By: Mike Carey (writer), Clay Mann (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Brian Reber (colors), Cory Petit (letters), Jake Thomas & Sebastian Girner (assistant editors) & Daniel Ketchum (editor)

The Story: Weird things are afoot as we see our favorite mutants in some kinda of alternate reality where mutants are being oppressed.

What’s Good: The X-Men have always been a story about racism and intolerance.  One of the problems the franchise has suffered from over the last few decades is that as a society, the United States has become MUCH more multicultural and accepting of differences.  In the late 1970’s, a lot of young white boys still had an uncle or two who used horrid racial slurs, interracial couples were unusual and it would stop traffic if two men held hands on the sidewalk.  Now, in 2011, a lot of those nasty old bigots are dead, it seems like half of the high school kids I know either are multi-ethnic or are involved in a multi-ethnic relationship and outside of certain religious groups, homosexuality has become a non-issue.  This has made our world a better place, but it has taken that cultural relevance away from the X-Men.  Nowadays, I just don’t buy the average Joe in an X-Men comic yelling, “Them muties gotta die!”

So, how do you tell a mutant persecution story in 2011?  Well, you tell a story of an alternate reality, that’s how!  After months of ads, it appears that Age of X is a story of the “alternate present” variety rather than a “possible future”.  This makes a lot of sense for the reasons above and mysteries abound in this first chapter.  Even if you read Age of X Alpha a few weeks ago, you’re going to be tossed right into the deep end (in a good way).

Part of the fun of this type of story is picking out the slightly different versions of familiar characters.  Who has a different name in this reality?  Whose powers manifest differently?  Who has a different role on the team?  And look at those weird romantic pairings?  Some of these things are pretty cool.  Cyclops has been morphed into a character called Basilisk who had his eyelids removed by the “bad guys” and was used to kill mutants in a kinda optical firing squad.  Needless to say, he’s a little eff-ed up by the experience.  So, who leads the team?  Well, that would be Cannonball!  And, that’s neat because Sam has been groomed as a leader since he first appeared in the early 1980’s.  But, the coolest transformation is Rogue.  She has been Mike Carey’s central character since he started his run on this title 4-5 years ago, so it’s nice to see her continue a central role in this story.  In a very interesting manifestation of her powers, Rogue is now “Legacy” and she is used to absorb the essence of dying mutants to preserve their memory.

Of course, a lot is still mysterious at the end of this issue.  Why are the humans attacking the mutants?  What is going on in the larger world beyond this Fortress X?  We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Clay Mann’s art is perfectly fine in this issue.  I don’t know who did the art design for all these alt-X-Men, but whoever did that had their hands full.  The storytelling is all top notch and the layouts are strong.

What’s Not So Good: With a “Chapter 1” of a story like this, it is very hard to grade.  While this issue does a wonderful job of establishing the mystery, this story arc is ultimately going to succeed or fail based on the ultimate reveal about what is going on.  If the ultimate premise is a strong one, this will be remembered as a great first chapter.  If fans hate the idea, no one will give this issue a second thought.

Conclusion: A thought provoking first chapter that is loaded with mystery and a creative way to bring mutant oppression back into the X-universe.  Hard to grade this issue with confidence without knowing more about the true story.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell 

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