Age of X: Pregame

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Marvel’s latest X-Men event, Age of X, begins this week and I really couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ve had a lot to say about it here on MLD, and all of it can be accessed, along with reviews and reactions to each installment going forward, at our Age of X hub. Despite all the hype surrounding this crossover, it’s still very mysterious (although that’s by design). Before we get into the story itself this Wednesday, it’s a good time to recap what we know going in.

Marvel has done a brilliant job of promoting this story and its new continuity by releasing a series of Historical Logs throughout December. Writer Mike Carey added to this by releasing a series of dossiers on the new history of some familiar characters is a series of Age of X Communiqués on ComicBookResources.com. The bold changes in this world’s status quo compared to the Marvel Universe has piqued the interest or many readers and created a truly intriguing backdrop for the story.

The X-Men never came together in this world and the consequences for mutantkind are devastating. We know from the marketing/information campaign surrounding the event that Beast, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were all killed as a result of anti-mutant hysteria caused at least in part by Phoenix’s destruction of Albany, NY. The United States government has greatly advanced its Sentinel program in response and is set on the elimination of all mutants. They’ve even sent their own Avengers team out into the world to hunt down the few mutants that remain.

In a direct parallel to the Marvel Universe, the Age of X sees a dramatically reduced mutant population on the brink of extinction. Those remaining mutants have come together in an effort to survive in a mysterious place called Fortress X much like the X-Men have gathered on their island home of Utopia. The X-Men were also similarly under siege on their island home by US government forces led by Norman Osborn during the X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia crossover, but the stakes in the Age of X seem to be much higher.

The last issues of the X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants titles that make up the Age of X crossover gave us some additional intrigue about just what’s happening in this new world order. In X-Men: Legacy #244, Blindfold and Rogue investigate an unseen threat that brings the focus to four characters: Bling, Hellion, Gambit and Xavier. Bling was a major player in an earlier Legacy story by Carey when she was kidnapped by the villain Emplate. A number of doorways between dimensions were opened during that series and it seems at least of them was never closed from what we can tell at the issue’s conclusion.

The dimensional gate gave us our first on panel glimpse of Fortress X as Blindfold stands in its shadow on the shores of Utopia, but the other characters she encounters in her investigation may give some additional clues.

  • Hellion attacked and nearly killed his teammate Karima Shapandar in recent issues and while it was in self defense, he is clearly headed down a dark path. He’s also part of the Age of X and this could be setting him up as a traitor of some kind.
  • Gambit was transformed into Apocalypse’s Horseman, Death, several years ago and has clearly been struggling with the experience. A dark personality seems to be living within him that attacked the X-Men during the recent Second Coming storyline. This probably isn’t part of his Age of X history, but we’ve been given many reasons not to trust Gambit over the years.
  • Xavier was involved in a evaluation of his son David Haller, Legion, with the X-Club Science Team when Blindfold speaks to him. He was very defensive of his son and his psychological condition, but Legion’s multiple personalities and their devastating power sets have always been a threat to the X-Men. Legion also murdered Destiny years ago, and Carey connected her to Blindfold’s history during Necrosha (another crossover that was brought up in this issue).

The twisting of Gambit at the hands of Apocalypse and the attention drawn to Legion are just two more things that connect the Age of X to the classic Age of Apocalypse storyline in my mind. Legion was the catalyst that led to the creation of that alternate universe and his involvement at the introduction of another such world cannot be coincidence. It could be misdirection, but Legion is also a major part of the last New Mutants story before Age of X begins. In fact, Legion appears on the last page of New Mutants #20 standing over the body of Bishop looking as he appeared in the Age of Apocalypse, and the two were critical elements to that story. Legion created that timeline by traveling through time and killing Xavier before he could found the X-Men, and Bishop, who was dragged along for the ride, helped set the world right again. Legion exacting some manner of revenge on Bishop seems totally out of the blue, but it could be connected here. The fact that New Mutants is currently written by Zeb Wells rather than Mike Carey means this is in no way a guarantee, nor does the fact that the appearance of Bishop was all in Legion’s mind and he’s clearly unstable. You have to wonder why we would see this now though. More might be clear after New Mutants #21 ships this week, it will be first on my reading list.

A world without the X-Men leads to one question: What happened to Professor X? He’s obviously the central figure in the X-Men’s origin, and their existence begins and ends with him. His absence from the Age of Apocalypse universe led to a very dark future for the world and his death was the event that split the timeline. We still don’t know what the event was that made the Age of X universe what it is, but it’s safe to bet that Xavier and possibly Legion are a part of it. This mystery is a key element to Mike Carey’s story and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Age of X is a 7-part crossover running through X-Men: Legacy #245-247 and New Mutants #22-24 with an Age of X Alpha one-shot in stores this Wednesday that kicks everything off. Be sure to come back at the end of the week for our reaction.

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