"Dark X-Men" is yet another of those crossover tie-in minis that Marvel has fallen in love with. Specifically, it's one of those anthology tie-in minis that have practically been spilling out of the X-office in the last year or so. It's no surprise, then, that it's hard not to feel like we've been here before.
However, unlike its predecessors -- "Manifest Destiny" and "Divided We Stand" -- this series has a very clearly defined point to it: to show the formation of Emma Frost's team of X-Men, currently appearing in the X-Men/Dark Avengers crossover, "Utopia." Because of that, it's far stronger that its precursors and peers, whether evaluated as an anthology or a crossover tie-in.
The lead story sees the "Captain Britain" team re-unite to visit two of Marvel's classic characters -- Norman Osborn and Namor. Paul Cornell brings his uniquely sharp dialogue and characterization, and it makes for a meeting between the two that practically sparks off the page. The subtext of Emma's manipulation runs deep in their exchange, however -- it feels like there's more going on here than we're seeing. Even so, we are apparently asked to take Osborn's deconstruction of Namor's new kinship with mutantkind at face value, and that, in itself, is harder to accept. It'll be interesting to see how this story compares with the events yet to come in "Utopia." Namor's inclusion in the team is certainly an interesting one, and this story could throw extra light on his eventual role in the crossover.
Next, we see the recruitment of Calvin Rankin, the Mimic. It's a quick refresher for the character, though it possibly goes into too much detail. Mimic is a character mired in the Silver Age, and as a result he could probably do with a little streamlining. There's a strong concept at the heart of it, though, and the piece does explain his place on the Dark X-Men team by revealing a new angle on Rankin's personality, so if nothing else, it's done its job well.
The final story in the issue has Osborn recruiting McCoy, the AoA-spawned Dark Beast. Presumably because he already fits the naming convention. This version of Beast is a brilliant character, and I always enjoy reading him, so it's particularly entertaining to see him take on Osborn at his own head-games, and actually score a few points in the process. Ibraim Roberson's art here is particularly enjoyable, and although a few panels are shaky, the general tone and atmospheric depth more than make up for it.
Overall, "Dark X-Men" #1 is the best kind of crossover tie-in. There's a clear story being told, and, more importantly, a genuine need to tell it. Its status as an anthology means the quality is variable, but ultimately good enough. Anyone already reading "Utopia" should certainly give it a look.