One of the first X-men comics I read was a collection of the first few issues of Age of Apocalypse, back when I was in middle school. While I have still yet to read the entire story, the bits I’ve read left something of an impression on me. When the Age of X-Man event began, I was interested in seeing X-Men writers take on a dystopia that’s different from many of the standard “Pile of Skulls” X-Men dystopia.
Age of X-Man is born out of the climax of the fight between Legion and X-Man, with the added involvement of Apocalypse and Jean Grey. They end up not fully re-writing reality as with Age of Apocalypse or House of M, but instead basically creating a Reality Marble which contains all the mutants who were taking part in that fight.
Age of X-Man was made distinct by two aspects. The first was that the event doesn’t re-write the whole universe – there are no alternate universe versions of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Doctor Doom or Tony Stark here. The second was that this is a dystopia, not a post-apocalyptic universe. The idea behind this universe is that there are no strong interpersonal relationships – no families, no dating, no romance, no sexuality. All interpersonal connections are equal.
This leads to the structure of the event. Rather than having a core series and re-imagined versions of other characters books going around the event, we got about six books each looking at a different aspect of this pocket universe:
- The Amazing Nightcrawler focuses on Nightcrawler being an actor, along with being tempted by having a romantic relationship with Meggan (from Excalibur), along with serving as a patron and sponsor for the Stepford Cuckoos.
- NeXtgen is what I’d describe as Generation X or New Mutants for the Age of X-Man universe, focusing on the students of the Hope Summers Academy, with a particular focus on Glob Herman, whose powers make him resistant to the reality-warping and re-writing effects of this universe, allowing him to remember the old reality.
- The X-Tremists is a series focusing on the secret police who basically crackdown on deviants who seek to spread “false” ideas like love, friendship, and sexuality, and which is notable for having several gay X-Men on the team, including Northstar and Iceman.
- The Marvelous X-Men is sort of the “core” X-Men team, lead by Magneto and accompanied by Jean Grey.
- Prisoner X follows Bishop and Beast, as they’re incarcerated in a prison for people who have been basically sense offenders, with Bishop on top of this being incarcerated as his knowledge of multiple possible timelines makes his brain difficult to re-write.
- Finally, there’s Apocalypse and the X-Tracts, the series about Apocalypse’s free love hippy cult created to free the mind of the populace to the potential of new ideas like being friends, falling in love, and truly obscene acts like kissing and – worse – hand-holding.
Each of these books shares something of a common arc, as the members of the various seeing through various lies to find the truth of the world that they’re in, that this world is a false construct, and then finally trying to make a push to break through this reality, with each book manifesting in different forms. In X-Tremists, we get Northstar and Iceman re-discovering that they are gay – but in different ways (though not in relationships with each other), while Blob and Psychloke fall for each other. While, for example, in NeXtgen, we have Blob as the only sane mutant, trying to figure out how to spread the truth without getting locked up. That sort of thing.
This leads to another point – as I mentioned in an earlier article – X-Men books are at their best when they have diverse writers and diverse characters. This is the case here. We have people of color, women, LGBT people, both in the books and writing the books. The book even gets into the fact that Meggan was raised among the Roma in a manner that other X-books in the past just haven’t touched.
The only mark against it, and this is more damning the other book with praise for this one, is that this makes Uncanny X-Men look absolutely dire by comparison. While this event was running, I looked forward to the next issue of the books within Age of X-Man far more than I looked forward to the next issue of Uncanny X-Men.
Age of X-Man is available from Amazon.com. Each of the minis is available as a separate trade paperback, along with individual issues. I’ll be linking to the first issue of the bookend-miniseries here, but buying anything through that link helps to support the site.