Comic Book Storytelling: The Age of X-Man is Over

Welcome back to Comic Book Storytelling. There has been a lot going on in the X-Men titles with a number of new series starting. But before we get to that I would like to get one final word in about the Age of X-Man.

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First lets recap how the Age of X-Man came to be. In the X-Men Disassembled story Nate Grey is going to die from some ill defined terminal condition and wants to make the world a better place before his demise. He goes about this in the most pretentious and selfish way possible forcing the X-Men to oppose him. At the end of the story it appears all of the X-Men died fighting him. Well not all the X-Men several remain and join up with Cyclops in the current Uncanny X-Men series but we can talk about that another time.

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Of course the X-Men did not all die and we learn they are now living in some kind of new utopia with no real memory of how they got there. This world is lead by Nate Grey the X-Man who is obviously manipulating everyone. It seems emotional connections are illegal in this world and people having relationships are erased from everyone’s memory and sent to a secret prison. In Nate Grey’s perfect world no conflict of any kind is allowed, so everyone has to live alone in private isolated houses and being part of a family is considered perverse.

I read several of the tie in mini series and together they give a pretty good overview of how Nate Grey’s utopia works and why it was doomed to fail.

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In the Amazing Nightcrawler we see that this utopia still has a thriving film industry and Kurt Wagner is a movie star. He is also in an illegal relationship with his movie co-star and old Excalibur teammate Meggan. In fact we learn that they have a child together that Nightcrawler does not remember because the Stepford Cuckoos keep erasing his memory.

The Stepford Cuckoos are a group of identical mutant sisters who can link up their minds to increase their telepathic powers. The very essence of their power depends on them being family and they live in a “utopia” where having a family is a crime. They wanted to protect themselves and Nightcrawler and Meggan’s daughter so they give him the option to have his mind erased again. And he takes it and goes back to his movie star life unaware of what happened. Meggan is replaced by Surge as Nightcrawler’s leading lady.

Also I want to do a brief shout out to Noriko Ashida AKA Surge, she was one of my favorite character from New X-Men (not the Grant Morrison one). Ever since that series ended most of the characters have been in continuity limbo occasionally popping up but never getting to do anything meaningful.

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Next Gen follows some of the teenage x-students that are now attending the new X-Man utopia school. Students are assigned to specific professions instead of getting to choose. However there is a wrinkle in it all. Glob, the skeleton with a pink blob body, remembers the world before the Age of X-Man. For some reason the memory rewriting and erasing does not work on Glob. Glob is able to help others remember what happened before and some teenage rebellion gets underway. Their rebellion fails and they all get sent to the secret prison.

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Like I said relationships are a crime in the Age of X-Man as well as any behavior that might lead to conflict. Bishop gets sent their for having a relationship with Jean Grey. With their memory of all their past connections erased several characters end up in some interesting pairings.

Bishop and the others eventually lead a prison revolt in an effort to escape and make Nate Grey pay for what he has done to the world. It turns out that David Haller AKA Legion is actually the one who keeps the prison. Even the warden is really just another prisoner under Legion’s power. Back in the Disassembled story Legion was actively opposing Nate Grey but after being defeated he seems to have decided he will take what he can get in this new world and maintains the prison. The prisoners manage to disable Legion and escape and go to join the other X-Men.

I’m not going to talk about all the other mini series because I want to keep this article under a certain word count. Here are some highlights. In the X-tremists series the characters are tasked with keeping the laws which means capturing people and teleporting them to prison. Their first case in their series involves finding a pregnant couple. Children are grown in labs now because pregnancy and biological drives are icky and might cause conflict so Nate Grey outlawed them too. The X-tremists don’t know how to deal with a pregnant woman so they chain her up in a basement. The X-tremists take such cruel action because they literally can’t think of a better option. It turns out Nate Grey has even removed the capacity for morality because that could cause conflict too.

Meanwhile in the Marvelous X-Men series several of the main X-Men characters start to remember things from their past that Nate Grey tried to erase. Some of them get rather upset about this and confront him. It is in this confrontation we get our first really interesting revelation about this utopia. The Age of X-Man is not Nate Grey’s ideal world. He looked into everyone’s minds and found their ideas for utopia and basically designed one by committee. Nate Grey tried to create a utopia basically catering to the lowest common denominator and that probably explains why it has so many blind spots and starts falling apart.

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So finally we come to Age of X-man Omega the big finale of the event. I’m going to warn you now the whole things ends up being pretty damn anti-climactic.

Nate Grey’s world is literally coming apart at this point. The characters breaking free and remembering is for some reason causing the Age of X-Man world to destabilize. The X-Men all gather at the same location and many are ready to kick Nate Grey’s ass but others are still confused and conflicted. All of Nate’s lies about the history of the utopia are revealed and he tries to justify all the ways he has manipulated everyone. This would be a great time for the X-Men to call him out one by one on all the ways he is full of crap. But that does not happen. Instead he inadvertently conjures an imaginary version of Dani Moonstar and she calls him out. I guess Nate and Dani had a relationship once. I was never that interested in the New Mutants characters so I don’t keep track of them.

Anyway imaginary Dani calls out Nate but he still insists that his utopia is way better than the regular Marvel Universe for mutants. Even though the entire event has given us multiple examples that Nate has just created another oppressive system that outlaws, abuses, and rejects those that don’t fit in. And he refuses to see that and none of the X-Men call him out on it. In fact as they get their memories back several X-Men start to say maybe Nate Grey has a point after all. It is terrible and I hate it and I don’t even know what this story is going for anymore.

In the last few pages they make up a moral dilemma by suddenly saying that all the people in the Age of X-Man world are real and killing Nate will kill all of them too. I don’t know how they come to this leap but they do. Nate offers them the chance to end the world and return to their old lives but they have to kill him with the Life Seed, a magic pink crystal that comes out of nowhere. The X-Men hesitate because reasons and Magneto volunteers to be the one to do it calling them cowards. And then they don’t kill Nate Grey, the moral dilemma and everything they just said is literally forgotten on the very next page and everyone just gets to go home. So presumably the X-Men are all now back in the regular Marvel Universe who knows if what happened to them in Age of X-Man will matter at all. There is also a brief epilogue where we see Magneto and Nate Grey hanging out in a room floating in an abyss planning to do something vague. Maybe this will mean something later but more likely it will be dropped into continuity limbo and never mentioned again.

The Age of X-Man event actually had a pretty good start but this climax fell so flat I wonder if they even had a plan for the end. I will be checking out some of the new X-Men titles coming out of this and be back with more Comic Book Storytelling.

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