Thursday, October 26, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 68: "Back to Normal"

. . . or "Fall of Avalon, Rise of Gene Nation"

X-Men: Prime, X-Man # 5, Uncanny X-Men # 322, X-Men # 42-44, X-Force # 44, Generation X # 5-6, Uncanny X-Men # 323-324, Wolverine # 93, Uncanny X-Men # 325, X-Men # 45

Flashback: 1995

My Dad turned to me after a trip to the local comic book shop. In my hands were the last issues of the "Age of Apocalypse." He smiles amusingly and says "So, what happens when this is all over? Everything just goes back to normal and they look around go 'What was that?' and go on their way?"

Yes, Dad, they do.

Yep, the AoA is over. And despite having been an alternate reality, the ramifications into the real world ripple out from the event. Bishop retains some memories of the AoA. Nathan Summers (now going as "Grey") smashes onto Earth, causing massive telepathic shockwaves that devestate the Astral Plane for all telepaths. Holocaust appears to Avalon in a large hunk o' ice. Dark Beast, as it turns out, has been hanging out the Morlock tunnels for twenty years. Likewise with Surgar Man and Genosha.

However, events are in motion that change the X-Men. The various creators take this post-AoA time to enject some shake-up to the Mutant populace. Trish Tibly, betraying Beast, reveals to the public that humans are able to be infected by the Legacy Virus. Arcade blows up X-Force's base, prompting them to head to the mansion at Xavier's request. Excalibur is doing some stuff in Genosha. Havok loses control of his powers. Gambit's in a coma due to Rogue's kiss and Rogue and Iceman have hit the road to escape their troubles. Wolverine is back at the mansion, but refuses to come in since Sabretooth is in there, hangin' out. Sabretooth, might I add, is pretty harmless Wolverine popped a claw into his brain right before the AoA started.

And a young Mutant is lynched and killed by mob while trying to make it to Xavier's. This is all in X-Men: Prime, by the way.

So yeah, Nate Grey has crashed landed on Earth 616 and is so totally dazed and confused. He eventually is helped by some Swidish guy and falls asleep on his couch. Not long afterwards, a woman walks in and wakes him up. Who is it? Holy crap! It's Madelyne Pryor!

Meanwhile, in Hoboken, NJ, Pyslocke, Beast, and Bishop are stunned when the Juggernaut slams into the ground. Juggernaut wakes up and starts jibber-jabbering about being hit all the way from Canada and remarks on how it can't be a coincidence that he landed near some X-Men. The trio subdue him, which is strange considering how strong he should be. Juggernaut falls and tells them that a being called Onslaught slugged him there. He then goes catatonic. As this is unfolding, Archangel and ex-girlfriend Charlottle Jones check out a mass murder caused by mysterious Mutants. It's so disturbing, even Archangel is stunned.

Up on board Avalon, the Acolytes make a massive mistake by listening to crazy ol' Exodus and awakening the frozen Holocaust (note to Exodus: if he's not wearing red, white, and blue OR Brenden Fraser, it ain't safe to unthaw a person -- if you get that reference, pat yourself on the back). Holocaust promptly wipes out most of the Acolytes (including poor Rusty), while Colossus snags Magneto and gets him to an escape pod. Vought heads to Earth and grabs Cyclops and Phoenix just as they are pulling into Xavier's driving. With Holocaust and Exodus tearing apart Avalon fighting each other, Cyclops grabs the remaining Acolytes (Unuscione, the Klienstocks, Cargill, and Scanner) and helps them to the surface. Jean, in the meantime, makes to the Earth with Skids. Holocaust and Exodus just kinda crash. Vought meets up Xavier, they rehash some feelings, and she heads off. Cyclops and the rest of the Acolytes end up in Australia and wander to the X-Men's old town base, and subsequently contact the X-Men and have 'em pick their asses up.

Back at the mansion, Xavier asks Cable to have X-Force live at the mansion for a while. They do so, get new uniforms, Richtor takes off, and Caliban joins. Cannonball then becomes a full-fledged member of the X-Men! W00t!

In New York, some of the Generation X kids encounter a Mutant terrorist group called Gene Nation. They escape with Leech and Artie, who were captured by Gene Nation. Not long afterwards, Storm, Wolverine, and Cannonball encounter more of Gene Nation, where it's revealed they were the ones that were responsible for the mass murder that shook Archangel.

