Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'Age of X' is dystopian 'What if-?' X-Men story

AGE OF X is a dystopian "What if-?" look at the X-Men if they had been hunted to near-extinction and were forced into guerrilla warfare in the middle of nowhere. Cheery stuff!

Don't worry if you have no idea what's going on as you start reading the first issue; you wouldn't be alone.

In fact, that's the way Mike Carey sets up his story so readers would pick up clues along the way and put them together as they read. As promised in the teaser material on the inside flap of the hardcover collection I read, "this is not the world you know; these aren't the X-Men as you know

We learn about the characters' fates through flashbacks.

Years ago, Scott Summers was forced to use his eye beams to execute other imprisoned mutants while he was locked into a Hannibal-like stand-up stretcher. Logan, on a mission to destroy an X-gene suppressor/cure, ends up in a locked-room scenario. He has no choice to be injected with all of the cure. His healing factor helps him survive the overdose, but the experience screws up his healing factor and the poisonous adamantium lacing his skeleton.

The most interesting twist on a character is Rogue.

Known as the Reaper or Legacy, she absorbs a person's memories as he or she is dying. It's a twisted take on hospice care. Carey briefly touches on the emotional toll it puts on Rogue, but I wish he had done even more. Only later does she absorb a mutant's power by a kiss, as she used to do in her early, regular-continuity appearances. When Rogue does so, it's Gamble's break-in expertise.

By far, Rogue's story is the most fascinating element of AGE OF X (which includes AGE OF X: ALPHA, X-MEN LEGACY Nos. 245-247, NEW MUTANTS No. 22-24 and AGE OF X: UNIVERSE Nos. 1-2). The overall storyline becomes more intriguing and truly clicks when she discovers the imprisoned Kitty Pryde and Charles Xavier. It takes a decidedly darker turn when it's discovered that Moira Taggert has manipulated this reality into existence (for reasons that remain unclear).

There's not a lot of hope in AGE OF X, even as the mutant David (with the ability to create worlds apparently) blinks this one out of existence. This sends the X-Men back to their own time, leaving them with faded memories and due to relationships from the other time frame, awkward interactions.

Grade: B-

Even more hopelessness pervades the parallel stories from AGE OF X: UNIVERSE (not written by Carey).  Granted, there is some sense of hope in the Spider-Man/Mary Jane Parker story, but it borderlines on being overly sentimental.

Who wants to read an Avengers story in which the Hulk is a beserker obsessed with murdering mutants and Iron Man is basically an armor-powered zombie? Not me!

However, despite the terrible art and muddy colors in the Dazzler solo story, I enjoyed the fake-out of Alison Blaire being pursued by Doctor Strange. He has the reputation of being a relentless mutant bounty hunter, but he's actually is on the side of the mutants.

Grade: C-

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