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Aug 20

Age of X-Man Omega

Posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

So what did we learn from that?

One reason why I don’t want to actually review Hickman’s stories just yet – though of course there’s a long way to go beyond the opening minis – is that it’s only with hindsight that you can really tell whether it all comes together as a great story, or simply as a formally interesting puzzle. House of X and Powers of X inspire confidence because they show every appearance of being carefully planned, and they repay close reading enough to reassure you that the apparent incongruities and discrepancies are there for a reason. Besides, Hickman has earned trust in that department from his previous work. But you never know until you get there.

Age of X-Man had a very interesting set-up in Nate’s curious “utopia” of relationship-free picket fences, with everyone living as individuals and either feeling repulsed by love (romantic, familial or otherwise), or getting banished to the jails or the underground.  The added element of having Apocalypse as the counter culture figure added to that.

With hindsight, the structure of multiple parallel miniseries may have been a mistake, since while there were plenty of different perspectives to be done on that society, they mostly tended to fall into a rather similar pattern of “characters slowly recover their memories and normal personalities”. Cutting it back in length and scale, and perhaps integrating some of these threads into a single story, might well have been less repetitive. But still, the basic concept remains interesting.

Age of X-Man Omega has the task of drawing the threads together and sending everyone home. Nate begins the issue by explaining to us that he created this world using Apocalypse’s “life seed”, and the whole world is basically an extension of him; he mainly just wanted the X-Men to fit into the utopia he had created.  In his eyes, he was creating a permanent dream, and so the back story didn’t call for anything more than fuzzy dream logic. This is a nice idea in itself; what at first looks like it’s being handwaved away by the writers is in fact being handwaved away by the characters. And I think the books managed to get across the sense that everyone had blind spots and that the back story was fuzzy in a way that was just not quite satisfactory. It’s a world that’s intentionally slightly broken, even on its own terms, precisely because it’s trying too hard to embody a utopia – even before you get to the oddity of Nate’s views on what a utopia should be.

Nate’s world needed Apocalypse and his flower power brigade because it’s a paradise for the X-Men, and without some sort of opposition, there can’t be an X-Men. The idea seems to be that this world has been created around the organising principle of making it a utopia for the X-Men, or at least the compliant ones, and they would lose their sense of purpose and achievement if they didn’t have some actual baddies to fight, though not especially threatening ones. Nate also claims to think of it as a “test” to see how the X-Men would react, though that makes rather less sense – is he trying to weed out people who won’t play ball, or simply trying to work out what would make everyone happy? What Nate doesn’t spell out is that this set-up also forces the X-Men into defending his chosen status quo, which was presumably meant to make them feel at home here, conflating their own interests with what’s good for the universe.

At the level of big ideas, this is all quite good. Where this Omega issue gets into some difficulties is in trying to bring together the rather large cast from the assorted minis, since there just isn’t space to give them all something to do. Simone Buonfantino’s art handles a very large cast well, and makes the most of some very expository scenes. But Apocalypse gets rather quickly brushed aside, in a way that isn’t at all satisfying given the ending of Apocalypse & The X-Tracts. The duplicate Dani from Prisoner X is explained as a remnant of Nate and Dani’s brief romance, which works but feels like it deserved more space. While these threads were important to individual minis, they aren’t all that important to Nate’s big idea, and so this issue struggles to make room for them.

Nate’s logic seems to be that the soap opera elements of the X-Men have driven much of their failure and pain, and therefore are the obvious thing to remove in order to make everyone happy.  He also gets to make the reasonable point that he’s spared everyone the misery of having to appear in the Matthew Rosenberg run, though that arc is so over the top as to make it a rather empty comparison. It’s predictable that this will all come down to the X-Men deciding that the pain is worth it, because they’re the heroes and that’s what they do – the most interesting aspect is the idea that a handful of the team actually reject this and decide that they want to stay. In the case of Nightcrawler, this might seem to come out of nowhere if you haven’t read his solo mini, but it does fit with what was built there.

