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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5

For comic book fans, Wednesdays are basically our weekly holy days. It’s the day when we take a moment to stop obsessing over the latest casting rumors for the MCU and just enjoy a stack of new comics. After all, superhero movies wouldn’t be the multi-billion dollar draw they are without these comics.

The over-arching narrative of superhero comics is powerful. They embody the best parts of the classic hero’s journey that often finds their way into our most iconic stories. They can inspire, as well as guide people down a particular path. In “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5,” however, someone finds a way to weaponize that narrative.

For the past several months, the X-Men comics have undergone a strange, yet colorful upheaval. Nate Grey, an overpowered mutant capable of warping reality on a level that makes “The Matrix” look lazy, basically lost his mind and decided to go out with a bang. That bang involved taking nearly every major X-Men character with him and putting them in an entirely new reality with an entirely different history.

On the surface, it’s a utopia. Granted, love and intimacy are outlawed, but there are no mutant internment camps so that counts as an upgrade for the X-men. Everyone lives in peace and the X-Men aren’t just celebrated. They’re basically real-life holy figures. There are no more killer robots to fight or extinctions to avoid. They basically won.

However, that’s just the primary narrative of this world. That finally starts to unravel in “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5.”

Since the whole Age of X-Man story began, Nate Grey has basically been the architect of his own world. He’s built the society, crafted its history, and completely changed the life story of every individual. This isn’t just another case of wiping someone’s mind to think they once dated Taylor Swift. This is an entirely new world, but to the X-Men, it’s the only world they’ve always known.

This huge gut-punch to reality isn’t something Nate did out of malice. Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler establish from the beginning that Nate’s intentions are good, albeit tragic. There’s never a sense that he created this world for selfish reasons. He genuinely believes that this world is one in which mutants can live in peace and everyone he loves can be happy.

Even his power and the narratives he weaves around them have limits, though. While investigating the murder of Moneta, the X-Men finally uncover unambiguous clues as to just how much Nate has been manipulating things. The signs have been there throughout the Age of X-Man story, but now there’s no avoiding the truth. They know the story he’s trying to tell and the lies he’s using to tell it.

When Nate wrote the history of this world, he did so knowing that it wasn’t enough to make everyone happy. Even in a world without killer robots or convoluted movie rights, people need something to strive for. That means it’s not enough to give the heroes a good story. He has to give the villains a story, as well.

That means that even Apocalypse, Nate’s biggest enemy, has to be part of this narrative. His role is very different from the murder-happy social Darwinist he’s always been, but he still acts as this powerful threat to this utopian world. He makes the X-Men necessary and creates discord that requires more than just fighting.

Even as Thompson and Nadler finally peel back the curtain, Nate’s efforts to maintain this narrative never waiver. In some parts of the issue, Nate acts as the narrator, trying to justify the story of this world. There’s still no mustache-twirling evil in his story, but it’s clear there are a few plot holes that he just can’t plug.

Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5” isn’t entirely built around the X-Men uncovering the truth. There’s no existential crisis or mental breakdown upon learning the truth. Instead, there’s a sense of anger and betrayal. Nate isn’t just some unhinged, overpowered mutant. He’s their friend. He’s family. To them, he was a hero before he tried telling this bigger story.

In many respects, that’s what has made Age of X-Man such an engaging story. “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5” effectively doubles down on the tragic elements of that story. This is very different from the Scarlet Witch going crazy and committing mass genocide. Nate comes off as disturbingly sane as he tries to protect and maintain this world that he’s created.

In any superhero narrative, intentions matter. Villains, by definition, tend to have selfish and destructive motives. By that standard, Nate is not a villain. He is certainly misguided, though. The extend of just how misguided he is finally plays out in “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5.”

For many of the characters involved, especially characters like Jean Grey, Storm, and Nightcrawler, it’s devastating in ways that go beyond having their lives manipulated. Nate Grey is their friend. He’s helped them in the past. Hell, he goes by the code-name, X-Man. He’s supposed to embody the best aspects of who they are.

Now, they have to take him down. After learning about what he did and how much he warped their lives, the X-Men have to be the ones to end Nate’s story. It’s tragic, but fitting. In terms of ending a story, though, that can be a potent combination.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Age Of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #1

Every Wednesday brings comic book fans a set of new, colorful adventures in a gloriously literal way. Whether you’re a fan of superheroes, fairy tales, zombie apocalypses, or beautiful warrior women in chain mail bikinis, there’s something for everyone. Within that diverse collection of awesome, some books stand out more than others.

