X-Men Alpha (Dec '94), X-Men Chronicles # 1 & 2 (Jan/April '95), Blink # 1 - 4 (Dec ' April '01)
So this is it, the Age of Apocalypse! I had never read it before so I'll admit, this was quite a fun ride. Following the events of Legion Quest, the Age of Apocalypse is a reality where Professor Xavier died young, Apocalypse conquered the planet and Magneto formed the X-Men.
Creatively, it's an opportunity to introduce brand new characters, change the aesthetics of existing characters, and entertain how the characters we know and love may have broke differently had their life followed a different path. It's fascinating that some of our core characters seem to have different lives but are still tethered to certain destinies. Take Cyclops, for example. He technically starts out as a villain working for Mr. Sinister, but he's still a natural born leader who is a bit stuck up and straight to business, He is still drawn to Jean Grey in this reality, and we see that he has innate goodness in his heart.
Bob Harras had the following to say about the inspiration for Age of Apocalypse in an interview during Comic Creators on X-Men by Tom DeFalco:
"It's like you've stepped into another world. I grew up watching Dark Shadows on television, where the characters would step through a door, and they were all the same actors, but suddenly they were playing very different people. I used to think that was cool. It would go on for months. Then they'd go right back through the door at the end of the story, and just go back to the regular storyline. Another inspiration was the 'Mirror, Mirror' episode of Star Trek, where the Enterprise crew meet their evil counterparts. So 'Age' wasn't, perhaps, the most original concept, but I don't it had ever been done in a comic book to the extent that we did it."
So this is actually really fascinating to me. I actually watched re-runs of Dark Shadows on the Syfy channel growing up. I actually remember this exact moment and it confused the hell out of me. I remember tuning in and all of the sudden everything was different. I remember asking my mom and dad what was going on, but they didn't know since they didn't watch the show. And it's not like I could Google it, I had no idea. To be honest, I ended up not watching the series anymore because I assumed that since it was re-runs, they must have started the entire show over or something and I would never get to see how everything ended.
Harras also talks about how he was surprised how open Marvel was to cancelling the recurring X-Men titles and temporarily replacing them with these AoA themed titles. Also in Comic Creators on X-Men, Lobdell had the following to say about this:
"I remember when we talked to the marketing people about it, they were very excited about the notion of ten new X-Men # 1's. However, when we first announced what we were gong to cancel all the X-books and re-start them, the retailers were aghast at the notion. They thought it was a terrible idea. Actually, the 'Age of Apocalypse' proved to be a big draw and did very well."
X-Men Chronicles # 1
Writer - Howard Mackie
Pencils - Terry Dodson
X-Men Chronicles is the Age of Apocalypse version of X-Men Unlimited. Where XMU typically tells an anthology story, both of the XMC comics show us the backstory behind the "current" Age of Apocalypse stories (which I'll get into with X-Men Alpha and then the next 4 phases of this massive event).
In this reality, Magneto is the leader of the X-Men in place of Charles Xavier, but fighting in his name after the events of Legion Quest. This early X-Men lineup includes his two children (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch), Storm, Colossus, Iceman, and Jean. We are actually introduced to Wolverine in this issue, but he will only go under the moniker Weapon X throughout AoA.
While the full AoA event features what happens after Apocalypse takes over the world (or at least America), this snapshot shows us what happened before that. We see Apocalypse in Ship, getting ready to attack New York. His chief herald is none other than the other external Candra, announcing his intentions. At this stage, the 4 Horseman of Apocalypse features two characters we don't know (generic mutants with no other names besides War and Death), as well as Sabretooth and another external, Gideon. This story sets up Sabretooth's heel turn (he eventually joins the X-Men) as he is appalled that Apocalypse was going to use missiles against the humans and is betrayed by Candra and the rest of the 4 Horseman.
Meanwhile, Mystique drops off a new recruit for Magneto, which is Rogue. As the X-Men fly off to stop the 4 Horseman, the Scarlet Witch and Rogue stay behind. Wanda and Rogue are attacked by a mutant in Apocalypse's employ named Nemesis (who eventually becomes the big baddie Holocaust). This encounter leaves Scarlet Witch dead and Magneto and Quicksilver emboldened. This issue ends with Apocalypse's attempted attack on New York thwarted.
X-Men Chronicles # 2
Writer - Howard Mackie
Pencils - Ian Churchill
X-Men Chronicles # 2 takes place years after number 1 with Magneto agonizing over keeping his team together. At this point in time, Jean and Weapon X (Wolverine) are together (which is awesome to see) and they declare that they are going solo (So they can star in the Weapon X solo comic).
