X-Man’s paradise is falling apart, as the cracks in the universe are growing. The Exalted X-Men are trying to figure out what is going on, but X-Man is nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, they’ve just stumbled upon the murder of a member of Department X. Everything is coming to a head as Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5 begins, and the answers aren’t far behind.
The issue opens with a flashback to the past of the Age of X-Man, with the original five X-Men — Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, and X-Man — preparing for a new mission, with X-Man arriving late and being reprimanded by Xavier and Cyclops. Colored in a retro style, this scene is revealed to be a vision brought about by one of the cracks in reality as X-Man realizes that the universe is all wrong.
The scene immediately cuts to the X-Men reaching Moneta’s corpse after she has been mysteriously murdered. After some brief exposition of events in other books, Nature Girl uses her powers to see what Moneta saw right before her death, revealing that En Sabah Nur was created by X-Man to be a villain for the world to unite against. This reveal causes a large amount of tension and discord within the X-Men, which is quickly resolved as they bring Jean Grey into the fold. The issue ends with the X-Men remembering their past lives and confronting Nate, as he reveals that he not only created the universe, he is the universe.
The issue has a lot of heart throughout, and shows a lot of love for the X-Men’s history and the characters involved in the story. Unfortunately, it is also hampered by poor pacing and structure. The entire issue feels incredibly rushed, as even from the beginning Nature Girl’s ability to use bacteria to see a dead person’s final moments comes entirely out of nowhere. Nadler and Thompson do their best to use narration to make it feel natural, but it still feels like it wasn’t established well enough. There is a short bit where Kurt doesn’t believe what Moneta’s last final moments were shown to be, but it is essentially ignored two pages later. There’s a scene where rather than explain the situation to Jean, they have her read all their minds, and it feels very encapsulating of the issue’s pacing as a whole. Where there could be an extra few pages to explain things better, it just feels rushed.
That’s not to say the issue isn’t good, though. The character work for the X-Men themselves is very well-done, as each one of them reacts incredibly in-character once they are able to recall their pasts. Laura especially is clearly distraught over being controlled just like she was in the past, and takes out this frustration on X-Man. Magneto, Storm, Nightcrawler, and the others don’t get too much by way of character moments, though, as they are mostly relegated to pushing the plot forward to get to the ending page.
The reveal at the end is interesting, but ultimately does not provide any satisfactory ending to this miniseries. While it’s true that Nadler and Thompson also wrote the Alpha issue and are writing the Omega issue next month, it feels frustrating that the five-issue miniseries does not stand on its own. At the same time, this is the “main” title of the event, and it is understandable that it would tie the closest to the Alpha and Omega issues, but if anyone just planned on purchasing the Marvelous X-Men title without paying attention to the rest of Age of X-Man, they would not get a complete story.
On the art side, Marco Failla and Matt Milla do excellent work on the issue. The flashback to the original five X-Men is incredibly stylistically different from the rest of the issue, with a more retro pop art style compared to the more standard style of the series as a whole. Milla’s coloring in general allows different scenes to feel distinct, as the flashback to Moneta’s last moments is darker in hue to the murder investigation around it, which itself is darker than the rest of the issue. The layouts throughout are fairly standard, but done well. Characters are incredibly expressive, and as usual the designs are incredible. For the art alone, this issue is worth it.
As a whole, while this is not really a conclusion to the miniseries, it is a solid penultimate chapter to the Age of X-Man. The pacing feels rushed to make up for the slower pace early on, but that doesn’t stop the issue from being enjoyable and informative, giving some answers while leaving enough left to be explained by the big conclusion in the Omega issue.