The thing is, the plot doesn’t ultimately lend itself to that sort of nuance.  If Nate actually had created a basically functional society without close personal relationships then you could understand Nightcrawler wanting to stay; but since Nate had to police it with a sex Stasi, the debate is rigged in favour of “make it stop”.  There’s an intriguing coda scene with Nate and Magneto apparently deciding to have a second go at making a better utopia. Despite seemingly being a pre-Hickman filler arc, Age of X-Man ends by sending a clear signal that it’s leading to something, in particular for Apocalypse, Magneto and Nate – all of which is unexpected.

Age of X-Man was an interesting experiment and worthwhile in a lot of ways. Where it doesn’t quite deliver is in making Nate’s world a credible enough utopia to justify the sort of philosophising that he wants to engage in here. Once the dreaminess and oddity of the world resolves into a relatively direct explanation of the plot, it becomes a rather straightforward superhero pseudo-dilemma. And so they don’t quite stick the landing. But I’m glad they gave it a go anyway.

Bring on the comments

  1. CJ says:

    I enjoyed this miniseries because:

    – It tried to tell an alternative to a Hated and Feared world without unremitting bleakness

    – It offered the possibility to see how the X-Men would react if they really could get everything they supposedly wanted

    I would have liked to have seen Apocalypse respond to Nate in this issue. I like the idea that Nate, who was created to destroy Apocalypse, in fact did so by creating a scenario where he truly develops affection for his son.

    I think his role in the story makes sense–Counter-X hippie shaman Nate liked to come off as amoral and beyond the day-to-dayness of mutant affairs.

    I would really love it if all this connected to Hickman’s run. The absence of future / alternate timeline mutants from HoX/PoX seems intentional, even if we know some are appearing in the ongoings in a few months.

    I mean, Nate + Life Seed has the power to create a whole universe; where would that fit on the Kardashev scale…

  2. Ben says:

    Overall I think Age of X-man was pretty good.

    Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but doesn’t Nate say something like “I knew this world wouldn’t last, but I wanted to show you a better way before you inevitably left it?”

    The Nightcrawler stuff worked for me. He’s already died and been to heaven. And isn’t he basically banned from ever going back? It makes sense to me that he’d be tempted by a different but pretty happy (for him) afterlife.

  3. SanityOrMadness says:

    > ….it’s worth noting also that the X-Men deliberately don’t take Apocalypse back to Earth with them, despite the fact that Hickman is using him.

    Ummm… where do you get that from? Yes, Storm wants to leave him behind, but not only does Nate tell Nature Girl in the very next panel “I’m sorry, it’s all or none”, but he is very visibly and distinctly going through the portal beside Kitty on the double-page spread.

    The only one who stays with (the randomly, suddenly shaven) Nate is the copy of Magneto.

    Possibly a more curious pair of things:
    1) When everyone is reverted back to their MU versions, Unveil is shown wearing a black top and jeans (having been naked the entire event bar her psychedelic gases, including earlier in the issue). So is she from the MU after all? (She’s not shown in the portal panel, but then not everyone is)
    2) AOXM Moonstar *also* goes through the portal (she’s between Beast and the bear Nature Girl’s riding(!), in Dani’s costume from when she was in a relationship with Nate). So… what happens there? Are there two of her now?

  4. Paul says:

    Ah, you’re right about that. Dani’s survival is rather weird too… Deleted that,anyway.

  5. Suzene says:

    All in all, I enjoyed this. The execution was wonky in a couple of places, and the minis dovetailing into the Omega issue wasn’t all that satisfactory because for it to work, some characters had to be deliberately kept off- stage. For example, if Jubilee and Northstar had been there for the “do we kill Nate to return ourselves home” debate, it would have lasted for about three syllables before Nate was atomized and/or stabbed in the chest 50 times.

    But I liked the overall concept, and the best of the minis were very good character studies. A nice change of pace in general, and leagues better than what was going on over in UXM.

  6. Bloodredcookie says:

    This whole event was just Dull. I was so board reading this. There wasn’t much new, and the minis took way too long to reach the conclusion we all knew was coming. I’d trade this in for Carey’s ‘Age of X’ any day of the week. At least that one had lasting consequences, both for the story and the people involved.

  7. Jerry Ray says:

    The curse of the completist – I paid for this whole stupid 32-issue thing. I did not derive $130 worth of entertainment from it. The whole thing was pointless and went nowhere. I feel ripped off and insulted.

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