Then Juggernaut wakes up and takes off for the mansion. He bumps into Wolverine and Cannonball at a local bar, but decides not to duke it out and instead just takes off . . . only to end up caught in a dimensional rift (which takes him over to the Ultraverse, though I'm not sure if we're allowed to talk about that).

The X-Men and Generation X then have a baseball game. This is interrupted by the arrival of Colossus and Calisto, as Calisto rescued Peter after his escape pod crash landed in Antartica (with no sign of Magneto). They rally some X-Men together, revealing that Mikhail teleported some of the Morlocks to an alternate dimension where time runs differently. A girl named Marrow (who power is to make her bones into her own personal weapons) leads this team of vengeful young Morlocks called Gene Nation. And today, on the anniversary of the Mutant Massacre, they have captured and plan to as many humans as Mutants were killed. The X-Men rush down to stop them and Storm comes face-to-face with Marrow. Marrow has placed a sensor on her heart - if she dies, the bombs on the humans won't go off. But if Storm doesn't kill her in time "BOOM!" Storm is then forced to kill Marrow, which is quite devastating.

Then, Gambit goes after Rogue, who is in Seattle (where Gambit did some shitty things, I guess). There's an emotional confrontation, where it's revealed that Rogue is scared of the fact that Gambit is scared of the secrets he has and Rogue might know. Rogue rejects Gambit's offer to learn the truth and rushes off, leaving the X-Men AND Gambit. Iceman flies back to mansion while Gambit is confronted by Sinister, who is cryptic.

My fingers hurt.

Now, I know that I've been pretty light-hearted with all this stuff above, but I'll be honest when I say it's pretty good. There's some nice characterization all around for various members of the Mutant team. Some of the art teams take a well-deserved break, allowing for Bryan Hitch and Pascul Ferry to pop by and do some spectacular work. When Joe Mad and Andy Kubert come back, they're at the top of their game again.

I'll admit that I don't care for the interlacing and weaving subplots. Too many of these issues depend on other books to pick up on the subplots. It works, but it's a cheap ploy that really comes off as a bit . . . cheap.

But overall, this is a pretty neat period of X-Men history. We see the beginnings of another Marvel crossover here (Onslaught), as well as new and developing storylines and character arcs.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

UXP # 67: Age of Apocalypse # 6: "Finale"

Astonishing X-Men # 4, Factor-X # 2, X-Man # 2-4 (until page 18), Factor-X # 3, X-Man # 4 (rest of issue), Factor- X # 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals # 4, Amazing X-Men # 4, Weapon X # 3, X-Universe # 1, Weapon X # 4, X-Universe # 2, X-Men: Omega (with Blink # 4)

And thus ends the Age of Apocalypse. I'll be doing a complete overview of the entire crossover in a bit, but first, let's get down to business people . . .

First, between Indianapolis, the X-Men encounter Holocaust and his genetic slushy factory. An awesome battle ensues, resulting in the freeing of the humans, the end of the cullings in Chicago and Indianapolis, and Holocaust barely escaping. Iceman then catches up with the X-Men (with a barely recovering Sabretooth by his side) and informs the team that Apocalypse has taken Magneto and Bishop captive.

Back in New York City, someone is letting prisoners out of the Pens (where humans and low-grade Mutants are held for experimentation and whatnot). One such Mutant - Lorna Dane aka. Polaris - is released by Cyclops. Cyclops gets caught by members of the EMF (Elite Mutant Force, remember?) Northstar and Aruora. Cyclops takes them down and get Lorna to Val Cooper, who is working with the Human High Council. Havok spies his brother doing this and vows vengenace.

In the mid-west, Nate Summers is pressured into using his powers by the ever-mysterious and untrustworthy man named Essex. This includes the destruction of a massive genetics plant that nearly gets Forge's little resistance cell killed. It also catches the attention of Caliban, Domino, and Grizzly (who have just killed Omega Red), who are hunting down Nate. Nate and the group takes them down, but they lose Mastermind and Toad in the process. Essex then kills Brute and Forge, before revealing himself to be Mr. Sinister! Gasp! Apocalypse then reveals Nate's origins to him - that he was the result of the bonding of Scott and Jean's genes, creating the ultimate living weapon against Apocalypse. Nate gets pizzed and blasts Sinister, then heads off to face his destiny. Sinister then dies.

