The Age of X-Man storyline took X-Men fans by storm with an enticing new reality and a revamp of nearly every major character. It was a classic example of how a huge mystery could drive your interest and keep you on your toes. Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson crafted much of this narrative in their Marvelous X-Men series, which ran five issues with the addition of their Omega and Alpha specials. It’s now in trade paperback format so we can get the whole picture in one sitting. Does it hold up in the collected format? Let’s take a look!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
ENTER: THE AGE OF X-MAN. The perfect heroes for a perfect world! The X-Men have helped make the world into a utopia where no one lives in fear and hatred is a thing of the past. All people are united under the banner of mutantkind, and all of mutantkind idolizes the X-Men. Jean Grey! Colossus! Storm! X-23! X-Man! Nature Girl! Magneto! And of course, the amazing Nightcrawler! When danger threatens the world, the Marvelous X-Men set things right for the good of all. And no one dares say otherwise.
Why does this matter?
There are other Age of X-Man series, but this is the main one that focuses on X-Man and what is really going on in this world. If you want answers, look no further.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The first chapter in this collection is nearly perfect. I said as much in my review as it drops you into this new world and looks fabulous while doing it thanks to art Ramon Rosanas with colors by Triona Farrell, and letters by Clayton Cowles. The colors have a brightness that almost seems washed out as if this issue takes place in Heaven itself — which works well with the utopian theme. The layout design is at times cinematic with a mix of wide-angle shots that are thinner and great choices for dutch angles to convey a sense of unease if necessary.
That angelic and peaceful world is backed up by some beautifully written captions throughout the book. Captions that make you think about how those persecuted may not understand they deserve better, or in a piece of dialogue midway through that reads, “…thinking for yourself means acting for the world.” It’s the kind of thought-provoking dialogue that makes you stop and think, but also makes this world feel genuine and sincere. Each issue, or while reading this trade they may seem more like chapters, ends with a thought-provoking quote from famous authors and philosophers adding more weight to the bigger picture of the story.
As the story progresses from this great start we start to realize this world isn’t so perfect. The Utopia may not be all it’s cracked up to be. For example, love is outlawed in this universe. We soon learn the X-Men are a superhero team of this dimension (or reality) roughly the equivalent of the 616 Avengers. You get a taste of what their day to day life is and readers soon learn simply by following them around something ain’t right. That’s a reoccurring theme of the series as it peels back more and more of the onion so that by the end you’ll know without a doubt what is going on and why it must be stopped.
As new characters are introduced, like Apocalypse (and by his side are Kitty Pryde and Kid Apocalypse), you get new renderings of these characters and yet somehow they are still themselves. The concept behind this work is a strong one and it’s all very much like a What If? tale that was allowed to gestate and run on longer than a single issue. By the end, the greater truth is revealed and Nadler and Thompson make a strong argument for how circular the X-Men’s struggle has been. It’s filled with fighting, rejecting what may be the right choice, and even rejecting who they are. X-Man says it best when he says, “How many times have we gone back and tried to fix things when all along, the thing that was broken was us?” It’s clear his intentions were sound even though they were immoral and unjust.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
As a whole, this series is a great concept with an impeccable start, but it fizzles out and seems to lose itself along the way. X-Man’s intentions were sound, but he doesn’t admit he was wrong or that the things he’s chosen to do, like create secret police to arrest and then erase people’s existence from the minds of their loved ones, was even a scant bit evil. The concept of loving yourself first pops up here and there, but the idea feels diluted and almost uncertain. The narrative seems to lose focus when it stresses Apocalypse’s message on sex and love and that distracts from the fact that the real message is loving yourself. More than once I wondered why these characters couldn’t love themselves and others at the same time and at the same time why X-Man was so hyper-focused on that. It’s a missed opportunity to not probe X-Man’s character and instead, he stands resolute and certain with nothing backing that up.
Another problem is how the middle to end portion of the book is filled with scenes with these characters sitting and standing around talking about what they think they should do. Ultimately the entire series is about what these characters know and think, but it’s also incredibly boring when they have little to do. After taking care of a forest fire early on there isn’t much else to their actions beyond moving to different locations and talking things out.
Is it good?
This book opens like a rocket immediately making you interested in the concept and the world being unveiled. Unfortunately, it never seems to find its footing after that as it doesn’t uncover what its point is nor give the characters much of anything to do while they putter around trying to figure things out. I love the concept though and it’s worth taking a look to gain an understanding of X-Man’s desire to break these always fighting heroes away from their stubborn ways.
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