REVIEW: Age of X: Chapter 4 (New Mutants #23)

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Age of X: Chapter 4 hit the shelves yesterday and it’s another fantastic installment of Mike Carey’s mysterious X-Men saga. Within its pages, we finally learn what happened to the world we know, but the revelation is so over the top crazy that it only raises new questions about who could have done it and how. With two chapters remaining in this crossover, the timing and nature of the reveals here are pitch perfect as things really start to escalate.

Spoilers for the issue and series will follow.

Magneto serves as the point of view character for this issue and all of his doubts about the true nature of their situation are reified as we learn that he’s truly taken command. He gave the order for Katherine Pryde to investigate the world beyond the force walls, and he’s been secretly working with Legacy (Rogue) to learn more. He wants to know the truth about what’s happening to them, but he has to escape the watchful eye of the mysterious “X” to do so. His character and the way he’s presented are epic here and despite the changes to the scenery, this is Magneto.

As things start to break down, we learn that Xavier (and presumably all the incapacitated telepaths) clearly remembers how things should be with the world, and before he collapses says “she” was waiting for him when he “went inside.” This unidentified assailant attacked and “turned it all… inside out” before he could stop her. We come to discover, through a brilliantly rendered revelation over the course of 4 pages, that the entire universe was stolen and put inside a box at the center of Fortress X. The X-Men remain outside in this crazy new status quo that’s become all most of them know, but a few are starting to wake up.

On the surface, these details really only point to a few people we’ve seen before that could be responsible. The most obvious is Danger, but the Phoenix also comes immediately to mind. This world has a Phoenix-like character named Revenant that we haven’t seen much of until this issue. There’s an odd scene with her where she says she feels “lost.” She goes on to recount that she was on her way “home,” but that this “doesn’t look like home. It doesn’t even look like me.” Aside from the conclusion to X-Men: Second Coming, the Phoenix Force was last seen leaving Rachel Grey in X-Men: Kingbreaker, but we never saw where it went. It looks like it may have gone to the Age of X or the Phoenix was already on Earth and got pulled into this world along with everyone else. As Legacy and Gambit take their investigation to the room at the center of Fortress X, it made me think this might be the White Hot Room where we last saw the Jean Grey version of Phoenix at the end of Greg Pak’s Phoenix: Warsong years ago. What they find is infinitely better: Doctor Nemesis frozen in time as he was examining someone’s brain patterns.

This seems to point to Legion, as we saw he was being studied by the X-Club in X-Men: Legacy #244 which led into Age of X. Obviously, Legion is unlikely the “she” that Xavier referred to, but someone within his mind full of fractured personalities could be. Moira MacTaggert (the only confirmed deceased character from the Marvel Universe that appears in Age of X) is all over this series and is seen breaking down crying to Legion, “it’s all going to be destroyed, we’ll lose everything, even each other.” Legion refers to Moira as his “mother” even though she’s not his biological mother. She is, however,  the mother of Proteus, another character capable of warping reality that Carey brought back during the Necrosha storyline. There were big questions about where Illyana Rasputin found Legion at the end of Zeb Wells run on New Mutants, so who knows who might be in his head. I do believe that Legion may have actually been trying to save everyone from this mysterious “she” that stole the universe and that’s why he’s so important to this world. This scenario brings up another possibility as to who is behind all this: Cassandra Nova. She was revealed as an incredibly powerful cosmic Mummudrai during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, and Carey used that concept again in one of his first arcs on X-Men as one of these creatures attacked Cable’s island home of Providence. I don’t know that it’s possible for one of these creatures to “steal the universe,” but it is interesting that a cosmic force is again attacking an island of mutants.

Another highlight for me was the confirmation of the identity of a character that’s been floating around (literally) since the first promotional art for the series. Admittedly, it’s a minor reveal of someone that I initially thought was Kitty Pryde, but that was disproven pretty early on. It turns out this is Carmella Unuscione, daughter of classic X-villain, Unus the Untouchable. This makes a lot of sense given her place in the Force Warriors, but I don’t think I would have figured it out on my own so I was glad to see her called by name in the book.

Lenil Yu’s cover for the issue looks great, but it did tip readers off that Legacy’s apparent demise in Chapter 3 might not have been as it appeared. Steve Kurth’s interior artwork is growing on me in this series. I’m still not sure what it is I don’t like about his faces and the angles they’re presented from (though some panels are great), but I’m glad he’s on the book after reading his commentary segment at the end of the issue. I appreciated his excitement and knowing how much he wants to be working on this series. He’s putting a lot into these pages.

Summing up Chapter 4, we now know that someone stole the universe and hid it inside a box at the center of Fortress X. This is why there’s nothing outside the force walls, and it explains the anomalies regarding their assailants. Magneto, Legacy and Gambit’s story is top notch, but this is an issue of New Mutants after all and I was pleased to see that team showcased as well. They’re hard, brutal, fiercely loyal to “X,” and having them serve as the strike force of Fortress X really highlights the way they’ve changed in Age of X. Chapter 3 ended with Wolverine and Basilisk preparing to get involved in the action, but I was glad that part of the story held for Clay Mann’s next issue of X-Men: Legacy on sale April 13th. This book was a solid 4+ out of 5.

Read more about this series at our Age of X hub.

Keep up with all of our Age of X reviews:
Age of X: Chapter 3 / Age of X: Chapter 5

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