Last month, "Age of X" began with a prologue/anthology "Alpha" issue that, reading "X-Men Legacy" #245 (the first proper chapter of the story), wasn't as necessary as it seemed on first glance. While the "Alpha" issue provided some backstory for some of these alternate X-Men characters, Mike Carey writes both a highly entertaining and easy to follow introduction to the "Age of X" world and story. Longtime X-fans and those new to the characters can both read this issue without difficulties since Carey does such a good job of establishing this new world and story. It's not simply a fun exercise in seeing how familiar characters are different, like far too many alternate reality stories.
In "Age of X," mutants are outlaws in the United States after a disaster in Albany where the Phoenix killed the entire city. As a result, all mutants have all gathered in Fortress X, a safe place made out of pieces of Chicago by Magneto. For almost three years, they've lived there and fought against daily assaults by humanity. This issue seems like a random day much like the rest until this version of Rogue, called both Reaper and Legacy (the former given to her, the latter her choice) discovers someone has pierced the barrier surrounding Fortress X and things seem decidedly not normal, at least for her. That aspect of the story doesn't kick in until the final quarter, giving the issue enough time for a status quo of some kind to be established before undermining it.
That structure also allows Carey to touch on a lot of different characters before focusing in on Reaper/Legacy as the protagonist of this and the second chapter of "Age of X." The fight and post-fight scenes give a good impression of what life is like for these characters, making the harder, more cynical personalities make a lot of sense. The blase manner in which Basilisk (Scott Summers) dismisses almost killing a fellow mutant is shocking, while seeing a character like Legion revered by his fellow mutants is equally surprising. Surprisingly, nothing comes off as forced here, because Carey establishes the context for these character changes so well.
Clay Mann draws some fantastic pages in this issue, providing stronger work than I've seen from him in the past. He gets across the bleak nature of Fortress X without burying the pages under heavy inks and shadows. It's a clean, crisp approach that makes it so this world doesn't look too different from the Marvel universe. There is still such a thing as sunlight despite the conditions mutants live in, after all. He also does a good job at tweaking character designs to fit this world while still making the characters recognizable without someone saying their name.
"Age of X" gets off to good start with "X-Men Legacy" #245 with Carey both establishing the status quo of this alternate reality and beginning the main plot, which seems to revolve around the nature of this world. Some hints and clues appear about things not being right, and it's impressive that he's able to pack so much in without it feeling dogged down by details.