Mike Carey’s take on the mutants is increasing resembling a magic eye puzzle, where I find myself wondering what other readers can see that I can’t. The reaction to the book’s new direction has been universally positive, but a baffling preoccupation with the duller parts of the franchise’s baggage remains throughout, while the structuring of the book’s first arc is plainly more driven by the need for a trade-friendly four issues, instead of the actual nature of the tale.
While the Science Team continue to build Utopia’s defences, while Rogue familiarises herself with Emplate’s neatly-conceptualised home. Where the initial parts of the arc dealt with a larger cast of the second-tier younger mutants, here Carey streamlines the line-up with Bling the sole representative of that earlier grouping. Despite the changing name of the book, the writer clearly feels under an obligation to maintain a degree of consistency, drawing Roxy from Peter Milligan’s run on the book and following up on the development of Gambit’s character which his predecessor undertook. Less excusable is the choice of villain for the story, with the one-dimensional vampire doing as sure-footed a job of sabotaging the story than Sinister did on Charles Xavier’s odyssey in the title’s previous incarnation.
It’s far easier to get behind the consensus which has arisen over Daniel Acuna’s art, which possesses an effortless charm. Using what appears to be water colouring on top of pencils, the artist’s work gives an immediately memorable tone to the title, and one that’s as well suited to the extra-dimensional setting of Rouge’s adventure as the much more mundane base in which Cyclops is attempting to puzzle out the situation. Careful consideration has obviously influenced the work, and the ability to show the lead character naked for the entirely of the issue without to book looking remotely gratuitous is not to be sneezed at.
Aside from a brief interlude featuring Gambit, however, there’s little in the plot to grab the attention. Tellingly, the issue closes in the same way that it opens, with Emplate’s forces having the upper hand over Rogue. The instalment feels redundant, padding out the tale before its conclusion.