If you thought that with the original five time-displaced X-Men back where they belong, Magneto reverting to his villainous ways, the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men and the announcement of two recently deceased heavy-hitters crawling back from the grave, X-Men comics would start to shape up into something more familiar, you'd be wrong.
To be fair, while there were aspects of the "Disassembled" story arc that were enjoyable, the first ten issues of Uncanny didn’t exactly have me chomping at the bit for Age of X-Man to unfold. It had seemed the hope of having the X-Men roster streamlined and the flagship title getting back to basics in terms of facing an oppressive world and battling over-the-top villains had been dashed to bits, especially after the cancellation of the brilliant X-Men: Red.
Age of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #1 hasn’t exactly altered my excitement level, but it has piqued my interest, even more so than the previous installment, Age of X-Men: Alpha, which was actually pretty solid. The closest analog to this comic might be the last season of the television series Lost, in which the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 found themselves in a different reality, divorced of their experiences on the physics-defying island they had called home as, slowly, the splintered dimensions started to bleed into one another. To avoid getting into spoiler territory, we'll just say that the window of what so many mutants in The Marvelous X-Men #1 once knew to be the norm has, by the end of the issue, begun to crack open ever so slightly.
Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson's script handles the mundane life of this new mutant utopia well. The X-Men operate in a similar fashion to what we're all used to, but they seem to cast a wider net in their heroic actions, which propels them to levels they had never really seen. In the world of The Marvelous X-Men, there is no discrimination against mutants (at least, ostensibly), and those who oppose the the ruling mutants are spoken about in hushed tones. Whatever seed of corruption is lurking in the shadows exists at the peripherals. But the scope is widening, revealing all is not what it seems.
Nadler and Thompson are wise not to put everything up front. They clearly want readers to become accustomed to this new reality before ripping the rug right out from under them. The action scenes as depicted by Marco Failla are good, but by no means groundbreaking (however, seeing Nature Girl riding a bear is pretty awesome). It's the workman like quality of the storytelling, from script to art, that forces the reader to lower their defenses, but the creative team inject just enough doubt and "wait, what's that all about?" moments throughout the issue to hint at the truth behind the facade.
Though not flashy, Failla's artwork works really well. Nothing leaps off the page, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. This comic is clearly trying to create a sense of normalcy in a world which is anything but. The line work is crisp and Matt Milla's colors are bold but not over-the-top, which adds to the cookie cutter vibe this comic is intentionally giving off. The visual style hearkens back to silver age comics to some degree, which feels appropriate. This is a world that should be less complicated than ours, and the art tries to convey this. One panel in particular, early on in the issue, is absolutely perfect. The X-Men are being called to a situation room to react to an emergency, and as they all head to their meeting location, they jog single file across a great room. The framing of the panel almost has a Wes Anderson tone in how twee it is. Seeing these heroes job like a bunch of kids late for class is insanely endearing.
Age of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #1 is not going to necessarily change anyone's mind about the current state of X-Men comics, but it does hint at larger conspiracy that could turn out be rather intriguing. The art and script are tight, and while some of the narration can feel a touch tedious, this is a book work your time, especially if you're looking for something outside the realm of familiarity when it comes to X-Men comics.