Perhaps the saddest part of “Dark Reign: The List — X-Men” #1 is realizing how much is lost by not having Alan Davis as the regular artist on Matt Fraction’s X-Men comics. He just makes this superhero melodrama stuff sing to the heavens. It looks so effortless, yet every page of this comic hits the right notes, whether it’s the arrogant sadness of Prince Namor or the smug acquiescence of Norman Osborn. This guy can just flat out draw these kinds of comics — filled with action and high-emotion — better than almost anyone else. He’s so good so often we tend to forget how good he is.
And though there’s not a whole lot to this one-shot story, Alan Davis makes every moment count.
Fraction gives us a solid narrative core, though. There’s a tragedy at the heart of this issue, a tragedy based around the fate of Marrina — the former Alpha Flighter who has since become a vicious sea beast and part of Osborn’s self-proclaimed Global Aquatic Warfare.
The Atlanteans are dying, and the Marrina-Monster is to blame. The story is simple, as I said, as the X-Men offer to help the stubborn Namor, and as Namor defends his people against the threat of his ex-wife/leviathan. There’s more than a little subtext here — between Emma Frost and Namor, between Namor and Marrina, and between Namor and Norman Osborn — and Fraction plays all of it for what it’s worth, with plenty of reliance on the artistry of Alan Davis.
But when you rely on the artistry of Alan Davis, it’s hard to go wrong.
You can, however, go wrong if you rely on the artistry of Sam Keith, who provides the art for Fraction’s first-ever Marvel work, as reprinted in the back of this issue. Keith’s characters are often strangely-proportioned, his layouts idiosyncratic, and he’s one of my all-time favorite artists. I absolutely love his “Epicurus the Sage” graphic novels. But the work he does on Fraction’s first-ever Wolverine story is not his best stuff. It nearly saves itself at the end — and Fraction’s story is strong throughout, but especially powerful on the final pages — but it’s not the kind of Sam Keith that you’d like to see.
Still, the main story’s the real draw here, and it’s certainly a good one.