Mike Carey’s highly ambitious “Age of X” storyline was, in the end, a mixed bag, with exceptional highs and disappointing lows. This first piece of the aftermath of that story tries to tie things up, but while there’s emotional resonance here, the execution is mostly awkward and frustrating.
In this issue, the X-Men on Utopia try to recover from the last seven days spent in an alternate reality thanks to one of Legion’s many powerful personalities. We see characters deciding to purge their minds (or not) of the memories with the help of Emma Frost and her Cuckoos. Others try to make sense of what they’ve experienced with varying degrees of success.
As a longtime fan of the X-Men, I always find reading about the emotional relationships, sans any punches or villainous plans, pretty enjoyable when handled well. Carey is someone I trust with these relationships as he’s proven himself time and again to be a nuanced and considerate writer. However, this issue is so heavy with exposition and epilogue that it doesn’t work well as a comic, even though some of the conversations between characters are ones that I enjoyed. Thanks to the way that “Age of X” ended, this “aftermath” feels extremely necessary, but also extremely unsatisfying. As if Carey couldn’t quite do what he needed to do within the arc and so now is attempting to explain it all in overly talky conversations and narration. Overall, the entire issue misfires as a result.
The art by Jorge Molina, Craig Yeung, and Pat Davidson is a real miss. Though the art is sometimes quite pretty, in an issue full of emotional talking heads, expression and clarity are truly important, and there’s zero consistency or understanding of that in these pages. Characters don’t look the same from page to page, let alone panel to panel, and much of the acting is terrible. Facial expressions don’t match with dialogue and many choices just feel flat out wrong. In a “reunion” scene between Rachael Summers (aka Revenant) and her father Scott Summers, I have no idea whether to trust the visual, or the text, which seem to convey wildly conflicting messages. Revenant looks happy in one panel, but the dialogue doesn’t feel as if it’s supposed to be happy. In another she looks pissed and ready to blow the world to bits, but the text conveys nothing of the sort. All of Carey’s nuance is lost here because, for the most part, the art can’t handle the subtlety or perhaps doesn’t even understand it. In an issue in which it is critical that a reader understand what a character is saying and what it means for the larger picture, I was utterly lost. Significant relationship milestones that Carey is clearly trying to establish, especially between Rogue and Gambit and Rogue and Magneto instead come out entirely muddled.
Carey’s ambitious story these past few months was some of the most fun I’ve had reading the X-Men in a long time, but the ending and this aftermath are a real let down. There are still interesting things to be mined here as a result of the storyline, but it has to be more competently executed than this if he wants people to continue to come along for the ride.