AGE OF X-MEN ALPHA #1 taps into an age-old saying (that most of us tend to forget) about appearances. When things look too good to be true, they typically are. Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler are clearly riffing off of the popular AGE OF APOCALYPSE storyline but don’t get the two series confused. This new reality doesn’t have a one-handed Wolverine, a tyrannical dictator, or a bunch of dead X-Men (well, actually it does have that last one).
X-Man made the “perfect” world at the end of UNCANNY X-MEN #10 but is it really all that perfect? True, it doesn’t look like Apocalypse has been ruling it for the last decade but, as AGE OF X-MEN ALPHA #1 shows us, more sinister, and less noticeable, ailments plague this place. Artist Ramon Rosanas brings us to a version of the 1950s where “anti-love” organizations and questionable figureheads run the world. Sort of sounds like a reality that we all know, huh?
Mutantkind for All
In the first few pages of AGE OF X-MEN ALPHA #1, it seems like the displaced X-Men are on our side. They’re disoriented, but only slightly, which is our first clue that things are really on the wrong path. Five pages later, and the X-Men we know and love are gone, replaced with new versions of themselves who remember (seemingly) nothing of their past.
X-Man’s tour around the Summers Institute reveals a striking new world, where scientists and “nurses” breed new mutants via test tubes in “hatcheries.” Everyone on the planet is a mutant and, for the most part, things seem pretty peaceful. Well, besides all the blatant hatred. Jean Grey and Bishop’s blooming relationship corrupt the “natural order” of things according to the aptly named X-Tremists. In this world, it seems like people cannot be in relationships since all children are born from test tubes, where scientists can ensure the presence of an X-Gene. They wipe Jean’s mind of Bishop and throw Lucas in jail. So much for paradise.
Dissecting X-Man’s World
I already know what tons of readers will be saying about AGE OF X-MEN ALPHA #1. They’ll be complaining about how similar it is to HOUSE OF M (which it honestly kind of is) and how it’s just an AGE OF APOCALYPSE 2.0 (which is also partially true). They’re going to think those are negatives, but I’m not so sure. See, AGE OF APOCALYPSE and HOUSE OF M were hugely successful, both for Marvel as a company and for readers who love a good story. It’s pretty simple: alternate realities are fun, especially when they get as complex as X-Man’s.
In recent years, DC began pumping out alternate reality series that did not affect the current timeline (DC BOMBSHELLS, GOTHAM GARAGE, etc.). People loved these and, honestly, I did too. They allow characters to experience things they cannot experience during your regularly scheduled programming.
Iceman is one of the X-Tremists? X-23 has a mohawk? Jean Grey is in a forbidden relationship with Bishop? Since we’re in an alternate reality, bring it on.
Playing with Politics
I’m certain Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler had a lot of fun writing AGE OF X-MEN ALPHA #1. Each page makes you think two things at once and rarely does a true answer come to light. At first, I assumed Bishop and Jean had to keep their romance a secret because this reality is a pseudo version of the 1950s and…racism. The last page of the issue, with the haunting message from Apocalypse that it’s “Okay to love” made me rethink things. I realized that this all-mutant world wasn’t racist (well, they probably still are, honestly), they were anti-love. X-Man and his goons became so obsessed with keeping the world Homo Sapien free that they didn’t allow for natural pregnancies to occur. Anyone caught doing the deed got an automatic jail sentence.
This idea immediately brought up a host of other ideas that were a little more relevant to our current day and age; anti-gay policies, anti-abortion policies, and pushes for “designer babies” all came to mind. Nadler and Thompson probably packed a little too much into this issue, but they were still able to get their point across loud and clear. When it comes to mutants, everything that we as people of the Earth (the real Earth) experience can become a part of a larger metaphor. No subject is off-limits. That’s scary and comforting at the same time.
No other artist could have illustrated AGE OF X-MEN ALPHA #1. I truly believe Ramon Rosanas was born for this role (okay, slightly overdramatic, but you get the point). His sparse but realistic style screams 1950s without being too much. His mastery of physical interiors (which artists frequently ignore in comics) is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Every figure, every pose, every expression — they are all spot on. Now, all we need is an entire AGE OF X-MAN ALPHA series where Rosanas illustrates. Marvel, are you listening?
Colorist Triona Farrell picked a spectacular palette, full of lush oranges, greens, and blues. Like Rosanas, Farrell was mindful of the era X-Man’s reality replicates. At points, I felt like I was taking a terrifying step backward in time.
Final Thoughts on AGE OF X-MAN ALPHA #1
Nadler and Thompson are creating a world that readers will remember years after its conclusion. On the surface, it’s an entertaining read about an unfamiliar world. Layers down, Nadler and Thompson are unwrapping some of today’s unanswerable questions. At parts, AGE OF X-MAN ALPHA #1 became hard to read because of this. Sometimes, seeing big issues that most of us (myself included) enjoy ignoring spelled out so blatantly can be uncomfortable. Don’t let that stop you from picking up this issue and digging into it. While I can’t yet speak for the other series in the AGE OF X-MAN event, this first issue is special.