‘The Age of X-Man Alpha #1’: Welcome To The Twilight Zone

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Age Of X-Man Alpha # 1

From MAJK’s Coffee Corner: 

The Age of X-Man Alpha #1, a one-shot comic born from the devastation of the Uncanny X-Men’s 10-part Disassembled arc, ushers us out of the old world and into Marvel’s newest crossover. The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 sets up for a story so large that it will span several new limited series titles, including Nextgen, The Amazing Nightcrawler, The X-Tremists, Prisoner X, Apocalypse and the X-Tracts, as well as The Marvelous X-Men.

If you missed the Uncanny X-Men Disassembled storyline, I strongly recommend that you read it, as well as the five-part mini-series EXtermination prior to diving into The Age of X-Man Alpha #1.

Spoiler Warning: If you have not read The Age of X-Man Alpha #1, or the Uncanny X-Men’s 10-part Disassembled arc There May Be Spoilers Below

Creative Team:

Writing: Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson

Art: Ramon Rosanas

Cover Art: Phil Noto

The Story So Far:

In The Uncanny X-Men Disassembled arc, we saw X-Man A.K.A Nate Grey, go from former hero the most well-intentioned and powerful villain that Earth-616 had ever seen. Nate envisioned himself up as a deity of sorts and began reshaping the world to match his ideal.

For those unfamiliar with X-Man, he is a genetically engineered version of Cable engineered in the Age of Apocalypse (Earth – 295) not to be confused with Cable, the grizzled man who led the X-Force nor the teen-aged “Kid Cable” who showed up in Extermination to “retire” the older version of himself and return the younger versions of the original five X-men to their own time.

X-Man returned to the main timeline Earth (Earth – 616) more powerful than ever before. He put his plan into action using his unlimited mutant abilities to kidnap Kitty Pryde, make Apocalypse his prisoner, and transform Magneto, Angel, Blob, and Omega Red into what he referred to as his Horsemen of Salvation.

X-Man’s plans to reshape the world in his image resulted in death, destruction, and the return of more than a few extinct Apex predators. Naturally, this put him at odds with the X-Men, increased human animosity towards mutants, and brought Legion into the picture. As any die-hard Marvel fan can tell you that when Legion gets involved things rarely go well.

Upon realizing that the X-Men would never stop fighting his misguided attempt to turn Earth into a mutant utopia, Nate seemingly wished the X-Men out of existence. Which brings us to the bizarrely peaceful world of The Age of X-Man Alpha #1

Perfect World 

The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 picks up the pieces left by The Uncanny X-Men #10 even though at first it doesn’t seem that way. The world we see resembles in many ways Xavier’s dream come true. Mutant kind is no longer an endangered species, no longer feared, instead, they work and play openly in all walks of life. However, it isn’t Xavier’s dream because Xavier believed that humans and mutants could peacefully co-exist and it’s impossible for that to happen when everyone is a mutant. Humanity is no longer a threat. It appears that the dream that has been realized in The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 is that of X-Man, not Xavier.

Where would the X-men fit in such a world? With the tension between humans and those born with extraordinary abilities is obviously gone, what would be the purpose of the X-men? When we discover the X-men they are not bruised and bloody from their brutal battle with X-Man. Instead Jean Grey, Storm, Magneto and many of Marvel’s other mutants wake up in this brave new world in various new stations and positions of authority, power, and responsibility.

The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 offers up a world in which everything exists as if the world before had never happened. It offers a history re-written, in a world where mutants are carefully raised and encouraged to achieve their full potential at the Summers Institute. Here the X-Men are trusted and even revered. Magneto is a good guy, X-Man Warren runs the Summers Institute, Nightcrawler is a massive celebrity, and X-Man was one of the first five X-men. Yes, my brain flagged on that last one too and that Theme to Twilight Zone began playing in my head.

In this perfect world, mutants reproduce through “natal solutions” and every child appears to be a genetically-engineered creation, born in hatcheries. Can there be anything wrong in a world where everyone is created with their own special powers and abilities? Society is peaceful, and everyone does their part to maintain the perfection of their world. It’s hard not to feel that thrumming of something evil beneath the facade of this mutant Utopia, and it doesn’t take too long before it rears its ugly head.

