Matt Fraction has spent a long time building up his corner of the X-Universe into something he can play with freely, and when the result is issues like this one, it’s hard to complain. An all-too rare single-issue story sees Beast, Psylocke, and Angel accompany the rest of the X-Club (or, if you prefer, "Science Team") into the past in order to study the beginnings of the mutant baby boom, to better understand why the x-gene no longer activates. Of course, things don’t go quite as smoothly as they’d hope.
The appearance of the Hellfire Club provides some welcome familiarity to an issue that only nominally features the X-Men as it is. As fun a character as Dr. Nemesis is, it’s his parents who are the real stars of the issue, and it could leave the reader feeling a little afloat. It’s not the most instantly recognizable X-Men cast, that’s for sure, and the issue suffers from heavily featuring the Science Team, who are still fairly impenetrable as characters. Nemesis does get some nice development, but he was already the most well-defined. Part of me thinks this issue would’ve benefited from jettisoning the wider team and sticking to just the X-Men characters and Nemesis, in fact.
One thing that isn’t really Fraction’s fault, but that does come up in his writing, is how different “Archangel” is in this book compared to his X-Force appearances. In the former, he’s a slightly angrier version of Angel –- but in the latter, he’s a cold, murderous, near-psychopath. Although I like the idea of Warren having this ability, some consistency in the line would go a long way towards making things make sense.
Art for the issue comes from Yanick Paquette, recently seen on the abortive “Young X-Men” title. His work bears a passing similarity to Dodson’s work on the title, and from this issue, the clear storytelling and gift for character design would make him an excellent partner to rotate arcs with Dodson, rather than Greg Land, whose wildly different style often works at odds to Fraction’s scripting.
After the messy conclusion to the “Sisterhood” arc, it’s good to see Fraction getting back into more coherent territory. Hopefully, future issues will resemble this one more than the last few.