Sep 17, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 205: X-Man #4, June 1995

Nate Grey, in this incarnation, is one of the few truly lasting vestiges of the Age of Apocalypse, managing a substantial 76-issue (plus annuals) run until his eventual cancellation with the demise of the Counter-X project. While he appears to have made some minor returns to action in latter X-titles, he seems not to have regained the status afforded him by Mr. Sinister, and then himself, as a messianic/shamanic figure for the tribe of the mutant.

This comic makes an interesting argument for something Alan Moore has one of his alternate Supremes note about the 90s avatar of the Man of Majesty. I'm paraphrasing, since I don't have the comic in front of me, but it's something to the effect of being careful of these 90s heroes; their powers are so ill-defined as to be potentially unlimited. This is the sense one gets from Nate Grey. Why is Apocalypse so scared of telepaths? What is it in particular about Nate Grey's combination of telepathy and telekinesis that makes him such a formidable threat. Thus far in the series we've seen little evidence that his powers are any more formidable than any of the other major characters in the crossover. Yes, at the end of this issue, he manages to kill the nigh-unkillable Mr. Sinister, but one is tempted to ascribe this to his rage, not his powers. Perhaps, as we move into X-Men: Omega, and all of the storylines converge, we'll see just what it is that makes Nate not only so deadly an adversary of Apocalypse, but also worthy of transcending the boundaries of the very story he inhabits.

Think about this for just a moment. Bishop is our only holdover from the primary Marvel universe, and this is because, being already time-displaced, the revision wave (to use another Moore-ian notion) did not revise his history. But nowhere else do we see any characterizations from the primary universe, only revisions of characters. And when (if?) Magneto's plan is successful, the revision wave will erase the continuity of the Age of Apocalypse, purging from reality Sinister's experiments that led him to create Nate Grey. We've talked already about how this crossover leaves very few visible scars on the characters, but more than a few on the readership. Nate Grey is the exception (and the Dark Beast, who somehow shows up later on). He is the one scar on reality, the one physical reminder of the revision that led to the Age of Apocalypse, and not only in a narrative sense, but in a metatextual sense as well. The X-titles could very easily have carried on after the crossover no worse for the wear that they were unaware of having experienced for 4 months, much as is the case with so many crossovers. But instead there is a wound, albeit a healing one, that will always remind them of what happened. I'm not sure how much this is taken up in the X-Man series as it continues through into the regular continuity, but in considering Nate's origins and lack of connection to anything in this particular iteration of the universe, it really does make sense that he would take up a pseudo-shamanic role for his community.

With any luck, and considering Marvel's remarkable output in the last little while, he'll get another chance to play that role. I think it might be glorious.

So, with the end of X-Man, we come to the final few issues of the Age of Apocalypse. In my collection, I keep them bagged in groups of 5 or 6, so we have, at most, 6 comics left. Unlike my previous attempts at reading full series, I haven't grown bored with the AoA, probably because there's enough diverse stories and diverse storytellings, but also because the larger tale being told is really pretty epic. And it's asking, through the medium of a 1990s terminally pop culture super hero comic some of the really interesting fundamental ontological questions we really ought to bear in mind more often. I don't know what I'll be moving on to in a week, but I'm going to enjoy seeing how this epic tale plays out. See you tomorrow.

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