Marvel has been touting Age Of X as something the fans can consider akin in spirit to the 90s epic Age Of Apocalypse. That single idea was enough to draw me back into the world of the X-Men, a place I haven’t inhabited for several years. For all intents and purposes, Age Of X is another stab at re-imaging the X-Men series and one that takes a different, and sometimes jarring path from Age Of Apocalypse while still sharing certain themes and story structures. For instance, in Age Of X again readers are placed into a universe where Magneto is leading an army of mutants into impossible odds against an unforgiving world.
The problem, at least for some, might come in the idea that this time around there’s no set up, no “Legion Quest” mini-series as there was for the Age Of Apocalypse. With Age Of X Alpha, the one shot kicking off this whole arc, the new world is already up and running and readers are left to figure out why. The response to this is to either accept it and hope Marvel clears things up, or get really pissed and throw the comic across the room. For those who decide to weather the storm, you may feel at little off center in the middle of a world you don’t understand, but the story is strong enough to pull you through.
Writer Mike Carey structures Age Of X: Alpha in an extremely smart way, setting the entire issue around the eve before a major battle. The mutants are gathered around in a “fireside chat”, sharing tales of how they arrived at this point in their lives. These vignettes allow readers to get a handle on the story and re-imagined characters, as well as bringing in some tension and even a dose of action. Story wise not all of the vignettes are equally strong. The two best involve Cyclops (now called Basilisk) and Wolverine, and of those Cyclops is the winner. His story is gruesome, tragic, and does more to outline the characters motivations than the others.
Wolverine’s tale is the one drawn most from who Wolverine is in the “normal” X-Men universe. He attacks a laboratory creating a mutant-suppressing gene and, after slicing and dicing, seems to sacrifice himself for the greater good. I say seems to mainly because I can’t imagine Age Of X going on without Wolverine. The vignette involving Sam and Paige Gutherie attempting to mount an early mutant resistance isn’t poorly written but it’s got some problems with tone that are hard to miss. Mainly it’s the interaction between Sam and Paige that go a little off, nothing that kills the issue but it does seem out of place. The final vignette, featuring Magneto, stands only to remind us how badass the mutant leader is.
The art from Mirco Pierfederici is good enough but extremely inconsistent. The story featuring Cyclops looks more like a distilled Bill Sienkiewicz, while the Wolverine story seems much more straightforward. The work involved with the “fireside chat” section is brooding and dark, and the Paige/Sam Guthrie story is way too bright. I’m going to assume Pierfederici did this to create varying moods and emotional reactions but altogether it seems muddled and, in some sections, just lazy.
Age Of X Alpha is a story for hardcore X-Men fans. This isn’t a jumping on point and for those who casually read X-Men, the entire story will seem unnecessary. If you love the X-Men and anything that grows from that universe then Age Of X Alpha will definitely be a story of interest for you.