Dark X-Men: Right and Wrong
Dark X-Men launches with an interesting story and effective art, but is saddled with so many continuity challenges that it lacks a spark.
Story & Script
The plot in this issue is that Norman Osborn is trying to maintain his takeover of the X-Men “brand,” and sends his team to investigate a possible brand crisis.
The story is more convoluted. Osborn somehow “owning” the X-Men brand seems to be an impossibility, since his Dark X-Men and Avengers were seen on television being repelled from Utopia by the assembled actual X-Men.
If you can forgive that oversight, get ready to forgive another – he's relaunching with former deep-background players Dark Beast and Mystique, plus his two more unreliable operative, Mimic and Weapon Omega. That's not Osborn's style at all. Where's the face for the media, like Emma or Namor? Defected and not replaced. Where's the muscle, like Daken? Not explained at all. Apparently Norman – and Marvel – couldn't spare any A-list talent for this adventure.
Paul Cornell's writing is so-so. My biggest beef is Dark Beast, who is being played for black comedy without any of his typical undercurrent of cunning. Mystique is solid as the team's leader, but is kept so generic that she really could be any former X-Men ally with a grudge. The introduction boxes each use a Beatles song to describe the characters, a cute gimmick if you know all the tunes that Cornell references.
Despite a page each of reintroduction, Mimic and Omega are complete ciphers in this story. They are both just recently introduced into post-M-Day continuity, and if you haven't read Dark X-Men: Beginnings and the Weapon Omega story in Marvel Comics presents you'll have no idea who they are or why they're both so mentally damaged.
Having Mystique appear as Jean Grey is a wicked touch (though, isn't she presumed dead by the public, just as she is by the X-Men?), but by the end you'll realize it was just to tie in to the re-emergence of Nate Grey – an editorially difficult character from over half a decade ago who probably should have been left for dead. I'm all for Cornell's habit of pulling forgotten characters out of the void, but Nate was editorially exiled for good reason. Adding him to the current X-Universe is a terrible idea.
Cornell's saving grace on this issue is the capable artwork of Leonard Kirk.
Overall Kirk reminds me of a much looser version of John Cassaday. His style is relatively traditional, rather than ultra-realistic. Sometimes he evokes a 70s comics feel with his focus on unexaggerated bodies and realistic, differentiated faces. Kirk's Jean Grey is so spot-on (yet not imitative) that I knew who she was even before Mystique said anything on panel.
The cover is handled by Simone Bianchi, who rendered Ellis's Ghost Boxes run on Astonishing. His shadowy, ink-washed style is a perfect fit for a pin-up of this team.
If you loved Norman Osborn's bizzarro X-team in Utopia then this is the logical next read for you, but otherwise it's a weak issue that's paradoxically mired in continuity yet riddled with oversights.