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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Omega

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xmenomega001_front…Endings

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz
Inks: LaRosa, Townsend, Kesel, Candelario, Hanna, Milgrom
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato, Electric Crayon
Cover: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

While not nearly as "iconic" as the Alpha issue to me…this issue is still one of THE most iconic comic issues of my youth. Though the majority of the context comes from the various individual titles that make up the Age of Apocalypse, this is THE issue they all led into, after spinning out of X-Men: Alpha. As such, while I didn’t remember details of most of the individual series, I remembered where things wound up because of this issue.

We open on a full-page of Magneto, bloodied and energy crackling around him, standing defiantly against an off-page foe, who we find is Holocaust, battering the leader of the X-Men for Apocalypse’s amusement before the villain reveals his final plans. Meanwhile, Angel finds Karma, while in the pens, the X-Men arrive via Blink’s portals. As they contemplate the lack of opposition and come across Beast, we move to see Cyclops and Jean leading freed humans across the bridge away from Apocalypse’s stronghold. Apocalypse’s forcefield is taken down by Angel’s suicide bomb…his sacrifice allows Nate (X-Man) access to Apocalypse…where he finds and is recognized by Magneto as The One that Forge had long ago promised to deliver.

while Nate takes on Holocaust, the X-Men have found the M’Kraan crystal, and Destiny confirms Bishop’s claims and everything comes down to Illyana choosing to help restore broken reality. The three enter the crystal, leaving the X-Men to fight Apocalypse’s forces. On the bridge, Jean realizes the bombs have been launched and throws up a psi-shield…holding them back as long as she can. In the crystal, Destiny guides Illyana in unlocking her powers, getting Bishop back to the moment things went wrong. Back on the bridge, Havok reveals himself, unleashing his powers to take out Jean and Scott before being taken out himself by Weapon X. The X-Men rescue baby Charles, mess up Beast’s escape attempt, while others have fallen in battle and misunderstanding.

In the past, Bishop confronts his past self and Legion, preventing Legion from killing anyone…and closing a loop that sees the X-Men ripped back to their own time and the chronal energies erasing their presence and Legion’s from the memories of all left behind…that events would unfold as they had with no taint from Legion’s obtrusive presence.

Nate finally gets to Apocalypse before being attacked again by Holocaust…using a shard of the M’Kraan crystal he and Holocaust are unexpectedly removed from the equation. The distraction is enough for Magneto to summon the power to rip Apocalypse apart, finally killing the evil mutant and ending his reign. In the last few moments left to him, he rejoins Rogue and his son, while reflecting on the importance of one man to the world itself…as the nuclear blast is about to engulf them. Hope is left behind, in Bishop accomplishing his mission…and preventing any of this from ever having happened.

This issue being what it is, as mentioned above…there’s little separating its nostalgic and emotional, lasting impact on me from the technicalities of the issue itself.

At this typing, I don’t particularly recognize Cruz‘ name or art…and would have sworn there was someone else on the art. Looking back, Cruz contributed to a couple previous X-issues, and was the penciler on the Alpha issue as well…so while the art isn’t ENTIRELY consistent with the individual series, it provides a definite consistency to the other bookend issue of this entire mega-arc. In and of itself, I really don’t have any complaints on the art…everyone is recognizeable and obvious for who they are…and though many of the characters don’t look quite as well-done as they were in the individual books, given this issue involves so many without being a "jam book," that’s hardly an issue for me. We have numerous inkers and a full roster of Letterers and Colorists…whether that was to get the book out "on time" or to allow more hands to touch the project, be a part of it, I don’t know. It’s really something I mostly notice for specifically scoping out the credits to write this up.

Story-wise, I see Mark Waid on dialogue, as with X-Men: Alpha…which is interesting again as before given I wasn’t consciously aware of him 20 years ago but know him as a writer whose work I like present-day…and realize how much I like his dialogue through this issue, hokey and cheesey as parts are. Magneto’s final moments in the issue resonate particularly for me.

Given the specific issues that things unfolded in, this is the first we’ve "seen" of the "regular" X-Men in the entirety of the labeled Age of Apocalypse issues. The brief bit we get with them–specifically of Storm realizing the true battle was fought elsewhere–is something that has stuck with me since originally reading the issue, and worked its way into my head over the years as a concept that truly influences my understanding and conception of time travel and alternate reality stories…really in a way I can’t quite put to typed words.

