You could tell Age of X-Man was gonna be a weird story from the jump. Nate Grey has been a kind of wandering hippie character at times since he ‘ported over from the world from which his story gets its inspiration, the Age of Apocalypse. So it stands to reason he’d try to make a utopian ideal for his mutant brethren when he finally figured out how to put his nearly incalculable power to real use.
But instead of peace and love, X-Man spreads … security and isolation? Leave it to this new world’s TRUE hippie dippie counterculture leader — yes, APOCALYPSE!
He’s found a way to link people’s minds together so they care about the greater good more than the individual. And he’s assembled a bereted, beatnik poet Dazzler, his own juvenile clone, Evan, a starkly plain Kitty Pryde, a psychedelic mist woman named Unveil, and a shades-wearing Eyeboy (nice touch) as his own X-Tracts, a clear play on the Jack Chick Christian tracts meant to influence children.
It’s a crazy mishmash, because Apocalypse has inculcated this mutant cult despite his pretty clear push for … some kind of communism? It’s no wonder, then, that they try to liberate Omega Red to take X-Man down, and in the process punk some scary antagonists from Department X, with Evan finally meeting his destiny in becoming … Captain America?
Now this all sounds wonderfully ribald and delightful, but somehow writer Tim Seeley makes Apocalypse and the X-Tracts the one thing a book with such a bonkers premise should never be — boring. None of the characters really lean into their characterizations, except for a few hepcat cliches from Dazzler. Speaking of which, could there be a more cliched Kitty/Colossus relationship here? And let’s not even get started on the iconography of that “real” artifact she finds.
X-Tracts is further hurt in the same way many event tie-ins are, in that it struggles to carve its own niche in a landscape devised by someone else. Not having read Age of X-Man itself, it seems like this book tries to spread its own wings, only to be hurried back to meet the beats of the main story by issue’s end. And the whole motivation (double) swerve appears to be made up out of whole cloth, without much of a mention anywhere else. It makes this entire narrative seem sort of pointless.
Salva Espin’s more traditional comic art doesn’t really jive with the concept, either. Things look a little too sharp for something meant to be trippy. Israel Silva’s colors make up for that a bit, with the bright hues that poor out of Unveil. He’s pretty good with the darks, too, when the team fights the Siberian and his bleak forces.
Apocalypse and the X-Tracts is an interesting concept, with conflicting ideologies, that gets snookered early on by a lack of commitment to the premise and the very nature of being an event tie-in comic. Seeley tries to dance between the raindrops of continuity, but rather than feeling like we’ve been privileged to see an “untold” story, it’s more like the characters just end up back where they started. A strange interlude in a strange story, but not nearly offbeat enough to be warranted.