At the same time, back NYC, Jean Grey arrives from Europe, out to warn whomever she can and to free the Pens. She is unfortunately captured and taken to the Dark Beast (McCoy). Havok then summons Scott to see her, with the evidence that he helped Lorna Dane just the night before. Scott is subdued, but with Jean's help, the pair escape and vow to free the Pens. When he learns this, Apocalypse orders the newly-promoted Havok to wipe out the Pens. As Scott and Jean slink around Apocalypse's base, they bump into Nate, who is off to kill Apocalypse. They part ways, Jean's power having been unleashed thanks to being around Nate, with whom they all felt a connection with.

The Bedlam Brothers (Jesse and Aaron) don't care for the idea of wiping out the Pens and join with Jean and Scott in freeing them. Dark Beast gets a taste of his medicine, the Bedlams take out the Guthries, and Scott punches Alex out (finally!). The survivors of the Pens then evacuate the base.

Not too far away, Gambit, Lila, Guido, and Jubilee arrive from the Shi'ar with M'Kraan Crystal. They then find little baby Charles, who is grabbed by Guido. After a confrotation with Richtor, it's revealed that Guido is a traitor and he takes both Charles and the crystal to Apocalypse. Richtor is subsequently executed for mucking up. Gambit, Lila, and Jubilee bump into Dazzler and Exodus, who take them back to the mansion, where they meet up with the just-arriving Rogue and her team of X-Men, plus Colossus, Shadowcat, Illyana, Nightcrawler, and Destiny. Rogue is non-too-pleased to hear about Charles' kidnapping on top of her husbands.

Quicksilver then arrives with Storm and Bishop. During his time rescuing Bishop, Banshee sacrifaced himself to kill Abyss (and, in turn, facing his own fears of death) and the heart of the Madri (Apocalypse's priests) is revealed to be Jamie Madrox, from which all of the Madri are duplicates of. Madrox kills himself and all of the Madri perish.

Across the pond, in Europe, things are a brewin' too. The Human High Council has moved their nuclear fleet over to the remains of Paris, but the navigation is still out. So Logan heads over to Wundagore Mountain to retrieve Gateway, who has basically absorbed as much human history as possible. He meets up with Carol Danvers, but the two of them are unable to convince Gateway to help. Pierce then shows up again and Carol sacrifaces herself to take him out. This is enough to push Gateway into at least listening to the Human High Council's plot.

Over in London, the Fourth Horsemen arrives, Mikhail. Mikhail has come to intiate a peace process with the humans and take some of them . . . for a reason that isn't really mentioned. The Human High Council's Chief of Security Victor VonDoom agrees to go, along with Clint Batron, Tony Stark, Ben Grim, Sue Storm, Gwen Stacy, Donald Blake, and Dr. Banner (who is secretly the traitorous Hulk). The humans emotions are being manipulated into trusting Mikhail by Empath (one of the few surviving Hellions in the regular universe), who is being controlled the mysterious Murdock. As it turns out, the humans are going to enhanced into killer cyborgs, but Tony Stark saw something like this coming and strikes out against Mikhail. With the rest of the group, they save the humans (led out of Mikhail's ship by a man named Bullseye) and seek to highjack the ship. Not everyone makes it, including Ben. VonDoom and Blake help take down Mikhail. The Hulk, who at this point has long since been revealed a traitor to the cause, is then betrayed when Apocalypse sets his Atlantic Defense Perimeter on the move to wipe out Europe and Asia once and for all. Banner, Gwen, Stark, Clint and VonDoom then charge forward, with Mikhail's ship leading the way to America to nuke the crap outta it.

But how will they get there? In Paris, the convoy comes under attack from Pierce and then now-cyborged Carol Danvers. Also, Brian Braddock is being controled by Pierce, but manages to break away from the mind-control long enough to save Emma Frost and the convoy. Pierce then kills Carol, who was also breaking away, and Logan slices up Pierce with his hidden claws in his stub. Gateway then opens a portal to America for the nuclear convoy to enter, just as the Atlantic Defense Grid strikes against the humans.

And now we come to it.

