This Is Not Age of Apocalypse, But It Looks Good
As a sucker for well thought out alternate reality stories, this introduction to Age of X hits the right notes with me. It presents a different Marvel Universe that immediately feels real and not lazily thrown together. The characters who appear are all familiar but different enough that even those who only briefly appear come off as though they have lived substantially different lives from what we know.
This issue features short backstories for Basilisk, the Guthrie clan, Wolverine and the founding of Fortress X using the last surviving mutants awaiting the next attack by human forces in the present as a framing sequence. It works well. The stories are varied enough that they show a few different facets of the new world we are dealing with.
The cast of characters in this issue is enormous, and it is handled very well. Every one of them feels like they have stories of their own to tell too and we simply aren't privy to them yet. It is also great to see some characters again. A personal favorite of mine is seeing Chamber back to form again.
The weakness of this issue is the art. Each of the stories has a different artist as well as another artist doing the framing sequence in the present day. It reads as different art for the sake of different art, because the differing art styles rarely do any service to the stories. Mirco Pierfederici's art for the framing sequence works well, as does Paul Davidson's art for the Magneto story. But the rest of the art fails to match well with the stories. Basilisk's high octane escape from prison is told with very flat, dully colored art. Vice versa, the dark and tragic tale of the Guthrie's has bright, high energy art more suited to a typical superhero story. The art for Wolverine's story is very animated, feeling like its straining to to tell a more action-packed story rather than one that is basically three people in a locked room. Varying art styles would have worked really well for this issue if those art styles were actually chosen with the tone of the stories in mind, but what we have here is more of a random collection of artists.
This may not be another Age of Apocalypse and will probably be overshadowed by the hype of DC's upcoming Flashpoint event, but Age of X is shaping up to be an interesting story of its own. It is definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in the X-Men or alternate reality stories.