Review by Win Wiacek
Once upon a time the mutant Scarlet Witch married the android Vision and through the agency of magic and Wanda Maximoff’s undiagnosed ability to reshape reality, they had twin boys. Over the course of time it was revealed that her sons were not real, and as the years passed the shock of that revelation drove her insane.
After tipping completely over the edge Wanda engineered the destruction of her other family – the vast and varied assemblage of superheroes called the Avengers – and even caused the death of her former husband and some of her oldest friends. See Avengers Disassembled.
This follow-up company crossover conjunction saw reality rewritten again as Wanda apparently had another major lapse in concentration. She rejigged history so mutants now dominated a society where normal humans (“sapiens”) were an acknowledged evolutionary dead-end living out their lives and destined for extinction within two generations. Moreover her (then) true father Magneto ruled the mutants, head of a glorious dynasty exerting political control over the entire planet.
All the heroes who sought out the Witch now live perfect lives that match their deepest, most secret hearts’ desires, but there is a painful undercurrent of tension amongst the rapidly declining, soon to be extinct Homo Sapien. Except she hadn’t factored in Wolverine. His greatest desire has always been to recover his lost memories: destroyed and discarded by more than a century of brainwashing, mind-wiping and intervention by a succession of sinister enemies. As consciousness returns he remembers everything. Especially how a moment ago the world was completely different.
In this new universe he is leader of an elite team of mutant peacekeepers. The Red Guard are the prime enforcers of the House of M and agents of the Royal Family of Magneto: de facto rulers of Earth.
Wolverine and a few other heroes, take with them a strange little girl named Layla Miller. She is a mutant and amongst her arcane and undisclosed power-set is the ability to reawaken a person’s memories of the world Wanda overwrote. Convinced Magneto used his crazy daughter to remake the world to his advantage, Wolverine is exultant to have a weapon that can offset all the dictator’s advantages, and with Cage begins tracking down and restoring his former allies. In Genosha, meanwhile, Magneto again finds himself drawn to the simple tomb of his greatest friend and occasional enemy Charles.
It leads to a shocking ending that would affect Marvel’s mutants for several years. Although Marvel continuity was skilfully interwoven throughout the event, this particular tale stands alone perfectly without any need to refer to the many attendant connected graphic novels. It offers an engaging, fast-paced thriller by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, brimming with tension and stuffed with bombastic action.
Two UK only editions have been issued. Although subtitled “Ultimate Edition”, the first UK printing is the same eight chapters as the US edition, just on better paper stock, so bulkier. The hardcover edition issued as part of the Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection features accompanying articles.