We’ve known since the first AGE OF X-MAN issue that Nate Grey’s utopia wasn’t built to last. It seems like a pretty nice place from the outside looking in, but upon closer inspection, it becomes a totalitarian state, complete with an insane law code and a mind-washing dictator. Yes, most citizens say they’re happy, but are they really? Maybe some of them actually are, but in AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1, we learn that there’s a growing population of dissenters who want to learn how to love.

That’s where the X-Men’s age-old antagonist comes into play: Apocalypse. In a weird twist of fate, he’s the one helping people instead of hurting them. His plans include taking down the X-Men (as expected) and returning the world to its natural, loving state. Writer Tim Seeley and artists Salva Espen and Israel Silva bring us one of the most important AGE OF X-MAN issues yet plot-wise. Although far from perfect, you don’t want to miss AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1!

AGE OF X-MAN Dazzler
AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Sticking it to X-Man in AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1

The main storyline of AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 is pretty simple: people like to love. Those people, armed with a good leader, are willing to protest. Seely creates a sort of pseudo-1960’s forward-thinking “love movement” that promises to dismantle Nate Grey’s individualistic regime. With Apocalypse and his “riders” (a.k.a Kitty, Eye-Boy, and Dazzler) at the helm, the movement is growing, with assemblies popping up all over the city.     

So far, they’ve done their best to stay away from the prying eyes of the X-Tremists police force. However, at the end of the issue, Murshid En Sabah Nur makes it clear that he wants the group to become more unapologetic in their protests.

Building the Movement

This week, Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, Eyeboy, and Genesis all make their first Age of X-Man appearances (check out AGE OF X-MAN: MARVELOUS X-MEN #2 for more from these characters!). This alone makes the issue an interesting one. Seely gives us some Kitty Pryde and Genesis characterization that I wasn’t expecting but, nevertheless, thoroughly enjoyed. We get a feel for Kitty’s motivation as a dissenter (to find “real” love) and Genesis’ desire to become a “Rider” like the other, older protesters.  

AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1
AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This is truly an opening, almost preliminary issue that introduces these “new” characters, their radical political agenda, and their unparalleled dedication to the cause. Beyond that, not a lot happens in terms of plot but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Seeley is laying out the foundation for a strong story by building a comprehensive mood that mimics the nostalgic era of the 1960s. Since all of these AGE OF X-MAN series have multiple issues, that’s a reasonable thing to do.

The dilemma will be if Seeley continues to “lay out the foundation” in future issues. The Age of X-Man isn’t staying around for much longer. Pacing is critical.  

Who is Apocalypse?

Seely does a good job giving quality characterization to most of the characters in this issue. Kitty definitely gets her fair share of meaningful panel time, as does Dazzler. But while these characters unquestionably shine brightly, no one shines quite like En Sabah Nur. Everyone’s favorite grey-skinned bald guy with world-ending powers seems to get quite the upgrade in AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1.

Not only did Marvel name the series after him, Espen gives him a much more human-like appearance than his past iterations. His free love message adds to that humanization, but don’t get Xavier and Nur confused. Seely makes it clear that these two, though similar in a lot of ways, aren’t the same person. Apocalypse has an appealing message, but small fragments of his old, malevolent persona regularly appear throughout the issue.

The fact that he wants Omega Red to join his ranks is suspicious. His followers treat him like an all-powerful god, even though they say “mutant isn’t god” which also seems a little suspect. Similar to Nate, it seems like Apocalypse is trying, but ultimately failing, to be a decent person. I highly doubt Apocalypse will, in the end, be willing to save anyone.

Saturation Overload

So far, the AGE OF X-MAN miniseries has given readers both good and bad art. This week’s AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 seems to fall somewhere in-between. Espen is heavily inspired by cartoons (so it seems) which, in comics, is often times a good thing. Cartoons and comics, after all, go hand-in-hand. The wide eyes and simple expressions the characters sport don’t conflict with the tone of the series, which was my complaint about the art in the AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #1. While not my preferred style (I like things a little more realistic), Espen’s art mirrors the ”free love” movement quite well.

AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 Review
AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

On a similar note, colorist Israel Silva’s palette also matches the tone of the issue. By using a saturated color scheme, Silva emphasizes the notion that Apocalypse’s movement is rooted in the 1960’s cultural era.

AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 Has Me Worried

AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 is good. It doesn’t go quite deep enough into the characters’ minds or the storyline to become “great” (check out AGE OF X-MAN: PRISONER X #1 for that) but it’s still worth a read. After finishing this issue, what I liked most about it was how worried it made me.

The Age of X-Man world becomes more and more chaotic (and more and more entertaining) as the weeks go on. Apocalypse’s grand entrance into this world means that things are going to start changing fast. Even though it’s a comic book, I feel anxious for the characters. This issue and its impact on the overall Age of X-Man storyline made me feel something. That means, in my book, it’s worth the cover price.

AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1 by Tim Seeley, Salva Espen, and Israel Silva
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Seeley gives Dazzler, Kitty, and Apocalypse exceptional introductions into the Age of X-Man world that any X-Men fan will enjoy reading. Plot-wise, not a lot happens in AGE OF X-MAN: APOCALYPSE AND THE X-TRACTS #1, which is perhaps its biggest drawback. Still, since it's a first issue, Seely concentrating more on world-building isn't much of a problem, especially since he does such a good job with characterization.
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