Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: Age of X

(Panini Books, �15.99)

THE last bastion of mutantkind fights a desperate war of survival against increasingly overwhelming odds, as human military forces intent on genocide wage a daily battle of attrition… Welcome to a reality where the X-Men never existed, where Magneto leads a rag-tag bunch of persecuted mutants against a world which wants their total extermination, welcome to the Age of X…

In this dramatically different world, Charles Xavier never formed his School for Gifted Youngsters, and hence the X-Men, leading to the destruction of Albany when Jean Grey manifested her Phoenix powers without guidance, killing 600,000 people in the process.

This prompted the US Government to introduce drastic measures to bring mutants in check, and triggered a wave of anti-mutant hysteria amongst the general population, culminating in new laws calling for the imprisonment or execution of anyone displaying mutant powers.

We pick up the narrative 1,000 days after Magneto led the last living mutants to Fortress X, formed from the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and Grand Central Station, which were transported out of New York City by the master of magnetism. The Fortress is protected by the Force Warriors – who use their psionic powers to create impenetrable force walls to keep out their human attackers, but which need replenishing on a daily basis.

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As events slowly unfold, various protagonists begin to discern inconsistencies within this reality which suggest the world may not be what it seems, and has actually been created as a fait accomplit by one of their own…

The alternative reality story is nothing new for the X-Men, who have previously found themselves caught up in twisted worlds like the Age of Apocalypse, the House of M and Days of Future Past, where certain events have changed the course of normal history.

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Writers Mike Carey and Simon Spurrier have concentrated on characterisation in defining their new reality, looking at just how different things could have been for the X-Men without the involvement of their founder Xavier. It also highlights the extremes of prejudice which are obviously faced by the whole of mutantkind, and the delicate balance which prevents an extermination process similar to that portrayed here.

Unlike many cross-title epics in the ongoing X-Men saga, this is a neatly self-contained story which requires only a cursory understanding of the current state of play in the mutants’ world, although the extent to which the Age of X reality will affect future events is yet to be determined.

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