Thursday, 3 February 2011

New Beginnings - Age Of X: Alpha

Marvel is well known for their “What If” approach spanning their entire catalogue of titles. Usually stemming from a well-known event within the Marvel Universe they offer a singular view of what could have been.

Age Of X is looking to potentially be of a similar vein but extending this further, posing the alternate universe it has created under its own heading as well as two other established titles - X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants.

These are not being titles I am familiar with and as a self confessed comic geek this doesn’t bode massively well. I can’t help but consider if this is just a way to try and rekindle a pair of possibly under-performing comics. That said because I don’t know them I can also push this thought aside and read simply for reading.

There has been an interesting lead up to the release which piqued my interest. In all of the Marvel titles there has been the standard Age Of X advert with the addition of different codes to scan in the bottom corners. These lead to website addresses providing “historical logs” to give the prospective reading supporting information on how the world is now different.

It’s no secret that the premise for this is set to the fact that the X-Men have never existed. There was no Professor X with his vision for man and mutantkind and therefore nothing to change the fear and animosity into something better. The human threat - as seen in Magneto’s eyes - has gone unchecked and the worst possible scenario is getting ever closer. The Decimation event was truly that.

This is the reality that Mike Carey has created on Earth-TRN016.

This opening one-shot itself is the entry to both the past and present of Age of X with tensions fraught from the word go. Interestingly we see more of the why and how we have got to this position than where they actually are. There are a number of flashbacks illustrating some of the key events in this brave new world, which have all received their own artwork to make them stand out that little more. My particular favourite was for Basilisk, which has a very gritty and rough feel to it epitomising the feelings that Basilisk has too. This was a great little nugget that I would encourage people to get the issue for - Carey being brave and pushing outside of the norm.

More evidence of Carey’s apparent fearlessness has been his inclusion of some of the biggest Marvel characters in flashback only. It is looking likely that in this reality some of the Marvel trump cards are gone, leaving a far more desperate situation for all to face.

If you take the time to re-read the issue with this in mind the artwork for the present day really hits home harder. These are bleak uncertain times, the slightly hazy and distorted lines and colouring portray this. Conversely the artwork in the flashbacks is crisp and clear. This is used to highlight facts to be seen and trusted to establish a good basis. A very good tool used well, simply by using contrasting and complimentary styles for similarly different emotions.

I have loved the mechanics and vehicles used in this one-shot with fantastic changes in art, pace and style to whet your appetite. I haven’t however, felt overwhelmed by the story.

There was far too much retrospective in this issue and too many ideas fighting for attention. It left me slightly clueless to what was actually meant to be going on. Considering this is now also going to be spread over a couple of titles I have my concerns, but will try to be opened minded moving forward - in case Carey pulls a rabbit out of the hat.

Matt Puddy heals quickly, like Wolverine but taller.

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