Age of X: Alpha premiered yesterday, January 27. X-men fans have been waiting and speculating to find out if this universe crossing story arch is just going to be the new version of the Age of Apocalypse for this decade. While admittedly here and there I experienced similar feelings induced by this introduction to Age of X as I had to AoA, I am attributing these feeling as just the general reaction that one has to seeing familiar X-men characters placed into a dystopian society.
Actually, Age of X: Alpha introduces the plot in a completely different and intriguing way. Author Mike Carey establishes this new universe through the eyes of his characters by having them tell one another their personal stories, or at least make hints to their experiences. In one foul swoop we were reintroduced to familiar characters and able to analyze the change in their personalities that this change in setting has caused while simultaneously we learn about their individual origins and through these origins the state of their society. That’s a lot to portray in just a few pages, but Carey pulled it off clearly and concisely.
The book begins by showing a collection of characters grouped around a campfire, while others stand guard in the near distance. Some of this first group of gathered mutants include Namor and his lover, Storm, Cannonball, Colossus, Jubilee, Pixie (who now goes by the name Nightmare and has large dragon wings as opposed to her familiar little pixie wings), Gambit, and Basilisk. Basilisk you would know much better as Cyclops. This version of Scott is so intense and emotionally screwed up, that he makes 616 Scott look like Chuckles the clown.
He has good reason. The first character story we see is Scott’s. The scene switches from the campfire to a prison where Scott is tied to a devise and forced to use his power against mutants on death row. I don’t want to say too much about this story except to say that it is intensity done right. So often in recent X-plots we have had drama for the sake of drama itself. Since Grant Morrison, it seems people dramatically bleed from their eyeballs more often than they do from simple cuts in battle. But Carey’s writing here uses a dramatic situation for the purpose of the story and the character development.
As the story switched to focus on Basilisk, so did the art change. Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s illustrated this specific section of the book. Again, his art is dramatic in a fitting way. Every scene is filled with the subtle splatters of blood across the room, which contrasts with the villain Arcade’s nice white suit. Everything about this portrayed dirty and wrong in a tragically Green Mile kind of way.
The second character origin focuses on Cannonball and Husk with art by Carlo Barberi and Walden Wong. Cannonball is starkly different in this universe. Where we see small hints of his potential to be molded into the next Cyclops in 616, in this universe he already is just like him. The hints are subtle but obvious. Cannonball is cold and goal oriented to the point of being slightly unfeeling. His entire family has just died and while Husk is ready to explode in a fit of revenge, Cannonball can only see the next task before him. We end his story when a human police officer reminds him that there is no house in the world that will take in mutants. Cannonball pulls down his red-tinted goggles and says. “I guess we’ll have to build one.”
The next story is about Kavita Rao and her interactions with Wolverine prior to her becoming a member of the mutant alliance. In this world too she was working on a cure for the mutant gene. But when her scientific cohort would push it upon all mutants by dumping it in the water supply, she couldn’t allow such an intrusion on people’s liberties. She works with Wolverine to be rid of the formula the only way they could figure out how to do so – have him ingest every drop of it and pray that his healing power would be enough to allow him survive the experience.
The final story is about the mutant General who is, predictably, Magneto. When a group of rebel mutants are trapped in the Chrysler building, surrounded by an army’s worth of soldiers, he comes to their aid – ripping the building as well as half of the rest of the city up from the ground and spurring them through the sky “like stone Angels, obedient to Magneto’s will.” Again Carey writes a version of a character, Magneto, that is familiar enough in his essence to have recognizable and traditional traits – yet different enough to show how this world has shapes him into a different sort of man. This Magneto is even more verbose and powerful, and even more willing to do whatever it takes to liberate his people. In his efforts he saves the lives of Forge, Dust, and Cecelia Reyes. In the final scene we are back at the campfire. The time has come for Cannonball to lead the mutants in battle. The story will be continued from here in X-Men: Legacy #245.
I have made no secret that I enjoyed this first issue. I was rather weary to think of beginning another involved crossover, but reading this story has fueled my ambition to seek out the rest of the plot. At least Marvel has tried to make the process a little easier on us by providing one those handy-dandy checklists at the back of the book. The plot will primarily be kept within X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants.
Age of X Checklist:
Age of X: Alpha
Chapter 1 – X-Men: Legacy #245
Chapter 2 – New Mutants #22
Chapter 3 – X-Men: Legacy #246
Chapter 4 – New Mutants #23
Age of X Universe #1
Chapter 5 – X-Men: Legacy #247
Chapter 6 – New Mutants #24
Age of X Universe #2
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Mirco Pierfederici
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Cannonball and Husk Storyline
Penciled by Carlo Barberi
Inked by Walden Wong
Colored by Antonio Fabela
Penciled and Inked by Paco Diaz
Colored by Matt Mila
Penciled and Inked by Paul Davidson
Colored by Brian Reber
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Cover art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsent
Variant Cover Art by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Laura Martin