By Kevin Mahadeo
This January begins the Age of X, whose upcoming launch served as the impetus for Marvel's latest Next Big Thing conference call on Monday.
Age of X begins with an AGE OF X: ALPHA one-shot and carries over into both X-MEN: LEGACY and NEW MUTANTS. Both writer Mike Carey and editor Daniel Ketchum strayed away from directly addressing the question of "What is the Age of X?" promising the answer to that quandary lies at the very heart of the soon-to-begin mystery/thriller.
"I thought it might be cool to have a story that brought [all the generations of X-Men] back in the field and Daniel and I thought for a while about possible mechanisms to allow that to happen," explained Carey of the origins of the story. "The more we talked, the more we realized we were more interested in some of the story arcs that we were creating to enable that sort of situation. We came up with a different idea that became Age of X."
That idea begins in an alternate timeline, one where the enemies of mutants united far earlier than in the regular Marvel Universe. Because of this unified anti-mutant front, not only did the X-Men never form, but mutants as a whole became a rather endangered species.
"This is a world that has never known the X-Men," said Carey. "We have a situation for the first time where the surviving mutants are making a collected stance. There is a certain confluence of events that bring them together and they stand up together for the first time."
The title “Age of X” Ketchum and Carey both said harkens back to Stan Lee's original interpretation of the "X" in "X-Men" meaning extra and extraordinary, but also refers to a mysterious character known simply as X. Carey revealed that the character plays an important role in the upcoming event, but refrained from delving further into details.
In regards to the characters involved in the crossover, for the past week, Marvel slowly revealed the line-up of the Age of X cast piece-by-piece. Many astute readers may have recognized some of the players through visual cues but also noticed both name and design changes. Carey said that he, Ketchum and the artists spent some time redesigning many of the characters for the new Age of X reality.
"The idea is that each came into their own without other mutants," said Ketchum. "You really see each individual character's look and personality. It's almost an extension of how they were in the books. Storm for example is pushed into direction where she is an African goddess both in terms of her personality and in her looks. That's how she initially was, and if she never came into contact with the X-Men or other mutants, she would have continued to go down that path."
Both also hinted that this leads to "all bets [being] off" when it comes to personal relationships. Since this will be the first time many of these characters meet within an entirely new context, it allows for different types of friendships and relationships forming. As for why and how these characters come together in this new world, Carey went on to explain how the event begins:
"The whole world has become hostile territory, but there is this one fortress, and we actually see it being built. There is a broad parallel with the role of the Utopia, but this place is surrounded by an army of enemies and is under siege from day one. The area around the fortress is effectively a battlefield."
"I always imagined it as mutantkind's Helm's Deep," added Ketchum, referencing the famous fortress from "Lord of the Rings." "The battle is right at their door. It makes for a really cool backdrop for the event to take place against."
Carey also discussed the importance of some of the characters. Magneto plays a very pivotal role, "in many ways the pivotal role." As the person that brings together the mutants of the world, Magneto acts as a figurehead for the species. One of Carey's personal favorites and star of his LEGACY series, Rogue, also plays a very vital role.
"Rogue is very much the protagonist and the point of view character of the first of the three acts," revealed Carey. "She's our way into the story."
The duo also addressed some fan speculation, confirming that the character in the teaser displaying Phoenix powers “is definitely not” Hope Summers and that the character revealed as Basilisk is an alternate version of Cyclops.
Conversation turned to the rest of the Marvel Universe and whether the story features only X-Men characters or if others super-powered heroes might make an appearance. Ketchum teased the possibility of a supplemental title, tentatively called AGE OF X: AVENGERS that further explored the divergent world.
As hinted at earlier, in regards to the setting and how it relates to current continuity, Carey said there exists a "very good reason" why they structured the story this way and that the explanation will be far from obvious. While much action should be expected, the crossover very much contains a mystery at the center, one that Carey explains backwards through the storytelling, first thrusting readers into the action before exploring how they got there.
"Just as this is a mystery to the characters within the story, the reader has their own mystery to unravel," promised Ketchum. "Mike does a very good job of weaving those subtle clues and hints even from his very first script that might allow a reader to figure out exactly what's going on."
"There's a number of inciting incidents and there's one very, very significant absence," added Carey. "There is one person, one crucial person, who seems not to have played a role in events at all. Eventually we figure out why."
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