The X-Men attack Apocalype's base to rescue Magneto, Charles, and the M'Kraan Crystal. When they arrive, they're stunned to find that part of the base has been destroyed already (by Jean, Scott, and probably the Bedlam brothers) and the Pens emptied. After Angel (strapped with a bunch of explosions) slams into a force field generator, the X-Men enter into the base and soon find themselves facing down the M'Kraan. It's then Destiny reveals what is happening and confirms what Bishop has said. Bishop, Destiny, and Illyana must enter the M'Kraan to correct things. At that moment, Nate shows up to fight Apocalypse, but is distracted by Holocaust.

Upon learning that she isn't alive in the old timeline, Magneto must talk Illyana into helping them. She agrees. Meanwhile, across the city, Scott and Jean continue to help the humans evacuate into New Jersey. When the bombs start to fall all over the US, Jean flips out and holds the bombs in place from hitting New York and New Jersey. Logan arrives, but is too late. Havok kills her, then Scott. The bombs are ready to fall. Logan then kills Alex and mourns over Jean's body.

Back at Apocalype's HQ, Bishop flies back in time to Israel and manages to stop Legion from killing either Magneto or Professor X. He and Legion then fade away in a fury of temporal energy and the X-Men in that era vanish. It's as if Legion and the X-Men weren't even there at all.

In the present, the X-Men fight desperately, but there numbers have gone to shit as tragedy forms. Surgar Man leaps from Colossus' boot and goes into the M'Kraan, heading after Illyana. Colossus flips out, accidently kills Iceman, then Shadowcat. With such grief and pain, Gambit kills Colossus in response. Quicksilver manages to save Illyana, having also lost a sibling.

Rogue rescues Charles from Guido as Magneto battles it out with Apocalypse. He is then joined by Nathan and they both have Apocalypse on the ropes. Unfortunately, Holocaust steps up and engages Nate in battle. Nate shoves a shard of the M'Kraan Crystal in Holocaust and the pair vanish. Magneto then rips Apocalypse in half in what is probably one of the best X-Men scenes ever. As the Age of Apocalypse comes to an end, Blink vanishes and finds herself in a desert with a girl in her underwear.

Finally, with the bombs a droppin' and the timeline restorin', Magneto joins his wife and son as the Age of Apocalypse fades away . . .


That's that.

Let's take a look at the Age of Apocalypse as a whole, shall we?

For the most part, this is a fantastic epic that is (for the most part) able to stand on its own two feet and really seperate itself from the rest of the X-Men's big stories as being unique and creative. There are flaws, of course, but in the grand scheme of things, those can be overlooked.

Art-wise, I've said it before, is all top-notch. Fantastic new costumes and designs that really reflect the darkness that is the Age of Apocalypse. The settings are something incredible, too, bringing us terrible visions of places that are utterly familair - from the real-life London, Paris, Chicago, and New York to the fictional Xavier's mansion and Wakanda. If there is any high-point with the massive story, it's the art. Only once did I really think it was terrible, and that was with the fourth issue of Amazing X-Men, where Apocalypse also stole Andy Kubert's talent along with Magneto and Bishop.

In terms of art, this is most likely among the high-points of the X-Men long history, standing tall with Jim Lee's amazing run on Uncanny during the late 260s and up until early X-Men and Bryne and Adam's respective runs.

Writing-wise, with the exception of most of the "history" books, it good too. I'll admit that sometimes X-Calibre relies too much on cliches and Niecizia's dialogue comes off really corny at times, but for the most part, all is well-done. The new versions of these characters are good, for the most part, allowing for new personas and new coverings for old characters.

The weakest portions of the Age of Apocalypse would probably have to be the Marvel populated X-Universe, which seemed to be difficult to both place into the overall story and had trouble making sense of itself.

As a whole, the Age of Apocalypse is something to be proud of for that era. It's bold and epic, showing us everything that can possibly go wrong with the X-Men's world, while still maintaining hope and struggle against such terrible darkness. Indeed, it's not Apocalypse that defines the Age of Apocalypse, but the X-Men themselves. It's the X-Men that stand against such massive opposition. It's showing that no matter how terrible or shitty the world can be, the X-Men stand strong and tall against such awful offensives.

There are some great character moments, though too many to name here. There are also a number of "oh yeah, sweet!" moments that are just plain cool. Among these is the aforementioned Apocalypse/Magneto final battle.

