Age of X-Man: Alpha #1
Written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Art by Ramon Rosanas and Triona Farrell
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
“Dreams are no different than stories.”
In a roundabout way, Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, and Ramon Rosanas’ Age of X-Man: Alpha is an X-Men-flavored response to Alan Moore’s opening in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” which ends, “this is an imaginary story... aren’t they all?” The weekly Uncanny X-Men event has led us to the "Age of X-Man," but we still have little idea what it represents. That’s scary territory for a comic book readers in an age of solicits and spoilers - we usually have a very good idea of what’s going on. But the same way that Moore’s introduction to that Superman issue revels in the power of imagination and possibility, Thompson and Nadler present the world of "Age of X-Man" with an boundless enthusiasm and excitement that makes it really hard not to be enamored with. And that’s surprising given that they’re tasked with introducing an entire status quo and the setup for multiple miniseries. Of course, they get a big assist from Rosanas and colorist Triona Farrell, who are able to ground the visuals of the book in just enough familiarity that this doesn’t feels like just another multiversal caper - it feels real.
Weighing in at 30 pages, this isn’t a particularly oversized issue, and that’s surprising given the heavy lifting that the writing team has to do here. But they have built the issue out splendidly. A little bit of exposition for the world gives way to a familiar X-Men scene - a new mutant’s powers have manifested and they’re going to check it out. This of course, leads to explanations of the school (in this case, the Summer Institute) and then character interactions that give us an understanding of the upcoming miniseries. I don’t want to give away too much here, as those moments of discovery are really what make this issue sing. Though, my favorite has to be a slow zoom on a character’s eye that ends with a recommendation to check out another book that’s almost chilling. Thompson and Nadler’s horror background certainly comes through, and their ability to tease out the rest of the line has to be commended.
Rosanas and Farrell give a great baseline look for this world, too. Thompson and Nadler are not shy about throwing the kitchen sink at Rosanas, and he really delivers. This is a world populated by mutants and Rosanas leans into the various physical mutations that are possible while still giving us some really iconic looking X-Men. On top of that,these are some of the most fully realized pages that I’ve seen in a Marvel comic book in some time. Rosanas is juggling lots of panels per page, but is still able to deliver on small moments and important expression work with his lush inks. There’s an incredible sense of space in his line work that plays perfectly with Farrell’s coloring. She gives the book a mood that feels immediately familiar but slowly gives way into something more unnerving and anxious.
It’s clear that the "Age of X-Man" is not quite what it seems, and that’s a very good thing. Thompson and Nadler do a great job introducing all the elements that we need to read further as well as helping us understand how they fit into this world. Rosanas and Farrell are excellent at presenting an X-Universe that plays like Pleasantville - idyllic on the outside, but hiding something much more insidious within. There’s no doubt that this is a best-case scenario for the X-line at this point. While this book might not feature stalwarts like Wolverine and Cyclops or seemingly be connected to the prime Marvel Universe, it feels like the X-Men have finally broken the shackles of rote monotony that has defined much of the line over the last few years. Finally, there is some joy to be had with the unknown, and with Age of X-Man: Alpha, Thompson and Nadler have injected some of that joy back into the X-Men.