The Age of X-Man world has been falling apart (slowly but surely) for months now. Finally, in this week’s AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4, that world is in shambles. The X-Tremists — the people who are supposed to keep Nate Grey’s reality running smoothly — are the ones creating the chaos. Reality is officially crumbling.
Writer Leah Williams takes readers deep into Northstar’s mind, where we find a man struggling with memories that are both his own and, at the same time, completely foreign. Williams spins a surprisingly thought-provoking issue with some of the best narration I’ve ever seen in a comic book. In some ways, AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4 reads less like just another installment in the bland Age of X-Man and more like a beautifully rendered Northstar character analysis. Even with Georges Jeanty’s subpar artwork, this issue still shines amid a storyline that rarely fails to disappoint.
Northstar’s Journey in AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4
Each issue of AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS focuses on one of the X-Tremists members. Betsy and Blob took the past two issues, and Williams did an amazing job crafting their relationship and getting readers to believe in their plight. I was a little worried that Williams wouldn’t be able to do Northstar justice in his spotlight issue but, thankfully, this issue proved me wrong. Williams knows Northstar. She knows where he’s coming from, what he’s afraid of, and how he would react in almost every situation.
Honestly, not a lot physically happens in this issue. Northstar and Iceman go to an old movie theater to arrest their friend Rictor. Instead of arresting him, they hang out together on the roof and get drunk. At the end of the night, Northstar finally remembers his real past (and his husband) just as Jubilee remembers her son. The final page shows a budding riot.
The plot seems thin but emotionally, AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4 is heavy (in a good way). Williams pushes her readers to see Northstar as a rounded character, with both good and bad traits. He can be a nasty person, but he’s also constantly struggling with understanding his powers and his feelings of attraction. Beneath the skin, he’s boiling. It’s interesting because, in past issues, Northstar’s felt a little flat. He fit the role of “silent asshole” pretty well. But, in AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4, Williams manages to show her readers that the way someone portrays themselves rarely aligns with how they are feeling inside.
Do you love action in comics? If you do, AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4 is nowhere near the kind of comic you should be reading. Williams has way too much to say to make a comic that’s all about action. For some readers (myself included), that’s a good thing. For others, it might be a little disappointing.
The Age of X-Man, in general, has been lacking when it comes to action. This might be why droves of X-Men fans have abandoned it completely. I often times feel like action scenes are filler scenes, but I’ll be the first to admit that the Age of X-Man needs a little action. Northstar’s characterization is near perfection in AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4. But is that enough to make the issue enjoyable for all readers? Even the ones who really like action scenes?
Although I’m glad Williams focused on characterization with this miniseries, I still understand those who find it a little too philosophical. This comic is heavy with emotional dialogue and figurative language. If you don’t have an English degree (and don’t want one), AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4 might be a little too fluffy.
For Children Only?
Art is a “make or break” thing in comic books. A comic can become a best seller because of its art or it can hit the bottom of the bargain box because of its art. With this issue, I unfortunately predict the latter. Jeanty just isn’t cut out for a series as serious as AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS. His style is naturally very childlike, with simply rendered characters that have oversized eyes and big heads. For a tale about the inner workings of a mildly corrupt police force called “the X-Tremists,” I don’t think I should be able to describe the artwork as “childish.” Very few of the panels struck me as appropriate for Williams’ writing and many of them felt incongruous. Considering how great Williams’ writing is, this is a big shame.
As for the colorist, Jim Charalampidis, I have slightly different opinions. The palette is considerably less saturated than previous issues. It has that needed darkness that the past three issues didn’t have. Although the art still disappoints, Charalampidis manages to keep this issue afloat through wise color choices.
AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4 is for the Heavy-Hearted
AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #4 is all about the feels. Williams knows how to make her readers crank up their emotional capacities via some intense narrative sequences. If that’s not something you like to see in your comics, you might want to stick with UNCANNY X-MEN.