At the end of the day, what does the Age of Apocalypse mean to the overall X-Men world and mythos? Well, it centainly has a profound effect on the X-Men, though not nearly as much as other events (Dark Phoenix Saga, for example). A number of character manage to survive - Nate Summers, Holocaust, Dark Beast, Surgar Man, Blink, and Sabretooth, to name a few. Bishop also retains memories of the AoA.

The Age of Apocalypse proudly stands among the very best X-Men stories I've read. Not the best, but most definetly among them.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

UXP # 66: Age of Apocalypse # 5: "The Quest"

X-Calibre # 2-3, Gambit and the X-Ternals # 2, X-Calibre # 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals # 3, Generation Next # 2-4

As the X-Men teams and Weapon X deal with the Cullings in Chicago and Indiana, the Manie Evacuation, Europe's prepared nuke attack, and Apocalypse kicking the asses of both Magneto and Bishop, Nightcrawler, the X-Ternals and Generation Next are all off trying to fix time.

Nightcrawler continues on the Infernal Gallop, which is operated by his mother, Mystique. However, when things go wrong on the crappiest submarine I've ever seen, Nightcrawler and those humans on the Infernal Gallop end up on a ship Captained by Callisto. Callisto, on the other hand, kills them all except for Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler then takes revenge by killing all of Callisto's crew. Mystique shows up and takes care of Callisto. Nightcrawler then talks his mother into going to Avalon with him, despite her guilt over stealing everyone's riches that wish to go there. After killing Moonstar, Damask and Dead Man Wade follow Nightcrawler and Callisto into Avalon. Damask, however, is stunned to find just how beautiful and alive it is and decides to kill Dead Man Wade and live there with the rest of the group. In the meantime, Destiny is plaqued by visions that Apocalypse is on his way to destroy Avalon.

Across the universe, Gambit and the X-Ternals arrive on some random planet where they must fight the Imperial Guard. A battle ensues and Richtor ends up teaming up with the Imperial Guard. As he does, the X-Ternals find themselves with a Deathbird-led Starjammers and they race off, searching for the M'Krann Crystal.

Back in Avalon, the Shadow King attacks and nearly destroys it. At one point, he almost kills Destiny, but she is saved by her adopted son, Doug Ramsey, who then dies in the process. Shadow King is bested and Destiny agrees to go back to America with Nightcrawler.

Again, across the universe, the X-Ternals find the M'Krann Crystal and go after it. As Guido, Sunspot, the Starjammers, and Jubilee contend with Richtor and the Imperial Guard, Deathbird, Lila Cheny, and Gambit enter the Crystal. It's there they find D'Ken, who is catatonic. Gambit also meets Jahf, who confirms Bishop's story. Eventually, Gambit must "give up" something so as to retrieve a part of the M'Krann. He gives up his love of Rogue and without Sunspot (he's dead, I guess), the X-Ternals head on home.

Back on Earth, Colossus and Generation Next go to break into the Portland Core, the biggest power source in America, which is continually being mined by humans under Apocalypse's control. Running the show is Quentis and the vile Surgar Man. Vincete and Husk disguise themselves as Quentis while Skin and Chamber sneak their way in. Modo and Colossus are running the rescue. Eventually, the secrets all slip out, there's a riot, and no one makes it alive excpet for Shadowcat, Colossus, and Illyana, with the Surgar Man all small and tiny and hiding in Colossus' boot.

Overall, a fairly good installment of the Age of Apocalypse. Some parts are better than others, but none of them are really anything amazing. There are some cool scenes, and some general story elements that work really well. But other than that, pretty average stuff, both art and writing wise.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

UXP # 65: Age of Apocalypse # 4: "Resistance"

Astonishing X-Men # 2, Amazing X-Men # 2, Astonishing X-Men # 3, Amazing X-Men # 3, Weapon X # 2

The AoA gets better, thank goodness.

As Rogue's team of X-Men head to Chicago and Indianapolis to stop Holocaust's cullings, Quicksilver's team continues to handle the situation developing with the Maine evacuation. Meanwhile, there's trouble England.

