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Feb 3

Age of X-Man: Alpha

Posted on Sunday, February 3, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

So here we are again, at the start of another event.  This is the set-up one-shot which leads in to no fewer than six minis – Marvelous X-MenNextGenAmazing NightcrawlerX-TremistsPrisoner X, and Apocalypse & The X-Tracts.  You know how these things work: a basic story that serves as an introduction to the world, and scenes which lead in to all of the individual minis, complete (for once) with footnotes telling you precisely where to go for the follow-up.  Which is appreciated, by the way.

The build to this story, over ten issue of Uncanny X-Men, was decidedly underwhelming, and left me approaching this issue with a sense of grinding duty.  But this is night and day.  “Disassembled” felt like a protracted exercise in getting the right characters into the right place (and not very organically at that), but Age of X-Man turns out to be going somewhere less obvious.

Now, none of this detracts from the fact that it is indeed an issue of introduction and set-up, framed by the good old device of a mutant with newly-emerged powers being introduced to the X-Men’s world.  But there’s a clear sense of where this is going.  Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler had a short run on Cable just before it ended, in an ambitious but confused storyline which I described as a “wildly unfocussed oddity”.  No such issues here.

The initial set-up is straightforward.  We’re in an alternate reality created by Nate Grey, who has apparently given up on trying to save the real world, and instead cut directly to making a better world from scratch.  The characters who were fighting him in Uncanny X-Men #10 have presumably been transformed into the characters we see here, but (with one possible exception) they don’t remember.  Everyone else – which means the background characters – is presumably created by Nate.

Nate’s world is the opposite of Age of Apocalypse.  At some unspecified point in the past (far enough back that Nature Girl doesn’t remember it), everyone got turned into a mutant.  There are no bad guys.  The X-Men still exist, but the only problems left to be dealt with are young mutants losing control of their powers, and presumably the odd natural disaster.  It’s not a mutant dictatorship either – this isn’t House of M.  It’s just a happy world where everything worked out just great for the mutants.

Ramon Rosanas’s art catches the white picket fences, Silver Age vibe of the place, but the revised character designs for the X-Men bring in some different influences.  Their costumes combine a trad superhero vibe with more regular clothing or robes.  And standing there as part of the team is Nate himself, still wearing something akin to his messiah robes from “Disassembled”, but back to talking about himself as a shaman.  He’s allowed to blend into the background when we all know that he’s clearly more important to the story than that – a nice touch.  He also seems to have inserted himself into X-Men history in place of the Beast, who is simply missing and unmentioned.

And also, Nate doesn’t like couples.

So this is a world of “individuals”, a word that keeps cropping up.  They come together as groups, or as a society, but not as couples.  Everyone new seems to be lab-grown, and everyone seems to believe that humanity has evolved “beyond romance … beyond coupling” – when they even talk about it at all, because it just doesn’t seem to be on most people’s radar any more.  And if you do attempt to start a relationship, the X-Tremists show up to cart you off to prison.  Nate, who was grown in a lab, seems to have some real hang-ups about conventional reproduction, and now everyone else seems to have them too.

This is very much not the direction I was expecting the story to go in.  And that’s before we even get to the reveal of what Apocalypse is up to.  It makes sense – his obsession with natural selection means he wouldn’t be keen on a lab-grown world – but the last page reveal of how he’s going about opposing it is completely left field.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen ideas quite this odd showing up in a core X-Men title.  It’s not what I was expecting at all, which is very welcome.

I still have my doubts that a crossover event is going to keep up this sort of focus – they tend not to.  But this issue really does win me back round after “Disassembled”.  They have my attention now.

Bring on the comments

  1. Moo says:

    From Nightcrawler to Longshot to Gambit, it seemed to me Claremont liked having at least one swashbuckling charmer type around.

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