Love is certainly in the air. We see that Quicksilver and Storm are together, as well as Gambit seriously crushing on Rogue (which happens to be the main story in this issue). Gambit spends a lot of time angsting about his feelings for Rogue and enlists Magneto to talk to her on his behalf. However, we see that Magneto has feelings for Rogue himself. At one point, Magneto explains that he is able to touch Rogue, using his powers to create a magnetic barrier, but when Gambit sees this he freaks out, forcing Rogue to choose between them. She eventually chooses Gambit, causing him to leave (and setting up his own separate comic, Gambit and the Externals). A quick note I want to make is that at one point Gambit's dialogue is laid out like playing cards, and that's a pretty amazing idea that I can't believe took this long to display.
There is a little bit of villain action, but it's clearly the B plot. We see that Holocaust (we pretty much learn that he used to be Nemesis and killed Scarlet Witch) is razing the city of Spokane and asks a villain named Wolverine (seriously?) to kill the X-Men. To my knowledge, this Wolverine has no relation to the Wolverine we know, he does not have a 616 counterpart, and is never seen again after this issue. Evil Wolverine attacks the X-Men and is shown to be formidable, but he is ultimately defeated. In fact, Rogue is forced to choose between saving Magneto or Gambit and one point from evil Wolverine and it's her choice to save Magneto that seals the deal for Gambit to leave.
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Roger Cruz
X-Men Alpha is a standlone issue and the REAL starting point for Age of Apocalypse, as it sets the table for all of the ongoing series set in this reality. I'm going to run through the various set pieces we have to work with. When this begins, Apocalypse has already taken over North America and most of the world is in ruins. In this reality, mutants are the dominant species and humans are subservient.
Bishop appears and will be a central figure in this event as he is the only one who remembers the "true" timeline (although he has amnesia about many things, including the specifics of Legion Quest). He shows up and Magneto and the X-Men spend a lot of time both trying to decide if they believe him, and then working to fix the reality...but we'll get into that more later.
Beast is actually "Dark Beast" in this series, as he works for Apocalypse. He first meet him as he is experimenting on Blob.
Apocalypse has 4 Horsemen, who are prominent and serve as the antagonists for other series. The first is Holocaust who is a new character to AoA without a 616 counterpart, but looms large over the series (as evidenced by him killing Wanda). Another brand new character Abyss serves as the 3rd Horseman. The third Horseman is Mikhail Rasputin, however he is surprisingly absent with the exception of X-Universe (an AoA story about the rest of the Marvel Universe), but he looks completely different to the point that I question if it's the same character we know from 616.
Mr. Sinister is the last Horseman and we see that in this reality he has raised Cyclops and Havok and treats them like his children.
Angel (not Archangel) is a proprietor of a bar named Heaven with both Karma and Scarlet (a character from the Wolverine and Havok Meltdown Limited Series) which serves as a neutral location between mutants and humans, however we'll learn he's truly loyal to mutants.
Magneto and Rogue are married and have a son named Charles! He is raised by a robot named Nanny! Yes, the same creepy one from the Savage Land who brushed Cyclops's teeth for him while he was imprisoned.
The Humans are collectively governed by the Human High Council, who are led by (among others) Moira, Brian Braddock, Bolivar Task, Mariko, and an apparently brain damaged (so not a mutant?) Emma Frost.
We see Magneto ask Gambit for help and this is the first time we see animosity between them (this was published before X-Men Chronicles so we didn't know the backstory when this originally came out). Iceman is more of a badass and kills an evil mutant named Unus (Yes, the same one from the Stan Lee iteration of the X-Men). Jean and Logan are together and shown as free agents, who we'll follow more in the Weapon X comic.
Blink # 1 - 4
Plot - Scott Lobdell
Script- Scott Lobdell (1), Judd Winick (2 - 4)
Pencils - Trevor McCarthy
Blink is a character who was introduced during the Phalanx Covenant (where she died), but she really caught fire during AoA so she got a Scott Lobdell written solo series in 2000 (not sure why it took 5 years for this to come out).
The series begins in the normal AoA setting and we see a little bit of Rogue, Morph, and Dark Beast (more on him in future blogs), but the real highlight is us learning about her being raised by Sabretooth. We see that he saved her as a child and taught her to use her powers while showing her love.
The rest of the series takes place in another dimension called the Negative Zone (Isn't that a DC thing?) I'm gonna make a long story short. She falls in love with a guy named Ahmor and agrees to fight with him and his group of rebels against a tyrant named Blastaar. It ends up turning out that Ahmor is actually Annihlus, the former ruler of this realm who was also a tyrant and this breaks her heart. She learns that he had his memory taken away (like her, which I forgot to mention) and in the end she is able to both save him and defeat Blastaar. It's a pretty cool story, but since it doesn't impact the larger narrative much (like most solo stories), I'll leave my synopsis at this.
My Rating - 8/10
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