Rogue's team attempt to help evacuate citizens of Chicago from the on-coming force of Holocaust and his forces. At one point, Sunfire becomes overwhelmed and goes a little pyscho on some probes. Rogue powers him down with her touch and we get a fantastic glimpse at the history of Age of Apocalypse, featuring part of the downfall of Japan and the near death of Sunfire. After this, Sabretooth decides to take out Holocaust. Blink reluctantly sends him to Indianapolis (as he is her mentor and rescuer) and a battle follows. Holocaust wins after a great sequence.

Meanwhile, Quicksilver must take down Abyss to save a child and help the evacuees. He managest to do with a punch to the face. Not kidding. As this is taking place, the X-Men have to deal with the Brotherhood of Mutants (which is a hodgepodge of Copycat, Cyber, Box, Arclight, and Spyne) and reprogram the Setinels to help the humans. The X-Men succeed in doing so and the evacuation goes off without a hitch.

Back in Chicago, the cullings continue and its revealed that Holocaust has an Infinite (genetic/cyber soldiers of Apocalypse) processing plant in the area and will be taking the survivors of the cullings there. The X-Men learn of this and head off stop him, and find soon find Sabretooth's torn up body waiting for them.

As we go through all this, we're also following a subplot that involves Apocalypse tracking down Mangeto's base thanks to Blink's teleport. They find it, then use Karma (who works for Angel, who met with Gambit) to find out if there are any surprises waiting for them. Apocalypse then heads off to the Xavier Estate and a battle with Bishop and Magneto follows with Apocalypse coming out the victor. As this battle ensues, Magneto's son Charles is spirited aware by the robot Nanny (good this time) and disappears.

The Shadow King and Apocalypse's monks the Madri then uncover what the deal is with Bishop. When Quicksilver's team learns of this, he, Banshee, and Storm head off to free Bishop.

Now, across the pond, the evacuees arrive in England and with them come to members of the Brotherhood that Weapon X slices up. In London, a nuclear weapons fleet is prepared to strike North America. It's attacked by Donald Pierce, who is working with Apocalypse. Weapon X takes him out, but not before the navigational charts are destroyed. Afterwards, Jean leaves for America to warn people of the impending nuke attack.

Each entry into the Age of Apocalypse is an improvement over the previous one, which is good. The writing is well done, adding more drama and some nice twists to this dark world. Some nice character moments too for Magneto, Storm, Quicksilver, Rogue, Blink, Sabretooth, and Sunfire. The art is some of the best, especially from Joe Mad and Adam Kubert.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

UXP # 64: Age of Apocalypse # 3: "The New Beginning"

X-Men: Alpha, Age of Apocalypse: The Chosen, Astonishing X-Men # 1, Generation Next # 1, Gambit and the X-Ternals # 1, X-Calibre # 1, Weapon X # 1, Amazing X-Men # 1, Factor X # 1, X-Man # 1

We're in it now.

The "Age of Apocalypse" slips into high gear and things get better from the lackluster new history we were privvy to last entry. We settle into what will be the basic plot threads of the "Age of Apocalypse." These plot threads being: (1.) Magneto's attempt at restoring the timeline; (2.) the Summers clan; (3.) the X-Men's resistance against Apocalypse; and (4.) the Human High Council's war against Apocalypse.

Magneto's X-Men (the roster consisting of Sabretooth, Wild Child, Rogue, Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, Storm, Iceman, Morph, Blink, Banshee, Exodus, Dazzler, and Sunfire) are in Seattle, battling it out with some of Apocalypse's croonies (called Infinities), whom are being led by Unus. It's there they also encounter the time-lost Bishop, who the X-Men take in.

Meanwhile, Sinister leaves his post among Apocalypse's Four Horsemen, leaving Cyclops in charge of the EMF (Elite Mutant Force). Across the ocean, Weapon X and Jean Grey deliever some vital information to the Human High Council (whose ranks include Moria and Bolivar Trask, Brian Braddock, Emma Frost, and Mariko Yoshinda).

Back at the X-Men's base (aka the decimated X-Mansion), Rogue is reunited her and Magneto's son, Charles. Bishop then does a funky mind-meld thingy with Magneto through Rogue, showing him how the world is really supposed to be. This sends Magneto into a tissy.

As Magneto tries to figure out just how to set the world right, the X-Men learn from Blink and Sunfire that Apocalypse has planned another culling in Chicago (culling as in culling the weak from the strong). Rogue leads a team consisting of Sabretooth, Wild Child, Blink, Sunfire, and Blink to Chicago, where the odds are against them.

