Dark Avengers/X-Men: Exodus Delivers a Masterful Finishing Punch!

The battle between the Dark Avengers, the Dark X-Men and the Uncanny X-Men comes screaming into full daylight with the final and concluding issue of the Utopia storyline, Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus. Matt Fraction crafts an exciting and crackling ending to a story that can arguably be said to be the best of the Dark Reign tie-ins and stories thus far. Over the past couple of months Norman Osborn looked to turn his alliance with Emma Frost, first shown in Dark Reign: The Cabal, into a take-over and shut down of Scott Summers' X-Men. Everything looked to be going his way, until now. Exodus shows us the outcome to all the twists and turns that have been smartly crafted throughout Fraction's run on this story. As the Dark Avengers look to battle the X-Men, now fully regrouped thanks to some clever plotting by Emma and Cyclops, the narrative is smartly balanced between Osborn and Summers. Each leader is given an appropriate opportunity to show the reader their gambit, the showdown on the recently resurrected Asteroid M, now floating in San Francisco Bay, teased out in the early pages and panels with attention paid to the thoughts and bravado both men display. The art from the creative team of Mike Deodato and Rachel and Mike Dodson does a wonderful job of showing us with symmetrical precision the power both teams have, as the opening ten pages illuminate the heat of battle with the major players from both sides, such as Venom, Colossus, Hawkeye and Angel, rendered in ways that emphasize their skills and intensity, the stakes of the battle high. Coloring from Justin Ponsor and Christina Strain make the no holds barred battle between Cyclops and Osborn's Iron Patriot come to life, and the starkness of Emma Frost's journey into the mind of The Sentry, arguably Osborn's most powerful Avenger, all the more compelling as she seeks to psychically take him out of the game. Cyclops' plan to attack the Avengers in waves proves to be a successful one, as his X-Men are played against their Avenger counterparts with clarity and purpose. No frame is wasted. It's also nice to see several of the X-Men involved in the action, even Pixie (!), as so much of the action up to this point has centered on the major figures involved in Osborn's manipulation of the mutant population of San Francisco. Of course the public eye that Norman loves so dearly comes into play with this issue, as camera crews are on the scene to capture the last remnants of the battle, Ms. Marvel (aka Moonstone) reasoning with Osborn to end this phase of his war now. It's the only significant time Ms. Marvel gets in this issue, which is a shame considering how complex she has been ever since joining the Thunderbolts/Avengers, but that is a minor quibble. Of course Osborn is able to communicate a silver lining at the end of this issue, a perfect setup for the mini-series The List, also released this week. What will become of Cyclops and the X-Men in a new world they have created for themselves? How will Osborn try to use that to his advantage? For now it's unknown, but we do know for certain that Fraction and company have delivered a compelling story with a satisfying, and surprising conclusion, one that has finally brought the mutant community to the table.