I’ve had a twitter account for quite some time but haven’t used it much. But follow me (@psychodadcomics). I may decide to come into the 21st century with social media.
Okay so it’s been 9+ months since my last blog post (Check out “Watching the Watcher“). But I had a lot of changes in my personal life and didn’t have the time for these. But I think I’m back on track. Got a new scanner. Rearranged my desk area, and now I have extra time. So while I could return to checking out those “What If” issues, I really want to continue with the trip down memory lane. So let’s go to one of the most iconic stories that everybody who collected comics in the 90’s remembers. It’s also one of those that makes me feel REALLY old because I was still in high school when this came out.
it’s hard to really pinpoint what the 90’s X-Men is best known for. Some people might claim Jim Lee, some people might claim heroes with big pockets. Others might cite the explosion of amazing artists or the massive amount of cross-overs.
And yet others would refer to a single, X-Men-wide cross-over. One that started with a single death in the past, that changed everything (I did a review of all of the Legion Quest issues starting here). All of the X-Men titles during this time were completely re-imagined. New titles sprang up and a completely new world was formed, dwarfing anything that has ever happened before and everything that has happened since (except, maybe, the recent Secret Wars arc and even then, it was much more coherent back then).
Age of Apocalypse is probably the most referenced cross-over ever. Most writers don’t bring up events that happened in Inferno, or events from X-Tinction Agenda, or X-Cutioner’s Song. But Age of Apocalypse created such a diverse universe, as diverse as the regular 616, that was deeper than anything before or since. So years later, those who read it still remember it very well.
So I’m going to do something a bit different with these reviews. This saga lasted 4 months and there’s no way I’m going to do a review for every single issue. Instead I’m going to review each title, but I won’t go into as much depth for each issue. Hope you guys enjoy.
A stranger (to the reader, not just to others in the book) is climbing up a pile of dead bodies. There has been years of “cullings”, an attempted genocide of the human race. The humans had tried to evacuate before the cullings, but some had remained behind and paid the price. Suddenly, a little girl comes running, stumbling over the bodies, screaming and in tears. She runs into this stranger and hugs onto him hoping that he will save her. An explosion heralds the arrival of her pursuers. The leader of the emerald armored soldiers is identified as Unus (Unus the untouchable). The child, simply for being human, has earned a death sentence, but the stranger has also earned one for helping her. Unus uses his forcefield offensively (which is pretty cool because in 616 he was pretty useless as a villain), but the energy is seemingly absorbed by the stranger (can you guess who this stranger is, yet?). Lord Unus (seriously…he is referred to as “Lord”) declares that the traitor must be killed, but before one of the Infinites (those are the food soldiers) can attack, they are interrupted…
…By Magneto and is X-Men. Sabretooth and Wild Child lead the charge. Roge, with super strength, hammers into the Infinites and Nightcrawler watches her back. Morph (he’s a throwback to a really old character who died – The Changeling) joins in and Storm unleashes on them. Finally, Unus decides he’s had enough and gets to Magneto and aims a non-metal gun right at the X-Men’s leader’s head, point blank. Surely, Mags is dead?
Suddenly, Unus’ body freezes and becomes so cold that his body crumbles under its own weight. These aren’t the X-Men we’re used to. These ones kill if necessary.
Magneto, however, isn’t thrilled with the victory. He can only take a stroll, head held low, over the charred bodies of hundreds of humans. He laments to Quicksilver how mutant domination had once been his goal, but for the death of the greatest man he had ever known: Charles Xavier.
Blink (another brief character in the 616 world) shows up and advises Magneto that Sabretooth’s questioning of the survivor (the man the Infinites were trying to kill) isn’t going so well. Magneto returns to the group and lowers the stranger’s hood to reveal a familiar face. Bishop and Magneto stare at each other for a minute when suddenly Bishop attacks in a frenzy, screaming that everything is Magneto’s fault. Tired of the babbling, Magneto slows Bishop’s blood just enough to put him to sleep. They carry him off.
Elsewhere, we’re treated to a scene showing us how more of our beloved characters are changed in this dystopian future. Beast is gleefully torturing the Blob who is screaming “Your hurting me!”. Beast even comments how he takes delight in these horrible experiments. Suddenly, the Blob breaks free and attacks Beast. Havok shows up and interrupts firing a plasma bolt into Blob’s shoulder. Blob responds by tossing Beast into Havok and leaping at them. They are saved by a one-eyed Cyclops who blasts Blob away. Cyclops clearly doesn’t take joy in what he had to do, however, as he scolds Beast for continuing the illegal experimentation. Havok, jumps in, clearly upset at his life having been saved by his brother. He starts yelling in Cyclops’ face when suddenly they are broken up by their adoptive “father”, Mister Sinister (yup…even in an alternate timeline, Sinister is still obsessed with the Summers). Sinister leaves Havok to clean up the mess and heads off with his “favorite” Summers.
As they stroll through the stronghold, Sinister appears to ramble. He announces his intent to leave and mentions something about leaving a mess. They are facing armageddon and Sinister seems genuinely sorry that he has failed to prepare Cyclops for the coming conflict. Sinister leaves, and Cyclops is left pondering his words.
