Um, it’s really hard to write a ‘review’ of this book.
It’s hard to write a review when you don’t really even know what’s going on yet. It’ll be difficult to tell whether this particular book is great or not until we can look back at it later on, after more of the story has unfolded.
So this isn’t really a ‘review’, but just some notes.
Thinking back to Age of Apocalypse Alpha (over 20 years ago) – the book that introduced us young enthusiasts into the dystopian Age of Apocalypse reality – it wasn’t as uncertain and confusing as Age of X-Man: Alpha is.
As I recall, it was a little easier to understand what was going on back then, wasn’t it? Or maybe that’s just something I think with the benefit of much hindsight.
Either way, that’s not a comment on how good or bad Age of X-Man: Alpha is: it’s just that it’s a tricky book to get your head around and kind of feels as inconclusive and ambiguous at this stage as an episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return.
What we know already, of course, is that the X-Men have been channelled into an alternate reality: (almost) all mutants have been erased from ‘our’ reality and have been moved into this parallel reality, where it is *only* mutants.
The rest is a complex riddle that we will have to allow some time to present itself.
What we can see at the moment is that the X-Men – or some iteration of the X-Men – exists in this reality, including Magneto, Jean, Ororo, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and a few others (led by X-Man). We also see that there’s something going on with people’s memories or minds, though it’s not entirely clear what.
Other than that, a few tidbits are thrown in here to make us wonder: Bishop talks about being the only one to think about the past while everyone else is only focused on the future, Nightcrawler is a movie star (!), and a child named Luna causes a big incident early on (Luna Maximoff, we assume?).
In the strangest moment, and the only real plot-point, Bishop and Jean make out and then sleep together – which for some reason prompts Bishop to be visited by some kind of enforcement team, who talk about love or relationships being forbidden. Bishop is ‘ex-communicated’: which, in effect, seems to mean transported to a prison somewhere (this is the basis, I guess, for the Prisoner X title – one of the books of this Age of X-Man saga).
Meanwhile, there’s a reference to Jean being ‘reconditioned’ – and we later see Jean appearing to have no memory of her encounter with Bishop.
We also apparently see Bishop replaced by Laura Kinney, but with no one seeming to recognise that Bishop was ever one of their team in the first place.
Clearly, it seems like someone is responsible for continously ‘conditioning’ the perceptions of everyone in this reality: though it’s not clear who or why.
We end with our first glimpse that Apocalypse exists in this reality too, as the X-Men come across a weird ‘revolutionary’ poster of Apocalypse, with the words ‘It’s Okay to Love’.
This is all pretty weird. But I guess mystery and ambiguity is deliberate at this point: we’re being thrown into a world we don’t really understand yet, and we’ll have to wait to learn more as we go along. At this point, it’s hard to love or hate what we’re getting here: because it’s so dependent on what’s yet to come.
What I do really, really like about the way we’re introduced to this world is the visual and tonal style. Visually, it feels – from the start – partly very retro, but also partly very unreal or surreal somehow.
Which is no doubt a deliberate style. It perfectly matches the opening text as well, which talks about ‘the age of perfection’ – we’re entering a supposedly ‘perfect’, idyllic world, though we’re supposed to understand from the very start that there is something wrong with or inauthentic about this ‘age of perfection’. We’re told it’s a golden age, but we’re made to feel in our gut that there’s a serious problem with this paradise beneath the rosy surface.
The fact that the visual tone really reflects this so well is a real credit to both Ramon Rosanas‘s art and also largely to Triona Farrell‘s very adept colors, which somehow go a long way to evoke this dream-like, mind-control-experiment-style juxtaposition.
In summary, Age of X-Man Alpha is an interesting start: and interesting mystery box. How good it is in the long-term will depend entirely on what follows.