Magneto then approaches Colossus and wife Shadowcat in the hopes of getting them to lead their students (Chamber, Husk, Mondo, Skin, and new-comer Vincete) to Portland to rescue the long-thought-dead Illyana.

Magneto then goes after Gambit, talking him and his gang of X-Ternals (Sunspot, Jubilee, Strong Guy, and Lila Cheny) into going to the Shi'ar Empire to retrieve a fragment of the M'Kraan Crystal. Just how does Magneto know about the M'Kraan Crystal? Turns out Dr. Corbeau works for Apocalype, cultivating information from the remains of Apocalypse's former senient vessel, Ship. And conviently, Corbeau owes Magneto a favor. As the X-Ternals leap into a Lila Cheny created portal into Shi'ar space, Apocalypse's Mudir-Commandant Richter in tow.

The final piece of Magneto's plan is getting Nightcrawler to go Avalon (aka the Savage Land) to retrieve Destiny to confirm what has happened. Nightcrawler is forced to go on the Infernal Gallop, which starts with a Ghost Dance led by John Proudstar and ends with meeting Cain Marko. As Nightcrawler makes preparations to go (and to meet his mother, Mystique in the process), a woman named Switchback arrives in Avalon. And, Danielle Moonstar, Dead Man Wade (Deadpool), and Damask are hot on Nightcrawler's tail. No pun intended.

In the meantime, the Human High Council asks Weapon X and Jean Grey to take a Sentinel to Apocalypse off-shore defense platforms and knock a few of them out. This leads them into a battle with Havok, who ends up getting teleported back to New York City with a Sentinel hand, the two of them arriving in NYC merged. Weapon X and Jean do their duty, knock out the platform, which allows for Sentinels and Transports from Eurasia to come to Maine to pick up some humans.

On the other end of this operation are the X-Men, who are seeking to help the humans evacuate. The X-Men (Quicksilver, Storm, Iceman, Dazzler, Exodus, and Banshee) even create a computer virus that allows them to go undetected by the newly arriving Sentinals. This virus promptly screws up and Iceman gets blasted. And Apocalypse's forces are on the X-Men's butts.

Back in New York, the EMF tracks down some Mutant escapees (Artemis, Phantazia, Pyro, and Avalanche) from the Pens. After taking them down, the EMF break up for R&R. Havok and Bedlam Brothers (Jesse and Aaron) head to Angel's nightclub, Heaven. When they get back, Cyclops has them figure out where Sinister is, which turns into a bigger question when they discover his personal quarters have been destroyed.

Finally, a young Mutant named Nathan and his traveling troupe of Mutant entertainers and freedom fighters (being Forge, Toad, Sauron, Mastermind, and Brute) continue to move across the mid-west, helping out here and there. Among those they help is a train full of humans headed to a genetic processing plant. The gang blows up the train and Nate forces Forge to take in a young Mutant with a sonic scream named Terry. We also learn that Nate really has no memory of his past, is a very powerful psi-talent, and that Forge is his mentor. Apocalypse leans of Nate's existence from the Shadow King and he therefore sends Domino to go kill him.

Over all, a much better group of comics than last entry. There's far more substance and structure here. The effort on everyone's part (from the writers to the artists) to create a new world shines through.

Great art from Roger Cruz, Joe Madureira, Chris Bachelo, Tony Daniels, Ken Lashley, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Steve Epting, and Steve Skorce really breaks away from their usual work, and brings them up several notches on the art-scale. A fresh breath of artistic creativity really energizes the pages. The redesigns are well-done, matching the dark setting that is the Age of Apocalypse. The look of New York, London, and all of the other familair places are well-done, dark parallels to their real life or 616 reflections.

The writing is suberb, creating just enough drama to keep the characters interesting and new. It's fun seeing these characters in new shapes and forms. Even the cameo appearances of Magma, Karma, Sebastion Shaw, and a few others are enough to excite interest. The core plots are strong and it's cool to see various storylines weave throughout the various titles, such as the evacuation of Maine, Sinister's disappearance, and Apocalypse's tracking of Blink's teleportation signature.

