The summer crossover event between Marvel’s two largest franchises concludes on Thursday with “Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus” #1 and Matt Fraction pays off the build-up of events strongly. While the next “Uncanny X-Men” story “Nation X” provides a pretty strong hint of how this story ends, that doesn’t mean the journey can’t be enjoyable and Fraction delivers upon the promise of a confrontation between the united X-Men and Norman Osborn’s joint Avengers and X-Men squads.
While most of my comments regarding this issue are positive, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the opening scene between Scott, Emma, and Hank that takes place seven days prior to these events and concludes with an editor’s note that this particular plot thread will be continued in “Dark X-Men: The Confession.” If this scene began the “Utopia” story as a whole, it would have cast more doubt on Emma’s decision to lead Osborn’s X-Men, but, here, the scene contributes little to the events that follow it and is really a cheap trailer for another book that detracts from this issue.
However, once beyond that scene, events move quickly as Norman Osborn and his forces attack the X-Men on their self-proclaimed island nation, something that Scott Summers has prepared for extensively, including means of neutralizing Osborn’s big hitters, Aries and the Sentry. Both Osborn and Summers have been set up as brilliant tacticians, always several steps ahead of their opponents, so seeing both come head to head after so much planning is exactly how this story needed to end. Fraction fills the issue with callbacks to previous events and rivalries and also advances plotlines for “Dark Avengers,” not just “Uncanny X-Men.”
The ultimate conclusion to the confrontation is well thought out and has Scott hitting Osborn on his level, one that Osborn has used continuously throughout “Dark Reign” to maintain his position of power. Not only that but anyone who wants to see Cyclops and Osborn as the Iron Patriot go at it will get their wish. The actual matching up of Osborn’s forces and the X-Men are handled well overall, featuring some unexpected pairings, but smart ones.
Mike Deodato does frenetic, energetic work in these fights scenes, juggling a lot of characters and quick cuts well. His pairing with Terry and Rachel Dodson could have turned out to be a stylistic disaster, but, somehow, it works well — and seem appropriate for the art teams of “Dark Avengers” and “Uncanny X-Men” to join up for the conclusion of this crossover. Wisely, the division of labor is determined by scenes, locations, and tones with Deodato handling the fight, while the Dodsons illustrate a crucial scene mid-fight and the aftermath.
With so many characters and three months of build-up, “Exodus” could easily have imploded under its own weight, but Matt Fraction and his trio of artists don’t just pull it, they surpass expectations. “Utopia” may have been slow-moving at times, but the conclusion is strong and leaves both the X-Men and the Dark Avengers in different, unexpected places than they were when the story began.