Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #4 // Review
Restlessness grows in a prison for superhuman mutants. It’s nothing out of the ordinary until the warden starts to question what exactly it is that’s going on as everyone else questions what reality is. The Age of X-Man explodes behind bars in the penultimate issue of Prisoner X. Writer Vita Ayala brings dramatic combustion to the page with the aid of artist Germán Peralta in an issue colored by Mike Spicer. It takes the mini-series the better part of four issues to get to a big, final breaking point. The payoff in the combustion at issue’s end more than justifies slow and restless rising tension that’s been going on all year.
Bishop is having a conversation with Warden Forge in solitary confinement. Forge knows that the world they’re in isn’t right, but he needs to believe that it is to justify everything his life has been. Frustrated by the state of things, Bishop makes one last effort to openly address phantom memories of a world outside of apparent reality. Everyone laughs at him, but there’s something more than foolish complacency lurking around the edges of the prison that threatens to break down the fundamental order of the prison.
Ayala’s plot arc for this penultimate issue has a very clean momentum to it. Bishop’s frustration with the state of things is built-up slowly in a few scenes in the first half of the issue. The aggression spills throughout the second half. The tense drama of the first half lights a few charges of anger in the second half that explodes into total chaos. Ayala had laid the proper foreshadowing in earlier issues with Polaris’ silent power. At mid-issue she’s openly talking about the false reality they’re all being fed. Then things explode. It’s a really satisfying approach.
Peralta and Spicer are allowed to contrast static dramatic tension against aggressive, violent action. Though the contrast isn’t nearly as powerful as it could have been, the oppressive stillness of the first half of the issue DOES allow the action in the second half to feel like a release. Aggression detonates in a few powerful panels, but the sincere bewilderment of a system totally breaking down doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as it could have been at issue’s end. At the center of it all, Bishop and Polaris are given a great deal of impact by Peralta and Spicer. Their dormant frustration is given a few powerful close-ups throughout the first half.
The big climax of tension at issue’s end brings-up a rather strange problem for the final issue of the series. It’s starting on something that really feels like it’s the end of the series, but there’s still a whole issue to crunch through before the story reaches its conclusion. Prisoner X #4 feels like the culmination of everything. Ayala and company do an excellent job of delivering on that climax. It’ll be interesting to see where they take it for another 20 pages as the series ends next month.