The Chase Issue
Legacy is labelled a traitor to her kind & is on the run from the Moonstar Cadre. Her escape from Fortress X create confrontations for Logan, and Gambit unexpected changes sides. Moira demands that the Force Warriors be included in the hunt, but the idea is mooted as Magneto enters into the action instead. After, he interrogates Box Magneto publicly executes the two traitors. Meanwhile, Wolverine & Basilisk conspire to reveal the lies that they're being told.
The art! Oh my God, the art! This is even better than Clay Mann's first issue in this Story Arc. The way that Wolverine cradles exhausted Legacy is beautiful & sensuous. There's no sexuality, but a strong emphasis on warmth & protection. There's also an attention to detail that includes scarring on Wolverine's face to emphasis the lack of his healing factor. The quiet moments pack just as much cinematic punch as the action scenes, giving breathing space to understand the characters a little more. Additionally, Mr Mann doesn't shy away from purposefully blurring his details, such as in the moment that Moonstar takes aim. We're drawn in to the most important elements; the point of the arrow & the accurate aim of her eyes, thus creating a sense of speed and dramatic deadly action.
As with the previous issues in the Age of X story, Mike Carey has established a healthy balance between action & character driven drama. He lets the characters guide us through the chase seamlessly. Moonstar's tracking skills & Cypher's ability to translate Legacy's actions add heightened suspense. The rest of the Moonstar Cadre are similarly dangerous, but never stray too far from their regular Non-Age of X characterisations. That way when Eclipse threatens Wolverine, it carries the same arrogance & impetuousness Sunspot's usual bravado. Similarly, when Magneto interrogates Box it's done in such a way that it's not only believable but we deeply sympathise for Box as Magneto threatens to destroy everything important to Box. There's also a strange underlying sense of jealousy amongst the distrust.
Stand-Out Moment: Gambit Choosing Sides
I've never been one to "Ship" relationships in comics. It's a side of fandom that doesn't attract me, as the writers will attach characters regardless of my own personal wishes. Yet the moment when Gambit disables Dust's threat and confesses that he doesn't know why he wants to be by Legacy's side stirs the old romantic in me.
Sadly, at the time I'm writing this I already know the direction they'll head in once the Age of X is over. However, it doesn't diminish the way that this scene tugs at the heart-strings. It's a small scene that's over almost as quick as it starts. And somehow that brief taster just makes it all the more alluring.
There are moments when the art wavers. The sheer beauty of characters like Dazzler & Husk only serve to emphasise the sparsity of detail and roughly dashed out scenes between Moira & Magneto, and later when Magneto 'executes' Legacy & Gambit. Not every panel needs to be a masterpiece, but there are whole pages where the quality of art is so disparate it's almost as if it's by a different artist, or an understudy.
Writing-wise, we know that Legacy & Gambit aren't dead. Not only is it highly unlikely that the central figure to-date is going to die half-way through the cross-over, but the cover for the next issue is included as a preview in the back of his issue... and it features Legacy! Hardly keeping the suspense riding high, when you immediately give away the huge dramatic climax from 4 pages previously.
This is the first appearance of the 'other' residents of Fortress X. Strange floating blue cherub-like babies, small gnomes, a shadowed top-hat sporting gentleman, a grumpy fat clown, a strange grey creature with a bullet-shaped head & four slits for eyes, a large grey-ish being with snakes for hair. For the less attentive (like me) they seem to be facets of the artist's imagination. But ask yourself, if many competent mutants have died in action, then why are there these unusual bystanders? However, for the truly attentive (not including myself), most of these characters have actually been seen before. All these strange bystanders seem strangely out-of-place, yet they are clues pointing to the true source of the "Age of X".
Verdict - 4 out of 5
The inconsistency in art, and the rather obvious plot spoiler detract from a full 5 out of 5. Otherwise, this is a very good issue that keeps you on your toes. The Moonstar Cadre steal the show from Legacy, the colours and character designs are pure eye-candy. The mystery of the Age of X thickens...!