The entire run of Age of X-Man, every individual series, has been constructed in order to lead the readers to a series of revelations. As such, the story has been a very slow burn. This has resulted in either indignant outcry or silent indifference from some quarters, but these reactions generally come from people who would happily exchange mad violence for astute characterizations and a complex plot. Ideally, in this medium, you’d like to have both, but if I were forced to choose, I would personally rather have the former.
Luckily, in this issue, we get both.
Previous issues were largely dedicated to setup. The writer was positioning his pieces and explaining the rules of the game. Now, the king is being cornered into Mate. We have learned about Apocalypse’s revolution (his premise for it, anyway), we’ve spent enough time with these characters to understand their motivations and back stories. We’ve witnessed Kitty’s rescue from the reprogramming center and her scramble to recover her heritage. We’ve plunged into Eye-Boy’s trying-too-hard inner monologue and experienced his thwarted machismo. We’ve seen Dazzler become a Beatnik revolutionary. We understand Evan’s sense of inadequacy and burned with his desire to live up to his father’s strenuous expectations.
We have seen, in this issue, the extent of Apocalypse’s manipulations.
His role of savior is a mask, disguising other, deeply sinister motivations.
At bottom, this book has turned out to be less about exploding the world with forbidden love than exploring the various corridors of power which are available within a totalitarian regime. This is highlighted in one brief but highly effective conversation between Dazzler and Unveil in the desert and another, considerably more brutal, discourse between En Sabah Nur and another character whose name I cannot reveal.
Oh, and yes, there’s also a giant horseshoe made of corpses, a massive, death-spore saturated fight in a desert, one of the X-Men turns traitor, and someone gets, very messily, stabbed through the chest.
It’s quite the ride, is what I’m saying.
In terms of the art, Salva Espin’s trippy, psychedelic style is absolutely perfect for the tone. The figures are expressive and, at times, even cartoonish, but they are always effective in conveying emotions. The action is lucid and balletic: strikes appear to have impact; kisses convey a sense of believable passion. Israel Silva’s coloring uses bright candy tones to intentionally contrast with extremely dark material and Travis Lanham’s lettering works to unobtrusively propel the narrative by clearly establishing perspective and narrative POV.
I expect that this series will read considerably better when taken all at once in a TPB, but even as a monthly it is a magnificent piece of work.