Sometimes you end up with an issue that’s not much more than the solicits say it is. It’s the “Siege” #1 problem, where the comic is well-made, but it doesn’t do anything more than the summary of the story tells you it’s going to do.
Well, the Marvel.com description of “Dark X-Men” #3 says, “It’s X-Man vs. the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men,” and, yes, that is what we get in this issue. And that’s all we get. Almost. There is a page or two at the end, after the battle, and we get a twist in the final panel that I won’t spoil here. But it’s a twist that will be almost immediately reversed. It’s a twist that has to be untwisted for everything else in the Marvel Universe to keep chugging along according to the Brian Michael Bendis-driven direction it’s been headed for years.
So it’s Nate Grey fighting the Dark X-Men (briefly) and the Dark Avengers (for a bit), and then a twist that will be meaningless in a month. Not a whole lot of substance here, less than in any single issue of “Captain Britain and MI:13,” which the creative team of Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk is best known for. But it’s that creative team that matters, as always. It’s not the story itself that’s important, it’s the way of telling the story. And Cornell and Kirk do a nice job in the telling.
Kirk isn’t a flashy artist, and he’s not an extreme stylist, but he’s tricky good. His splash page of the Dark Avengers has a tightly-controlled elegance, particularly the pose of The Sentry, who’s black cape evokes the haunting presence of the Void. There’s almost a Stuart Immonen quality to Kirk’s holding line, framing his figures in space. He even makes Nate Grey — paragon of 1990s fashion, with his exposed chest, glowing eye, and leather coat — look good. And since this issue is far more Nate Grey than it is Dark X-Men, that’s helpful.
Cornell uses the love-em-or-hate-em “Fraptions” in this series — the quippy captions Matt Fraction has injected into his “Uncanny X-Men” run — only Cornell makes the jokes a bit more obscure. Mystique is labeled with “Mother Stands for Comfort,” Ms. Marvel with “In the Warm Room.” Those are both Kate Bush songs, and the rest of the “Cornellaptions” use the song-to-set-the-tone technique. It’s a clever way to provide a soundtrack for the comic, indirectly, even if some readers might miss the joke.
But for all that, there’s still not a whole lot here beyond a typical extended battle scene. In the context of the series, that might be enough. But for a single issue, it’s a bit thin on content, even if it’s heavy on style.