Subtle Darkness 

This first half of The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 shows us the world from X-Man’s point of view. But it is a very different X-Man from that one who destroyed so much of the world in Disassembled and left mutant kind without the X-men. This kind, paternal, encouraging, shaman rescues a young child from her own powers with is causing some very bizarre effects. He walks with her, talks with her, and delivers her to Warren at the Summer Institute where she is lovingly welcomed and given a tour before being enrolled.

As we pass Glob working in the garden we get the first real hint that something is amiss. Something that we will learn about in NextGen #1.  Again, the eerie sense that something sinister lurks hums beneath the serene scene. Like a perfect piece of fruit with a rotting core.

At first glimpse, we seemed to be finally be exploring what it would be like when the X-Men can be exactly who they want to be without the constant battles to prove they aren’t monsters, without the constant fight against the fear of their power. We see what they might do in their free time without risk of persecution…by humans.

As the focal point of the story switches from X-Man to Lucas Bishop and we began to see tiny fractures at first, in this perfect world. Before long we still Lucas cross a line that brings the full force of retribution down on him. His actions and relationships result in his being stripped of everything and result in a lesser but no less horrific “disciplinary” procedure for one of his dearest teammates. It is at this point that we see the darkness bleeding through the ethereal beauty of this terrifyingly perfect world.

This event serves as the catalyst for two of the new series, The X-Tremists, and Prisoner X. It is at this point we learn that if you are deemed a threat in any capacity, you can be completely written out of existence least you taint this brave new world. Persecution is not extinct only humans.

Art & Writing

The interesting thing about mutants is that they are still, essentially humans. Humanity evolved is still humanity. That’s the beauty of The Age of X-Man Alpha #1. There’s an Orwellian feeling to this world where the perfection of society comes at a cost. Where rules are brutally enforced in ways no one would expect nor believed without blatant proof. Where the wrong touch, word, or choice can damn you forever.

Two things Zac Thompson told CBR.com in a recent interview come to mind clearly when reading this book:

“This book is about a different kind of oppression,”

“It’s about exploring what you become when you’re faced to ask hard questions about what you’d do to keep the peace.”

This is the worm lurking at the center of the ripe and beautiful fruit of X-Man’s dream come true. These are the questions that The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 sets us up to explore.

It takes a special talent to set the stage for a story this large without boring your readers. Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson nailed it. They craft a story so intriguing that you can’t resist digging further. They walk us through the world as it could be. They tempt us with hope and peace all the while weaving the subtle feeling of discontent. They work their magic so well that you are never quite sure of whether it’s real. Like the silhouette of a sinister presence just on the periphery of your vision. They kept the ugly truth out of sight until the moment you least expect it. Expertly distilling that sense of the surreal and evoking the very human suspicion of something too good to be true.

Throughout the first half of the book, I kept expecting Rod Serling to step onto the page and welcome me. Rosanas’ art speaks right to the senses. The soft shades and gentle tones of the 1950’s Americana that greet us in the opening pages of The Age of X-Man Alpha #1 create a hallucinatory feeling, not unlike ecstasy spilled forth in ink form. The contrast of the vibrant colors used to emphasize moments works to increase both the sense of peace and the sense of dread at once.

MAJK’s Age Recommendation:

Marvel’s 12 + age recommendation seems spot on for this title. Given this is a one shot with the express goal to usher readers into the Age of X-Man, there is nothing here that I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading with my middle school age child.

Where To Go From Here?

Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men (2019) #1 (of 5)February 6 2019

Age Of X-Man: NextGen (2019) #1 (of 5)February 13 2019

Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler (2019) #1 (of 5)February 20 2019 

Age Of X-Man: X-Tremists (2019) #1 (of 5)February 27 2019

Age Of X-Man: Prisoner X (2019) #1 (of 5)March 6 2019

Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse & The X-Tracts (2019) #1 (of 5)March 13 2019

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