Mike Carey’s ode to the X-Men miniseries ‘Age of Apocalypse’ successfully remixed many of our favorite X-Men.
The Age of X is a psionically created alternate reality held within a bubble universe patched together by the out of control reality warping abilities of one of Legion’s rogue personalities. After separating Utopia from the rest of the planet, the personality using the name and form of Dr. Moira MacTaggert implanted false, but elaborate memories and alternate personas within the minds of the X-Men and anyone else on the island. Written by Mike Carey and obviously inspired by Age of Apocalypse, just about every X-Man got a makeover. Some extensive, others more along the lines of a change in clothing or hair. In many cases, the changes were even more elaborate than we saw in Age of Apocalypse (some; AoA still rules). Here the most extreme X-Men makeovers from the Age of X!
Scott Summers’ past is nothing like what we know. The past Moira wove for him was rougher than most. Cyclops, or Basilisk as he was called, was captured, sent to a prison where the warden (Arcade) had his eyelids surgically removed. With no control over his powers, a mask was strapped to his head. At the command of a remote control, it would split open unleashing his optic blast on whatever he was pointed at. Basilisk was used to execute mutants against his will. As a denizen of Fortress-X, he was a devoted soldier and in a loving relationship with Frenzy.
His personality was similar to Scott Summers with a tinge of darkness due to what he’d survived. Rather than a ruby quartz visor or glasses, the mask Basilisk wore was monstrous. Instead of pouring through a controlled slit, when his mask split open the full, unfiltered force of his concussive blast was unleashed every time. Anything within his path would be decimated. Basilisk also collected the dog tags of the soldiers he killed. To remember them. Out of a sense of honor. C’mon, he wasn’t a sociopath. Not completely.
2. The Avengers
Moira’s pocket universe was indeed only as big as the area surrounding Fortress-X, but every person in her drama held and shared memories from a world created by her. A world that feared and hunted mutants in the present nearly as harshly as we saw in Days of Future Past. That reality birthed an Avenger’s team, unlike anything we’d seen. The team was commanded by General Frank Castle (yes, the Punisher) Captain America and included a brutal combination of Jessica Drew, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, the Hulk, and a compassionate Sue Richards.
The Avengers were essentially a government sanctioned hit-squad. Deranged, damaged versions of the heroes we knew. For the most part, they were murderous and cold-hearted. It wasn’t until their last sortie did they finally have a change of heart and saw what they were doing for what it truly was.
3. The Force Warriors
The only thing holding back the invading forces that threatened Fortress-X seemingly every day was a psionic force field maintained by a group of telekinetic-able mutants. Legion, Lady Braddock (Psylocke), Revenant (Rachel Summers), Julian (Hellion) and Unuscione are heroes among their comrades and easily among the strongest within the fortress. After each attack, they emerge to help mop up and ultimately patch the hole which was created by the human troops.
The members of the Force Warriors were all equally gruff, but that’s par the course for anyone in their situation. Rachel was enigmatic, and Psylocke was far more talkative than usual and appears to be in a relationship with Iceman, not to mention looked more Caucasian than usual. Julian was pretty much the same, but Legion was calm, cool, and humble; most likely the best parts of being a hero in his eyes. Unuscione was never a big focus, but she, like most of the Force Warriors, was nearly unrecognizable purely in terms of their character designs.
4. Namor & Storm
The ruler of the seas has had his fill of X-Women. Namor eventually hooks up with Emma but it’s in Age of X we see him with the most unlikely of pairings. Storm. Matter of fact, he and the Weather Witch are quite inseparable within the pocket universe. It’s even suggested that he purposely stranded himself alongside the rest of the mutants just to remain by her side when the human forces closed in on them.
Both Namor and Storm manage to retain their sterner personalities, but their disdain for each other in the real world has been molded into devotion. Namor’s never been known to wear much clothing, but Storm is barely dressed at all.
Age of X spun directly out of Carey’s X-Men Legacy, which many saw as a Rogue solo series. It’s fitting that her alternate persona is named after the book. Legacy didn’t participate much in the action but would show up at the end. If any mutants would fall in battle, she’d absorb their mind and keep it with her as seen with her teammate, Tempo. This is how she earned the name ‘Reaper.’ Though the reality was a farce, the people she drew into her were real enough to have left a lasting impression on her. Possibly more than anyone else. When it was all said and done, Rogue chose to hold onto her experiences and the alternate persona. A decision that directly led to her entering into a romantic relationship with Magneto.
There actually wasn’t that much of divergence between Legacy and Rogue, at least compared to the Rogue which Carey had been writing up to that point. The real Rogue had become very stoic, shedding much of the sass that we’d become accustomed to. Even from an appearance standpoint- it’d be fairly difficult to not identify her.
