Out of the ashes of “Uncanny X-Men: Disassembled” comes… something really strange. By either regular “X-Men” standards or even their alternate universe stories. “The Marvelous X-Men” collection makes up the spine of the “Age of X-Man” event as it collects the title miniseries, as well as the “Alpha” and “Omega” issues that kick it off and wrap it up, respectively. What’s unique about “The Age of X-Man” is that it doesn’t involve the X-Men fighting against some threat to their very existence. No, it merely seeks to show what happens when they’re given what they want and then poses this question to them, “Are you happy with it?”
“The Age of X-Man” is one where mutants are celebrated for their abilities and none more so than the X-Men. The guardians of this glorious world -- Jean Grey, Magneto, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Nature Girl, and X-Man -- are all living their best lives as they protect people from natural crises and help young mutants come to grips with their powers. It’s work that they’re all fulfilled by and something they can reflect on by themselves as they go home each night. Alone.
That’s because in this “Age of X-Man” love and relationships are forbidden. They’re seen as bringing out the worst in other people and there’s even a secret police, Division X, that’s always on the lookout for offenders. Most everyone is okay with this, but there are rebels like Apocalypse and his followers who are fighting for the right to love who they want whenever they want.
Yes, you read that right. Apocalypse is the villain here and his ultimate goal isn’t “Survival of the Fittest” but “Free Love.” While he shows up a couple times in “Marvelous X-Men” due to his status as an antagonist, he’s not the real threat here. That’s because as great as this world is, it’s coming apart at the seams and that’s bad news for everyone who’s currently in it.
What we’ve got here is a superhero story that features remarkably little superhero action. They may break out their powers to stop a forest fire, but the biggest test of their ability comes when Apocalypse spurs an outbreak of rampant affection in London during Xavier Day! It’s brazenly absurd moments like this that endeared the series and overall concept to me. The world that writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler may be a little ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination, yet they treat it with enough seriousness and self-awareness that you’re willing to go along with what they’re doing.
That’s good because the majority of the story in “Marvelous X-Men” involves the main cast slowly coming around to their previous lives. As the world breaks down around them, their memories start coming back and it becomes clear where this is going to go. If it ever wasn’t because anyone reading this knew that the story was going to end with everyone going back to the “real” Marvel Universe.
Still, I liked the absurdity on display and it was refreshing seeing the X-Men in a world that loved and cherished them for once. Thompson and Nadler also deliver some interesting twists in the wrap-up “Omega” issue. While the prohibitions against love and relationships in “Age of X-Man” ostensibly sprung from how the title character was born an isolated clone, they can also be read as a meta-commentary regarding “X-Men’s” long history of soap opera dynamics. While that kind of drama has been a cornerstone of the franchise for years, it’s not hard to read some of Nate’s dialogue in the final issue and think that he’s got a point. Imagine what they could do if they finally got past all of that drama.
It also looks nice too, relatively speaking. Ramon Rosanas gives the event’s “Alpha” issue a really classy “Norman Rockwell” look that’s wholly appropriate while looking quite sharp too. Marco Fallia handles the main miniseries and delivers some serviceable yet bright work. It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done. Meanwhile, Simone Buonfantino handles the finale in “Omega” and his work is just okay. The story is conveyed well enough, but it lacks real style or any other memorable qualities.
Then you’ve got those final pages, which… I was not expecting to see. Ahead of Jonathan Hickman’s “X-Men” relaunch, the current run of “Uncanny” and “Age of X-Man” have had the feel of glorified, deck-clearing, filler projects. Hey, they needed to do SOMETHING while the writer got things ready, so why not a weirdo throwback to “The Age of Apocalypse?” So imagine my surprise when I got to those final pages and found out that “The Age of X-Man” might not be over quite yet. Yes, I know that comics are loath to give up any half-successful concept in this day and age, but I’d actually be interested in seeing what they do with the setup implied here.
I’ll admit that my affection for this story could be down to the fact that it does something different with the “X-Men.” An alternate universe where everything’s going right for the cast? I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve read a story with these characters that was like that. That goes a long way for me, to the point where I can forgive the somewhat predictable execution. So is it really worth reading? Ultimately I think so, and if you’ve got any questions about why I would think so, the best way to show that is to…