Quick review: Age of X
With little to no explanation, the world of the X-Men has changed dramatically. Instead of a world of heroes and villains, the reader is presented with a nightmarish world where mutants are a subculture struggling just to survive as government agencies hunt then down like animals. Familiar faces are remade in new molds; Rogue is called Reaper, Cyclops is known as Basilisk and they are all about to make their last stand against a world that hates and fears them in a mass of Manhattan skyscrapers sculpted into a citadel by Magneto.
As soon as the images of this story appeared online, fans were crying foul that it was aping Age of Apocalypse. This is unfortunate as it completely overlooks the fact that it was orchestrated by Mike Carey, an author who has proven his professional skill as a writer in Lucifer, Faker, and Hellblazer just to name a few. His run on X-Men: Legacy has been very well crafted and insightful as it explores the characters of Professor Xavier and his relationship to the mutant army he has created as well as developing Rogue in ways that have made her fans very very happy. He’s a fantastic writer with an enormous love for the X-verse. Age of X was his baby, a chance to tell a sweeping story between creative changes in New Mutants and before Schism ‘changed everything.’
While I have been shouting the praise of Mike Carey, I have to say that Age of X is a mixed bag. The first part, Alpha is composed of various character sketches that introduce the reader to the new versions of familiar X-Men. Some are startling such as Scott Summers having his eyelids removed and a skull-like mask placed over his face, operated by a remote control in the hands of Arcade. Transformed from a frightened young man into a weapon, Summers is known as Basilisk and is the last thing captured mutants see on Death Row. If all of the back-stories were this impressive, Age of X would be an instant classic. But they aren’t. In fact Age of X is less character-centric and more of an ensemble story.
Whereas the alternate realities of Age of Apocalypse and Days of Future Past are interesting for the differences that they pose, Age of X is more about the different relationships between the cast of mutants. The cast is so huge that many mutants (such as Storm, Colossus and Gambit) are simply window dressing and offer very little to the story. Additionally, the story is over far too fast with the implication being that the aftermath will be just as important if not moreso than than the main meat of the cross-over.
While there are several stand out moments such as Basilisk’s origin and Magneto’s creation of the refuge I found that my favorite parts had nothing to do with the X-Men and centered on the distorted Avengers. An insane Bruce Banner, a strangely militaristic Steve Rogers and a techno-zombie Tony Stark are incredibly entertaining. Too bad the remaining members: a silent Ghost Rider, a mute Spider-Woman, a tragic Invisible Woman are less impressive. Nonetheless, it was interesting to watch them get sent on missions by their CO Frank Castle. Like the main body of the story, this too was brief, but it stands on its own as well, serving as a dark and twisted vision of a fan favorite team of superheroes.
Too bad it makes no sense.
The big revelation of the Age of X is interesting, but feels like a major let down after all of the set up. I found myself flipping back and forth in the final issue, looking for missing parts, etc, but no… the real story behind Age of X involved Legion going crazy and reshaping reality in a image that fit his madness. I blanked out that info, but knowing this revelation doesn’t spoil the story since it has no real bearing on the rest of it. It just comes out of nowhere.
I want to love Age of X as it is well crafted and well written, but in the end it feels like a weird filler story that should have been expanded upon and made to have more of an impact on the X-verse. This may still happen as Carey is expanding on the ideas of Age of X in the forthcoming issues of X-Men: Legacy, but a reader shouldn’t feel that he or she was short-changed with half a story, especially when it’s a crossover.
Despite the general mixed response from readers, there is a minimate box set scheduled for release later in the year!
If you are an X-Men fan, this is worth picking up cheap or leafing through it at the library. The plot is intense, and the characters who are lucky enough to get attention are well developed. The art is also excellent on the whole. But if you are not a follower of X-Men: Legacy (likely headed for the chopping block after Schism), feel free to give this one a miss.