The X-Team, currently a bizarre mix of Professor Xavier, Magneto, Rogue, Gambit, Legion, and Frenzy continues to hunt down Legion’s escaped personas which are wreaking havoc wherever they go. Our heroes spend most of their time fighting Chain, a persona that can turn everyone he touches into a duplicate of himself, and who has turned a large part of London into himself by the time the X-Men arrive. Also on the loose is Susan in Sunshine, who is dispatched with clever somewhat mean-spirited tactics by Frenzy. The X-Men defeat both personas and Legion is able to re-absorb them with relative ease -- although anyone actually at ease with that whole “digital watch that holds powerful personas in check” is insane -- but Styx remains on the loose and may in fact be hunting the X-Men.
Mike Carey is a good writer for the X-Men. He knows and loves his characters. He does creative things with powers that shows he’s really thinking outside the box, and this is a solid comic book. But it doesn’t feel like Carey is trying his hardest. Perhaps it’s just the inevitable after affect of hunting down relatively minor Legion personas after we had one drastically alter reality for days (or as it felt to us as readers, months). It’s like fighting the big boss on a videogame, only to find out that there are some pesky minions still running around that you have to fight as well. It doesn’t make for an exceptionally riveting story. Carey is doing some nice things with the emotional fallout of his “Age of X” storyline, which is more interesting to me anyway, but in truth, some of the relationship beats are not quite gelling in the ways I would have hoped. The Rogue/Gambit/Magneto triangle is proving to be a lot more bark than bite so far, and Frenzy is stuck in a strange loop of whining frustration and rage that’s already wearing thin. I don’t mind reading about minion clean up if we can get truly engaging emotional moments, but we’re not there yet.
The art by Khoi Pham, with a handful of different inkers, is solid, but not great. It delivers powerful and impressive battle sequences, but some of the emotional beats are clouded or lost entirely. A battle Khoi renders with Chain, Rogue, and Magneto, and later a few others stands out as particularly engaging and kinetic. Perhaps in an average superhero comic the muddled emotional beats might not be so bad, but Carey is doing things with relationships -- like redefining and rebuilding them -- and the nuance of those moments is dulled and sometimes lost in Pham’s work. You have nothing but the dialogue to go on for all of the emotional moments in this issue, and that’s the ultimate failure in a comic, which should blend both writing and art to a greater whole.
After a few stumbles post “Age of X”, Carey is getting his story back on track, but ultimately the art lets us down emotionally, leaving too much to be desired.