Age of X-Man: Apocalypse & the X-Tracts #1
Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Salva Espin and Israel Silva
Lettered by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
A lot of the fun of "Age of X-Man" has been seeing characters thrown into a new status quo and having the writers show us this reimagined utopia might not be all that it seems.
Tim Seeley gets to do this with Apocalypse and a cadre of of mutants reimagined as a sort of hippie love cult/Warholian factory - repositioning En Sabah Nur as a Professor X-type for outcast mutants. It’s a decent setup and one that expands the "Age of X-Man" beyond the little bits we’ve seen in other titles in a couple of meaningful ways. But inconsistent art and design flourishes hold this series back, as Salva Espin struggles with balancing his style and the tone of the book to create a really cohesive product.
Espin is an artist who relies heavily on the visual signifiers that are practically omnipresent in superhero comic books. Iconic costumes and character models play well to his design sensibilities because he has a much simpler, more rounded style than a lot of other artists working in cape comics today. When he’s at his best, he looks like early David LaFuente, but still lacks a bit of the charming acting and expressions that made LaFuente’s work sing. Throughout this issue, characters seem to hold some combination of three expressions: mouth slightly agape, a dead stare, or eyes wide with surprise. And with Apocalypse laying on the exposition pretty thick, that puts a barrier up in getting to know the versions of the characters presented here. It also makes the book feel really bland, with the more psychedelic design elements and colors by Israel Silva feeling more like window dressing than a meaningful and intentional part of the story.
Meanwhile, Seeley dives into the story with the kind of opening narration that we are historically used to seeing from X-Men book, and it’s a nice touch. It definitely gives the book the feel that he’s going for in making Apocalypse’s side more familiar to readers than the more fascistic X-Men we’ve seen in this event. But like a lot of the other "Age of X-Man" tie-ins, we have yet to really scratch the surface of this world. There’s a lot of exposition work done here that is either really enthralling or completely dead in the water, with little room for middle ground. That said, if you’re reading the rest of these limited series it does smooth things out a bit. (I enjoyed this issue a lot more after reading Marvelous X-Men #2, for instance.)
Marvel’s publishing schedule is probably betraying the intent of the "Age of X-Man" as an event so far. The amount of time between issues even though content has been coming out weekly kind of obscures certain connections and the propulsion of this story as a whole. Seeley gets to do a little more than some of his fellow writers in that he’s giving us almost entirely new information rather retracing details that we’re at least somewhat familiar with. But Espin’s artwork isn’t consistently the best fit, and the psychedelic angle feels more like a gimmick that a meaningful part of the story at this juncture. It’s issues like this one and last week’s Prisoner X that can easily make the case for trade-waiting this event.