SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia," on sale now.
Several months ago, two groups of people arrived in the city of San Francisco, both with competing agendas. The first group is known as the X-Men, lead by Cyclops, and they were looking for a new home for mutant kind, one where they could be accepted and live in the public eye.
The second group is called the Humanity Now Coalition and is made up of humans lead by Simon Trask. They shunned publicity and quietly built up support for their anti-mutant agenda, so they could attack the X-Men and other mutants through the power of government.
On sale now from Marvel Comics, "Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia" depicted the first major confrontation between the two sides, a citywide riot that escalated into something even uglier when Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers showed up to try and keep the peace.
To help keep track of all the big action, bombshell revelations and behind-the-scenes fun of "Utopia," CBR News kicks off today EVOLUTION REVOLUTION, a new exclusive feature where writer Matt Fraction joins us for a page-by-page look at each installment of the summer crossover between "Dark Avengers" and "Uncanny X-Men."
CBR: Simon Trask leads his anti-mutant followers in a rally of support for Proposition X, a state law that would strip mutants of the right to reproduce. Did you intend for the scene to be a commentary on California's controversial anti-gay marriage law, Proposition 8?
MATT FRACTION: We were on this path before I was really made aware of the Prop 8 kerfuffle. I abhor that and find it repulsive and repugnant that gay marriage is banned. So it wasn't a deliberate exploration of the current political climate but it was just one of those things.
We ran into this in writing "Iron Man" a couple of times too. You think you're just speculating on current events and hypothesizing five minutes into the future and by the time this stuff is written and published that five minutes has caught up with you. So this is one of those things where you think you're pushing it, nobody would dare legislate something like this, but is it really so hard or strange to believe? I wish more than anything that Prop 8 would have been struck down, but this was an unfortunately timed coincidence.
When Trask's people march down Market Street, they are met by members of the X-Men protesting the rally. Tempers flare and violence breaks out.
When Trask goes, "My God-- the Mutants have cut us off," the look on his face is from a very specific moment in the art direction. This is exactly what Trask wanted to happen it's a big victory for him. It's been about a year now since Trask showed up on our game board, an event which facilitated the Sentinel's showing up. Trask has been silently agitating for a long time. He's been planning this and nothing is better for his cause than a bunch of mutants punching a bunch of humans on the nightly news.
The scenes on this page here demonstrate that the growing tension and violence in San Francisco is a problem for everybody in the Marvel Universe.
This is more than just a riot. This more than mutant versus anti-mutant. This is going off. This is a huge thing. The crux of the post 'Civil War' and post 'Secret Invasion' Marvel Universe is very specific and very designed and this kind of thing doesn't logically fit into that world anymore. There just can't be a mutant/anti-mutant riot without it becoming a federal fucking case. So this is the real deal and we kind of wanted to sample reactions around the Marvel Universe.
Storm is busy in "Black Panther" right now so we needed to check in with Storm. To my chagrin, this is her only appearance, but her husband is in a bad way. So Storm can't be there, but of course her heart goes out to her friends and teammates. And where is Wolverine? When this goes down he's on the wrong coast. With the Fantastic Four, it's how do you explain to your child what a hate crime is? Then we check in with two members of the Cabal, who see that things are about to get interesting and wonder if Norman can pull this off.
Why did you set the Mutant Rights rally in San Francisco's Castro District?
To me, it felt right. It felt like an icon of political consciousness and resistance to the legislation of identity, regardless of what that identity is. And it was a great visual. It's got such a history. The Castro is going to be visited by people in the real world for generations, so this was also the chance to make San Francisco a character and take advantage of this grand, sacred space.
In this scene, the powder keg that San Francisco has become finally explodes as pro and anti-mutant rioting erupts across the city. There's even cases of mutant on mutant violence as the young mutant Rockslide and Colossus come to blows.
