X marks a new Age

1 Feb , 2011,
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Age of X - Alpha #1: Cover Art

I’ve never been a big fan of mainstream comics, least of all titles by DC and Marvel. Still, after reading about Age of X in Previews several months back, I’ve been itching to get my hands on a copy. And I did!

Written by Mike Carey and released on the 26th of last month, this new X-men story arc is slated to span 9 issues over the course of 4 months, and re-envisions the team of mutants as embattled heroes fighting against impossible odds, in a world manifestly hostile to those possessing the X-Gene.

More than a struggle against humans, with their bigotry, tools of war and rampant persecution,  Age of X paints a picture of what the X-men might have become, if someone had decided to coat it over with a harsher, grittier edge.

Old school fans will note some similarities with another X-men story arc, the Age of Apocalypse, but these similarities are superficial at best.

For one, there are markedly different character designs that eschew tights and spandex in favor of tactical armor and bodysuits. Gambit, for example, loses his coat and staff in favor of a rifle and kevlar suit, while Cyclops drops his yellow Speedos and trademark visor for a sinister mask and a new moniker – Basilisk. Magneto, as the General, is dressed in pristine white, in all appearances the quintessential hero king and chosen messiah, rather than in his traditional, villainous red.

There’s also very little to dislike about the plot, or the fact that Age of X – Alpha #1 uses a dated technique – the tale within a tale, told through the eyes of his ensemble cast of protagonists. Carey’s skilfully woven vignettes about key members of the X cast are engaging, and because they flow so well together, actually paints a wholistic picture of the proverbial story so far.

Dialogue in the melange is deliberate and succinct, both hallmarks of good sequential storytelling, and the art, as diverse as it is, is genius.

Nothing evinces a war torn world more clearly than the fiery shades and ember hues against the purple shrouded night in the meta world, while the ephemeral art quality of Basilisk’s flashback hints, brilliantly and subtly, at the character’s world view. While the other stories exhibit more traditional qualities, they nonetheless impress with their tight focuses and strong lines.

All in all, Age of X – Alpha #1 is a great read with a promising premise. This comic book is obviously the setup, and with something like this to hook and reel me in, I’m already itching to find out about the development and denouement already.

Guess I already know what February’s comic budget is going to.