The Age of Apocalypse ends, the "true reality" is restored…but this story left lasting repercussions (and characters) on the X-universe and the Marvel universe in general. Fitting in a way, perhaps, that present-day 2015 we’re about to get major changes to the very fabric of the Marvel universe, as I’ve just finished re-reading this tale.

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Amazing X-Men #4

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amazingxmen004On Consecrated Ground

Plot: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Matt Ryan
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Color Art: Kevin Somers and Digital Chameleon
Cover: Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Here we are…the second-to-last issue of the entirety of this (as we’re in 2015 I have to use the word "original" to specify) Age of Apocalypse story.

The issue opens with Bishop in the hands of the Madri as they prepare to "sacrifice" him so that his knowledge does not pass further and inspire others to consider a world in which Apocalypse does not presently rule. Storm bursts onto the scene and frees him, though the doing drains her considerably. While this is going on, Quicksilver and Banshee locate the source of the Madri–Jamie Madrox–as we learn that the Madri are all "just" dupes of Jamie. Meanwhile, Rogue and her group arrive back at the mansion to learn Magneto has been taken and her son Charles is missing. Nightcrawler bamfs in with Destiny; Colossus and Kitty had also arrived with Illyana and now deliver the news that their students died in freeing the girl. Dazzler and Exodus return as well, Gambit and Lila Cheney in tow…but no sign of Charles. Rogue lashes out at Gambit for not returning with her child; while Banshee sacrifices himself to put an end to Abyss, and Madrox gives his own life to shut down the Madri and thus save Storm and Bishop. The various pieces of Magneto’s planning have come together, borne fruit…and the X-Men stand ready to end the age of Apocalypse.

Though this issue does technically continue threads from the previous issue, in many ways it feels more like a filler issue, not belonging to its own series, but rather, tying things together to funnel/filter several things into X-Men: Omega and the end of the overall AoA story arc. There’s a lot going on, though nothing really gets much focus.

The story as such doesn’t work as a solo issue, and even as a final issue, too much "space" is given to converging plotlines for this to really fit the standard expectation of a final issue. I suppose I’d say that this issue lacks much of its own identity as a chapter of an individual thread about to be woven back into a larger whole. Yet, this certainly sets things up and if one reads this issue, it certainly does not make much sense not to continue on to X-Men: Omega.

The art is good. Nothing really stands out positive or negative, though if anything it might be the portrayal of Abyss. I can’t quite figure out if I like or dislike the character’s appearance…though it’s a credit to the visual team that I can "hear" the sound of the character’s movements in my head.

This issue is a sort of bridge between the other minis and X-Men: Omega; particularly Generation Next, X-Calibre, Astonishing X-Men, and Gambit and the X-Ternals…really only leaving out Weapon X, X-Man, and Factor-X, as those series’ finales I believe are more directly connected to the pages of the bookend special.

The end of this issue points out the continuation into X-Men: Omega…which apparently was on sale the same week, so there would have been the double-dose of story, and making this one functionally an extension if one bought both. X-Men: Alpha, 8 4-issue series, two 2-issue series and a profile book…this is–if my math’s correct–the 39th part of AoA, with everything wrapping up in a 40th issue, capping things off.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Chronicles #2

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xmenchronicles002Shattered Dreams

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Ian Churchill
Inks: Hanna/Vey/Moncuse/Wiacek
Colors: Matt Webb
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Churchill
Editors: Kelly Corvese, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

We open on Weapon X confronting Magneto. He and Jean are leaving, and Mags will NOT be convincing him otherwise. After the tense standoff, we shift to Wolverine–a huge mutant working for Holocaust. Holocaust, it seems, was once Nemesis–who killed Scarlet Witch in X-Men Chronicles #1, some time before this issue. Magneto doesn’t take Jean and Logan’s leaving all that well and throws himself AND his X-Men into training, none realizing the pending danger of the Wolverine. We also see the deterioration of Gambit’s pursuit of Rogue as we see the blossoming of the Magneto/Rogue relationship…which doesn’t begin to go over well with Gambit. Despite the huge wedge from a heart’s betrayal, Gambit stands with Magneto against Wolverine…though their broken friendship is one of the "key" events to come of the issue.