6. The New Mutants
The ’00s were something of a New Mutants reunion decade. The team had barely been together in anything close to the same 80s configuration since the creation of X-Force. However, in the new century, they were randomly clustered, even in uniforms that closely resembled those of their childhood. Sans having anything that remotely resembled their usual attire, it was much of the same in Age of X. In the reality, the young team of Moonstar, Sunspot, Dust (not typically a New Mutant, but fit in fine), Warlock (Cypher), Magma, and Karma functioned as Magneto’s personal strike team. When Legacy went rogue (no pun), it was them that was originally tasked with bringing her in.
Some members of the team were easy to spot. Moonstar and Warlock (though he looked more like “Douglok”) were close enough to their usual looks but the rest saw some elaborate redesigns. Sunspot was ablaze in violet and was more reminiscent of Wonderman’s iconic-form. Magma was clad in a suit that appeared to help contain her powers. Karma stood out the most with a clean futuristic silver bodysuit while Dust’s outfit was more akin to Rey’s look in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
One of the more drastic makeovers from Age of X, is the fact that we saw Pixie resemble anything but a sweet magical sprite. Re-codenamed Nightmare, she adopted a more demonic appearance complete with purple-ish skin and membrane wings not dissimilar to those of a bat! Like the rest of those in Fortress-X, her powers didn’t appear to change.
As Nightmare, the largest difference outside of the very obvious physical change was her personality. Everyone trapped within Fortress-X acted at least a little different due to the circumstances, but Nightmare was much more aggressive in all things. She was more violent, more sexual, and overall a more intense version of Pixie. Unlike the rest of those that were able to shed their Age of X personas, a piece of Nightmare remains with Pixie to this day. Possibly due to her magical roots.
Any X-Man fan would have spotted Gambit’s Age of X version a mile away. He was still a wise-cracking maverick, but sporting a visual make-over. Gambit was so much himself, that the only romantic portion of Age of X came by way of a kiss shared between himself and Legacy (Rogue). Of course. He still used his signature cards (how they were being replenished is beyond me. I’m sure Carey didn’t think that out) but he also carried a special rifle that shot kinetically charged bullets! They’d either hit with exaggerated impact or penetrate with a delayed explosion; the latter demonstrated on Dust!
Aesthetics are the biggest departures for Gambit’s Fortress-X persona. Both versions acted much the same. Age of X Gambit wore more armor than we’re used to, which makes sense seeing as they battle tanks and other military vehicles daily. Obviously, the use of the rifle was a huge change. Like others, Gambit chose to hold onto his Age of X memories in honor of those that died- real or fake, it felt real to him and deserved better than erasure.
Being more aggressive and brutal in the Age of X was understandable. However, Husk saw a huge departure from her true personalities. We are first introduced to her via flashback prior to the formation of Fortress-X. She’s running through a forest being chased by police officers. They eventually catch up with her and begin to execute her on the spot via gunfire. She survives the ordeal by transmuting her body into stone. Husk then proceeded to slaughter the officers (off panel).
There’s not much changed for Husk physically in Age of X. But what she was willing to do, what she was pushed to do are nothing like what we were used to. Outside of the officers she apparently killed in the forest, she again laid waste to more. She and her brother Cannonball discovered the gun-downed remains of their family unceremoniously thrown into the back of a truck. Husk casually told her older brother to leave before she finished the rest of the cops.
I wouldn’t call Wolverine’s Age of X persona a huge change. His character was compromised. Wolverine’s healing factor wasn’t operating properly and it kept him off of the battlefield until the very end. In the meantime, he spent his time far away from the lines and functioned as a bartender and occasionally emotional punching bag.
Wolverine was calm and seemingly content with his role as a noncombatant. He’d come to terms with his situation. For the most part, he was the Fortress-X counselor and therapist. It’s a huge departure from the berserking slasher that made him famous in the 90s, but it was very similar to what Wolverine had become thanks to Hugh Jackman’s influence on the character. He also looked a lot taller than he was supposed to be…
Of those that held onto their Age of X personas none were more impactful (save perhaps Rogue…) than Joanna Cargill. Most know Joanna (Frenzy) as a member of Magneto’s Acolytes. She even cameoed a couple of times in the immensely popular 90s X-Men Animated Series, but always as an antagonist, even while on Utopia among the X-Men themselves. In Fortress X, however, Joanna was a hero that put her life on the line for those around her every day.
When it ended, it left a huge impression on her. Up to that point in her life, she allowed her urges and her next adrenaline rush to rule her. It led her down a destructive path of cheap thrills. In Fortress-X she found contentment and a purpose. She discovered what it felt like to be a hero and she fell in with that feeling as well as teammate Basilisk (Cyclops). Frenzy chose to hold onto her memories and even adopt her former persona’s look- half-shaved head and all.
If nothing else, the X-Men know how to do alternate timelines in a big way! How did you feel about the Age of X character redesigns? Let us know below!