It's insane to write this stuff because it's so big. At one point I felt like we were missing out on a big set piece, but then I was like, "If we do this right, the whole book is a set piece." It's one of those miracle things that comics can do that film and TV really can't without costing a trillion dollars. The scenes in this book would be some of the most expensive things in the world to film with this many people all the time. This is a huge story. It's meant to feel tense and if we did our job right, hopefully you're going to feel worried or panicked.
I thought back a lot to the end of "The Prisoner," where you get a bunch of different looks at revolution and rebellion. One of them is just youthful rebellion, which doesn't really know what it's rebelling against and in the heat of the moment here Rockslide panics and loses it. There are no easy answers here. It's not black and white. No one is exactly right or wrong as things go crazy here. There will be a lot of apologizing later on.
Ms. Marvel swoops down out of the sky like some living attack copter, felling pro-mutant rioters and then turning her attention to the X-Men that were trying to stop them.
The scene is really about that last line of hers, "We're the good guys." We struck a female-heavy scene in the Castro so it seemed natural to bring in the female Dark Avenger, but really I just wanted this to be one of those hand-of-God moments, where all the mutants are fighting and bickering back and forth and there's this sudden swat of power. With the Sentry falling back, this was the visual we needed. The Dark Avengers are on the scene and they're not playing around
In this scene, Hawkeye lends a hand to the San Francisco Police and shows remarkable restraint at the same time.
At one point I did write a draft where he opens fire and starts winging people, but we had to dial it back. And as you can see from his dialogue, I don't know how long you can keep a dog like him on the chain. As the story progresses his blood is going to boil hotter and hotter because he's the killer who can't kill and like he says that sucks.
Norman Osborn informs fellow Cabal member Emma Frost that their arrangement with respect to mutants is not working, and she finds out what his new plan is.
Like Osborn says, they had a deal and it didn't work, so here's the new plan. Mutants aren't being quiet and Cyclops can't seem to get people to listen to him, so Norman needs law and order on the streets. He knows where this ends for mutants and he doesn't want to go there. It's a war he doesn't want to fight. He can't afford to get trapped in a police action. The last thing he needs is an organized and militarized mutant front, so he's going to try and contain it in a way that Cyclops couldn't. Since he and Emma have this arrangement she's his "man."
Norman didn't want the riots to happen. The deal was, "You stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours." Since Cyclops lost control of things, this is the way it's got to be. Osborn needs mutants quiet and happy, not militarized, angry, and out on the streets blowing stuff up.
In an effort to gain influence over the rioting mutant populace, Norman Osborn has recruited Charles Xavier -- but has he? Because in the final panel, Professor X is also revealed as being the prisoner in the prison cell next to the Beast.
We get to that pretty immediately in the next issue. One of these is real Professor X and one is not. Which is which? And Why? Discuss . . .
FRACTION'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON UTOPIA PART 1
This was definitely the biggest thing I ever wrote. I think Nick Lowe and Axel Alonso in editorial saved me a few times from getting completely lost. The job they did was phenomenal. If people dig this, it was definitely a team effort. This is my first thing of this kind of size, scale, scope, and magnitude. They being old pros though were able to guide me through. So their importance can't be overstated.
And getting pages from Marc Silvestri was amazing because he's a legend. Him, Jim Lee, and John Romita, Jr. are the three guys who define my prime years of reading X-Men as a kid. So it's just great. I'm working with a living legend. I got these pages and it was like, "Holy shit it's Marc Silvestri drawing stuff I wrote!'"
FRACTION LOOKS AHEAD TO UNCANNY X-MEN #513/UTOPIA PART 2
The art is by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson -- who is one of the best inkers working in comics. We've got more fighting, fugitives, media, and some old buddies show up. There's something insidious below Alcatraz. We meet all of the Dark X-Men and get a little taste of who they are and why they're here, there's a surprise member...
Then we reveal what Trask is up to. Eagle-eyed readers that remember "Uncanny X-Men" #500 will know the trick up his sleeve of which I speak. Then we wrap up with Hellion and holy cow hold onto your hats!