Elsewhere, we are introduced to other classic characters. Angel runs a nightclub with a familiar singer…but only if you’ve read the miniseries Meltdown: Scarlett! Karma announces an uninvited guest. Gambit shows up in the shadows, requesting a meeting with Magneto. Angel agrees, but is wary, worried about who might be watching. Unfortunately, Sebastian Shaw IS watching above.
At a particular mansion in Westchester County, Rogue steps into a room with the robot Nanny (remember her from way back when?). Nanny steps away to reveal Rogue’s child. Magneto enters the room, revealing that he is the father. The logistics of this seriously drive me nuts. After putting their son to bed, and Rogue lamenting how she is unable to touch her own son, they turn their attention to the stranger, Bishop. Bishop once again accuses Magneto of crimes, but when he invokes the name of Charles Xavier, Magneto’s had enough. He drops Bishop with a bolt of energy (again…not sure how this happens). He turns to Rogue. Their only option is to enter Bishop’s mind, but they have no telepath. They have only one option.
Elsewhere, the horsemen of Apocalypse are called by their master. One horseman is missing: Mikhail Rasputin (yes…brother to Colossus). Ultimately, not a lot happens in this scene but we are introduced to the horsemen as well as to this universe’s Apocalypse! We also learn about an uneasy truce with the humans which Apocalypse is intending to break, resulting in a war that will allow only the fittest to survive (glad to see that in any universe Apocalypse still spreads the same silly concept).
Once again the scene shifts, giving us a view of Wolverine and Jean Grey, traversing the ruined streets to meet the Human High Council in Europe, comprised, at least, of Moira McTaggart (her last name is Trask and she’s married to Bolivar) as well as a lobotomized Emma Frost. Wolverine and Jean share a passionate kiss before accepting their next mission.
Back at the mansion, Rogue moves toward Bishop to try and absorb his memories. Suddenly a backlash occurs which floods Magneto with memories of a different universe. Gambit shows up to break things up only to discover that Magneto invited him here for a mission. In fact, Magneto has a larger plan at work, even though it may destroy everything he knows.
Across the galaxy, a giant wave of crystal speeds towards Earth, completely unnoticed by the war torn world.
Since I’m taking a look at this 20+ years later (^%&* I’m old) it’s hard not to look at this with a certain sense of nostalgia coloring my perceptions. I mean, this issue was just so awesome, from the narration, to the shiny, smooth, and reflective cover (granted mine has a few dings over the years but still in pretty good shape) to even the glossy interior pages which were a relatively new concept at this time, to even Roger Cruz’s often over the top jawlines. Was there something about this I didn’t like? sure. but that involves nitpicking the hell out of it.
- The build-up and suspense. The book opens with us knowing absolutely nothing about what to expect. All we knew was that Xavier was dead in the past and the present had been changed. But this was before the internet ruined all surprises for us. And this issue handles it beautifully, the way few comics ever do since. As we see Bishop climbing over bodies, the new takes on the X-Men characters, and the exploration of this new world, everything about this issue builds it up slowly and leaves us wanting more.
- Beast/Havok/Cyclops. I have to admit. although Factor X wasn’t my favorite of the spin-offs, I absolutely loved the new take on the sibling rivalry with the Beast playing up Havok’s jealousy to further his own ends. and this issue introduces us to the animosity between the brothers perfectly.
- Sinister. Sorry…MISTER Sinister. He’s taken almost a father figure interest in the brothers and it honestly scares me but also intrigues me. Does he actually care about them? Are they just a means to an end? Obviously, without Xavier there to rescue Scott from the orphanage, it makes sense that Sinister would have had more a hand in raising the X-Men’s leader, but to actually see this makes me want to know more.
- The X-Men. These are clearly not Xavier’s X-Men. They are far more ruthless and have Sabretooth on their side?! I mean sure, Sabretooth is a good guy in the current comics, but back in the 90’s it was an insane concept. And then Iceman even kills Unus the Untouchable during the battle. I was enamored as each of the X-Men flung themselves into battle (even Wildchild from Alpha flight which was a total surprise).
- The Artwork. This is really reaching…but I’m not a huge fan of Roger Cruz. He draws his women disproportionate almost to a comical degree (similar to Rob Liefeld) and everybody always has really weird chins and mouths. But to be fair, Cruz is in top form this issue and it’s not much of a complaint.
- The Continuity. This is again just a minor complaint and really only factors in once you read some of the tie-in issues. And it’s seriously something I can get past (if I recall correctly the biggest goof was Nightcrawler leaving to find his mom and when Gambit shows up.
How about you guys? Did you read this when it first came out or years later? Does it hold up? I’ll return with Astonishing X-Men (I promise it won’t take my another 9 months).
Rogue: “Do any of y’all recognize the stranger?”
Magneto: “Only for what he is, Rogue: like ourselves, a mutant persecuted and hunted by his own kind.”
Mr. Sinister: “Lads, haven’t I raised you better than this? Will the Summers brothers ever get along?”
Apocalypse: “Does it matter? What care I for the fate of the masses? Whether four or four billion fall in the days and weeks to come, the strongest, and the fittest, will survive. And they will form the army of tomorrow.”