This week, it was genuinely difficult to single one comic out for my weekly quick pick. Every comic tries to stand out these days in some form or another. However, in that noble effort, the one comic I feel succeeded most was “Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler #1.”

It’s somewhat tricky picking a book that’s just a mini-series that’s meant to tie into a larger ongoing event, namely “Age of X-Man.” Anyone who follows comics, especially superhero comics that seem to have major event books every other month, knows that tie-in comics are often hit-or-miss. Most are misses, but “Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler #1” is definitely one of those rare hits.

You don’t have to know everything about what’s going on with “Age of X-Man” and why the mutants of the Marvel universe are living in a world where giant robots aren’t trying to kill them. All you need to know is that the X-men now live in an alternate universe where mutants are celebrated, idolized, and respected. Thanks to the reality-warping power of Nate Grey, Charles Xavier’s dream isn’t necessary anymore.

Within that Utopian world, don’t just live in peace. They’ll full-fledged celebrities. Among the celebrities of that world, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner is at the top. He’s basically this world’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Pratt, and Hugh Jackman, all rolled into one. Considering how often his story revolves around people being afraid of his appearance, it’s a huge shift.

This isn’t a Nightcrawler who constantly runs from angry protesters who think he’s a demon in need of an exorcist. He’s an A-list celebrity, complete with managers, directors, fans, and a slight detachment from reality. I say slight because the story that transpires in “Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler #1” feels like something only a celebrity can experience.

Writer, Seanan McGuire, is both coy and cunning in how she explores Nightcrawler’s life in this world. She even borrows from some of the dystopian imagery of the famous Age of Apocalypse story-line that was so iconic for the 90s era X-men. In this world, those dystopian fears aren’t an ever-present concern for the X-men. They’re just fodder for a movie.

In that world, Nightcrawler isn’t overly concerned about mutants being hunted and oppressed. For him, it’s a huge change of pace because in many of the X-men’s struggles, he finds himself on the front line of those conflicts. Look no further than stories like God Loves, Man Kills to see why he’s often the face of those conflicts.

In a sense, Nightcrawler is one of those mutants who has nothing to lose by fighting alongside the X-men. Even if mutants were outlawed and hunted, some of the more normal-looking mutants could escape easily and hide their status. He can’t do that because of his appearance. While that hasn’t stopped plenty of women from finding him sexy, it does define a big part of his character.

In “Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler #1,” the script is completely flipped. Now, Nightcrawler has everything to lose. He’s a beloved celebrity. Throughout the story, we see that he handles celebrity better than most. He’s not quite on the same level as Tom Hanks, but he’s close.

By every measure, Nightcrawler has everything going for him in this world. However, McGuire drops plenty of subtle hints that there’s something missing from his charmed life. Both his actions and his inner monologues send the distinct message that there’s something missing from his life and it can’t be filled with a prescription.

It’s the kind of struggle that many celebrities deal with. They can have everything, but still feel empty inside. It’s part of what leads them to engage in self-destructive behavior. While Nightcrwaler is no Bojack Horseman, what he ends up doing could cost him dearly. Those who read “Age of X-Man” understand those stakes.

This is one of those rare books that portray an iconic character in a new way. Nightcrawler has always been one of the most likable, endearing characters in the X-men, if not all of Marvel comics. In a world where characters kill their own children, marry clones of their dead girlfriend, and inadvertently kill 5 billion aliens, Nightcrawler is a breath of fresh air.

For once, he’s in a position where he can make mistakes and lose more than just his place on a superhero team. He’s one of those characters who, through a mix of charisma and faith, always seems to do the right thing on instinct. Now, here he is, in a position to make big mistakes that cost him dearly.

It’s an intriguing story that puts a beloved character in an unfamiliar situation. If you’re a Nightcrawler fan, a casual X-men fan, or just think blue fur is sexy, “Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler #1” checks all the right boxes. Even if you’re just curious about what happens to superheroes in a non-dystopian world, this comic has a lot going for it.

While it’s unlikely that this utopian world will last indefinitely, it’s still interesting to see how certain characters handle themselves in such a world. So much of what defines them is a result of them always having to struggle. By living in a world where all is good, we find out who they really are. Nightcrawler is still lovable, but in the world of Age of X-Man, he’s got way more to lose than most.

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