WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Age of X-Man Alpha #1, by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, Ramon Rosanas, Triona Farrell and Calyton Cowles, on sale now.
While the precise nature of the “Age of X-Man’s” world isn’t totally clear there are a few things we do know. Perhaps most importantly is how the reality was birthed. It started after the unimaginably-powerful telepath Nate Grey, who used to be the hero called X-Man, wiped out dozens of X-Men during his misguided attempt to turn Earth into a mutant utopia.
Instead of finding themselves bruised and bloody from their brutal battle with X-Man, Jean Grey, Storm, Magneto and most of Marvel’s other mutants wake up a strange new world in Age of X-Man Alpha #1.
As the inside cover to the issue states, the “Age of X-Man” takes place on a “perfect world,” one where everyone is a mutant with their own special powers and abilities. While this issue makes it clear that there’s something more sinister bubbling underneath the world’s veneer, it does seem pretty nice at a glance. After all, here the X-Men are trusted and celebrated figures in a world that’s described as “a dream made real.”
Given the title of the crossover, the dreams of Nate Grey are almost certainly the driving force behind the “Age of X-Man,” and so the world reflects the life and ideals of its apparent creator in several subtle, and not so subtle, ways.
To make a very long story short, Nate Grey hails from the Age of Apocalypse, an alternate reality ruled by the villain Apocalypse where Charles Xavier died before he ever formed the X-Men. A few months after debuting in Jeph Loeb and Steve Skroce’s X-Man #1, Nate was thrown into the main Marvel Universe, where he’s since operated as a solo hero and an occasional X-Men ally.
In the dystopian Age of Apocalypse, the mad scientist Mister Sinister used genetic material of Cyclops and Phoenix to create Nate, who could potentially be strong enough to defeat Apocalypse. As Terry Kavanagh and Roger Cruz detailed during a flashback in 1997’s X-Man #-1, Nate first emerged as an adolescent boy who struggled to control his already considerable mutant powers in the cold confines of Sinister’s lab.
Much like Nate, every mutant in the Age of X-Man appears to be a genetically-engineered creation. In a world where relationships are forbidden, this issue explicitly indicates that mutants reproduce through “natal solutions.”
Where Nate struggled to control his powers with guidance from the wandering mutant Forge in his world, the Age of X-Man has comprehensive support systems like the Summers Institiute that teach young mutants how to understand and control their new powers.
Beyond the unusual circumstances of his birth, X-Man has always been an outsider to the wider world of the X-Men, especially in the Marvel Universe.
Outside of the occasional team-up with Cable, his alternate reality counterpart, and a brief stint with the New Mutants, Nate hasn’t always been a big part of the X-Men’s world. While Cyclops and Phoenix are fairly close to their other two children from alternate realities, they’ve been largely absent from Nate’s life, and Jean told Nate as much during their recent psychic confrontation.
But in the Age of X-Man, Nate is the ultimate X-Men insider. In this world, Nate was a founding member of the team and appears to still serve as one of the group’s core members and leaders.
Instead of being defined by his youth or naiveté, this X-Man appears to be a more paternal figure who explicitly calls himself a “shaman,” and this isn’t the first time he’s used that world to identify himself.