The problem with X-Men comics in general is that the sheer weight of the continuity can drive off new readers. Chris Claremont is rightly praised for having revolutionized the concept with his All New X-Men and building a whole new mythology on top of the basic idea Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had built up. Unfortunately, despite being Marvel Comics’ most popular series for a long time, there are few points of easy entry for new readers. Even if you had seen the movies and had some broad idea of who Nightcrawler and Magneto were, you could still be wandering blind, jumping into a series where Nightcrawler was now studying to be a priest and Magneto was dead.
Ironically this is the chief problem with Age of X-Man Alpha #1, despite this series being set in an alternate reality. You have to have some idea of who all these characters are in order to appreciate how drastically different things are. Overcome that hurdle, however, and this issue is a fascinating little introduction that neatly establishes the setting.
The world of Age of X-Man Alpha is an Earth where every human had their X-Gene activated after one frantic and terrifying day. After the rubble was cleared and the healing began, society changed, prejudice against mutants ended and Charles Xavier’s dream came true. Naturally there’s more than a few nightmares hidden within this Utopia, but these are not the concern of the new X-Men, who largely busy themselves with containing the damage when a young mutant discovers their powers early. Much of the issue is concerned with Nate “X-Man” Gray taking it upon himself to guide one such mutant and show her to The Summers Institute – a school that will teach her how to control her powers and help her find a place in this world.
The rest of the comic is largely devoted to setting up the five other on-going series spinning out of this issue, in addition to the Marvelous X-Men series focusing on Nate Gray’s team. For what my money is worth, the most interesting of these series appears to be The Amazing Nightcrawler, which centers upon the adventures of this world’s version of Kurt Wagner. In addition to being an X-Man, Kurt is also one of the most popular action hero movie stars in the world and he’s balancing a fine-line between his on-screen image and the swashbuckler he truly is in his downtime.
The other solo series, Prisoner X, focuses upon Lucas Bishop, who traveled back in time to avert the dark future where he was born. With his mission complete, Bishop sought new challenges to occupy his time only to wind up violating one of the new laws of mutantkind in this new world. This leads to him being arrested by the X-Tremists – the secret police of the mutant world, who are always watching everyone… including the X-Men! The X-Tremists are also starring in their own team book.
It seems that both X-Teams will be fighting Apocalypse and his own team, the X-Tracts, who are waging a propaganda war against their regime. If nothing else, this book should be interesting with Apocolaypse having apparently reworked his eugenics philosophy into an advocacy of free love ideals. Yes, that’s right. We’re getting the Hippie Apocalypse. The final new title, Nextgen, focuses upon the students of the Summers Institute, ala Generation X and New Mutants.
Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler don’t spin much of a story here, but the action of the issue does a good job of setting up this world without a lot of exposition dumps or “As you well know, Bob…” style dialogue. Ramon Rosanas’ artwork is nicely handled, with an odd style that only inks the outlines of the characters and objects, while leaving the interior defining pencils uninked. This leaves the finished art looking like Triona Farrell colored over the lines in the finished art, but the final appearance is more eye-catching than one would think.
While newcomers may find it inaccessible, X-Fans will love Age Of X-Man Alpha for offering a new take on the classic formula and presenting a worthy addition to the line of alternate X-Worlds. This could very well become the Age of Apocalypse of the Millennial generation.
Age of X-Man Alpha #1 releases on January 30, 2019!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.