As the architect of Age of X, it falls to Mike Carey to deal with the fallout. As such, the book gets another new direction as the characters most affected by the story are positioned to reconvene into a team in the next issue.
Before then, we’re given the chance to reflect on how the characters were changed by “Age of X,” and Carey has specific and genuine ramifications in mind. Frenzy, Legion, Magneto, and Rogue are all significantly altered. Some of Carey’s decisions fare better than others, but at least they’re all interesting.
The issue opens with a Magneto vignette, which re-visits Erik’s younger days as a victim of the Nazis. (Between this, “X-Force” and “X-Men: Prelude to Schism,” it’s almost as if there’s some kind of X-Men movie prequel coming out which features Magneto’s past in a big way…) The issues surrounding Magneto’s past are sensitive ones, and by framing this as a “parable,” Carey can get away with a little more than might otherwise seem tasteful. Unlike the similar treatments of Magneto’s past in “Prelude” and “X-Force,” this doesn’t come over too forced, and works in the context of a man with a flair for dramatic gestures.
It’s still a mystery where Carey’s interest in Frenzy came from, but over the last few years he has built the character up to a point where accepting her into the cast feels like a natural progression. Making the focus of her own several-page vignette, it’s clear Carey has plans for Frenzy beyond this decision, and wants us on board for them. As a writer who has stuck with the series for years and played out long-form character arcs with other, more familiar characters, taking someone less prominent and boosting their profile is a right he’s more than earned from the audience.
The art by Rafa Sandoval is decent enough to carry the story, although as an artist he tends towards realism where a little extravagance might go a long way. Similarly, his layouts (although this may be down to Carey’s instruction) are a little generic, with a surfeit of “widescreen” panels. It’d be nice if the pages looked a little more varied and the panels chosen slightly more appropriately. That said, such criticisms are minor in comparison to the overall strength of the work; It’s merely the difference between Sandoval being great, and just good.
It’s hard to imagine that there are any X-Men fans who aren’t pleased by Carey’s long-running work with the characters, but if there were any doubt, it’s issues like this which explain exactly why he’s been around so long, and why he deserves to stay around even longer.