There are a few problems I do have with the Age of Apocalypse, chief among them being the same problems I had before. Such as why do these character have the same code-name as their normal versions? Why is Beast so evil and Sabretooth so good? Questions like these are flaws in an overall well-done story.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

UXP # 63: Age of Apocalypse # 2: "New History"

Age of Apocalypse one-shot, X-Men Chronicles # 1, X-Men Chronicles # 2, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: Factor X, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: Astonishing X-Men, X-Man # -1, Blink # 1-4

So far . . . so disappointing.

With Xavier dead, Magneto has chosen to create a haven for new Mutants at Wundagore Mountain. Thus far, the team consists of Marvel Girl, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Colossus, Ice Man (yep, seperated), Storm and the newly joined Weapon X (Wolverine) and Rogue. When Apocalypse attacks Cape Citadel with his Horsemen (Candra, Sabretooth, Gideon, War, and Death) the X-Men respond. As they fight off the Horsemen and the Big A himself, the son of Apocalypse (Nemesis aka. Holocaust) attacks Wundagore Mountain. All but Rogue are killed, including the Scarlet Witch. The X-Men fight off Apocalypse and return to Wunadagore to find it decimated.

Apocalypse, afterwards, begins his conquests of the world. At some point, Sabretooth gets sick of the dying and gives up. He's imprisoned with Wild Child aka. Kyle Dibney. The two become friends after a lengthy fight and they bust out, joining the X-Men.

A while later, Logan rescues Jean from the Pens (apparently Apocalypse has conquered the world or something) and they both leave the X-Men. Gambit and Rogue seek to comfort Magneto, but Magneto doesn't want it. A botched mission due to lack of confidence causes a Mutant assassin named Wolverine (not Logan though) under the command of Holocaust to follow the X-Men to their base. Before he attacks, though, Magneto finds a way for he and Rogue to be physical with each other, which pisses off the crushin' Gambit. A lame battle follows, Wolverine dies, and Magneto and Rogue grow closer.

Meanwhile, a Brood-infected Christopher Summers arrives on Earth, in New York. After being experimented on for a couple of years, he escapes. Now cronies under Apocalypse and Sinsiter, Cyclops, Havok, Northstar, Aurora, Emplate and the Monet Twins go after him. He kills Emplate and tramatizes the Twins, then is confronted by Cyclops and Havok. Emotions run high, but it's all concluded when Cyclops is forced to kill his own father.

After that, the X-Men mount a mission to the Moon to destroy Apocalypse, as he has a regenerating temple on the Moon's surface. The X-Men succeed in destroying the temple, the Horseman Death (Maximus of the Inhumans), and the new arrival Blink gets a valuable lesson. Cyclops helped the X-Men, too.

Back on Earth, Sinister has created the perfect combination of Grey/Summers genetics in the form of a very powerful little boy.

Colossus and Shadowcat decide to leave the X-Men in the pursuit of helping to secure the next generation of Mutants.

And Blink has some whacky adventures in the Negative Zone.

I've read the "Age of Apocalypse" before and I know it gets better. Thus far, disappointment. Marvel had recently done a one-shot and a mini-series that continued the "Age of Apocalypse." As neat as that was (it wasn't, really), I would have much rather seen Scott Lobdell go back and flesh out the back story of the AOA.

How did Apocalypse conquer America? When did Jean get captured by Sinister? Why was it we never saw the battle that cost Scott an eye and Logan a hand? Was is the Beast so insanely evil and Sabretooth a decent guy?

These are all questions that are raised and while, yes, it's good that an alternate reality makes one raise questions, all of these are unresolved.

These issues here don't do much to explore the more interesting nooks and crannies of the AOA. I'll grant that there are certain issues that stand out - the battle at Cape Citadel, X-Man's awakening, the Summers/Corsair story - all are great. But all of the other stories don't seem to matter nearly as much.

The "Wolverine" story may serve to kick off the Rogue/Magneto relationship, but it barely scratched the surface. Why did she choice to be in love with Magneto rather than pursuing one with Gambit? Is it because she can touch Magneto? What does that tell us about Rogue?

Blink's another one. Most of the story was spent with her in the Negative Zone with Anhillius and she amnesic. Why? This would have been the perfect chance to explore this cult classic character, to really dig into her past and understand who she is and how she came about.

The one-shot gives us glimpses of this dark world, but not nearly enough. I know things get better, but without a better foundation, the up-coming stories will have to beat out this lackluster bunch.