover last year (Mystique, Mimic, Dark Beast, Omega) and lets them run wild, even as Nate Grey (the star of the "X-Man" series some years ago) tries to claw his way back into the world. So on that level, it succeeds.
After all, this is hardly an A-list group of characters. Mystique, at least, is a famous villain (even before the movies), but the other three are un-noteworthy enough that their entries could get flagged for removal from Wikipedia. While this issue doesn't focus on them as much as the earlier issues, Cornell's filled in the gaps enough at this point that he can use broader strokes here and get away with it. He's done a good enough job of making the characters -- Mimic and Omega, in particular -- ones that I'd welcome continuing to show up in comics once "Dark X-Men" comes to a conclusion next month. They're broken goods but sympathetic, and the strange mutant science sort of stories that Cornell has placed them in this mini-series has been a surprisingly good fit.
The one problem with "Dark X-Men" this issue, though, is that it pays a little too much attention to Norman Osborn. It's a given fact that Osborn will still be around in one piece for the "Siege" mini-series still running, so anything that happens to him will be undone by the end of the issue. It's the problem with playing with someone else's characters in a shared universe; unless you have full "custody" of the character, it's almost certain that you don't get to apply any lasting changes to the character. It's a surprising misstep in a mini-series that has several other characters whose fates are Paul Cornell's to decide. Anyone else is fair game, and while the inside of their heads might not be as dramatic to poke around in, Nate Grey threatening to possess one of them for the rest of time would hold greater heft.
Leonard Kirk continues to turn out excellent work. He and Cornell work well together, with Kirk's art reminding me more and more of artists like Stuart Immonen these days. Kirk inks himself here, and the end result is a group of characters with a thin, smooth outline but some more crosshatching and shading in the interiors than I'm used to. It's still a good end result though, and Kirk's great with character expressions. The possessed Osborn fighting Nate results in a great look of fear and panic on their shared face, and the worried Mystique comes across in such a way that gives her some extra sympathy from the reader.
"Dark X-Men" has been fun and I'll be sad to see it end. Cornell regularly pulls out clever gambits and surprises for the reader (I loved Nate Grey's manipulation of Osborn and how to hopefully defeat him), and you never know when the next big, crazy idea is going to pop up. Hopefully next month we'll see some more focus on the rest of the cast, as well as get a glimpse of their future. There's a lot of potential in this group of strange misfits. Are you listening, Marvel?