It may be that the issue is extra-sized and so a bigger single chunk of story, minus issue breaks and fitting into the larger, more complex continuity of multiple titles going on simultaneously, as well as "seeing" a key point in this version of the X-Men’s past (relative to the "present day" waning moments of the Age of Apocalypse unfolding in the main X-books cover dated June 1995). It might be the art, and certainly an enjoyable story. But reading this issue, the thoughts it provoked, and the feeling I had when I got to the end…this is definitely one of my TOP favorite issues of the entirety of the AoA storyline.

There’s only one page in particular (but several, flipping back through the issue) with Magneto specifically, where I feel like I noticed a change in the inking, transforming Churchill‘s work such that I actually paused and looked back to see if there were multiple artists/pencilers on the book, as it just looks quite different from the rest of the book. Otherwise, I really liked the art, and would have to really dig to find anything NOT to like about it. I’m not all that fond of Wolverine’s visual design…but as a generic "evil mutant" he works quite well. I imagine part of that is simply the use of the name in association with someone NOT Logan. (Yet, it makes sense in a world with countless "codenames" if most know "Weapon X" but he’s not using the name…"Wolverine" WOULD be up for grabs!)

Mackie gets a bad rap, I think…or at least, I’ve allowed my opinion to be clouded by his later work, particularly–I think–his Spider-Man stuff of the later ’90s. Here, I just simply enjoyed seeing these characters and the story that we get through the longer segment. Even knowing what was coming, I found it rather authentic seeing Gambit’s naiveté regarding Rogue’s falling for Magneto, and empathized with his hurt and frustration at the unintended "betrayal" of Magneto and Rogue’s developing relationship.

We get some details hinted at previously, and the actual "on-panel" stuff with Logan and Jean leaving and the Magneto/Rogue/Gambit triangle, as well as 44 pages of story plus 5 double-page "historical moments" (basically, "pinups") to round things out. I truly miss–and consider it a "lost art" of late–the inclusion of such "pinups" or quasi-arbitrary art pages in comics. In 2015, these would be an additional 10 variant covers as 5 sets of double-panel interlocking images. In 1995, these were fun bonus pages adding some visual context to the X-Men’s history. If only by labeling, these pages definitely lend credence to the notion of a picture being worth a thousand words.

Given this is essentially a one-shot, simply "a" story of this universe’s X-Men, the issue stands very strongly on its own. Knowing only that this is an alternate reality as well as the general convolutedness of the entirety of X-Men history…one doesn’t have to be following the rest of the Age of Apocalypse to follow this or to take this as "a story." For that matter, one doesn’t truly have to have read X-Men Chronicles #1, even.

For me, at least…the Age of Apocalypse doesn’t get much better than this; and perhaps for its immediate recency as of this typing, if I didn’t before I definitely now hold this as cream of the crop when it comes to Age of Apocalypse stuff.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #4

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xcalibre004On Fire

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Ken Lashley
Inks: Tom Wegrzyn with Philip Moy
Colors: Joe Rosas
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover:
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Damask, Switchback, Mystique, and Nightcrawler pause for a moment before heading back to Avalon to try again to convince Destiny to return with Kurt to Magneto. Before long, a new presence is discovered…the Shadow King has arrived, and causes all sorts of death and destruction. He’s able to possess others, trigger parts of their mind…yet by possessing he can cause physical danger for others while he himself–as a psionic entity–continues on if a host body is destroyed. Eventually he possesses Mystique, triggering a desperate idea for Kurt. Utilizing teamwork, a combination of his own powers and those of Switchback and Damask, Kurt leads his "X-Calibre" team to take on the Shadow King, despite the dream that was Avalon now being so much ash and remnants of destruction.

Here we are with another "final issue" of "a four issue series," and again we don’t have a true ending so much as a turning point or point of continuity, where a fleshed-out adventure moves characters as pieces around a board to get them where they need to be for X-Men: Omega.

Unlike the previous issues, I read this in eagerness to get THROUGH it…the end of the Age of Apocalypse is in sight and I am very much looking forward to getting to X-Men Omega. Like previous issues, I didn’t recall any details of this series, so it reads like a "new" issue, though I knew if not its endpoint, at least its end result. Given my mindset reading this, I didn’t notice much of anything distinctly Ellis in the story. I simply saw the characters, watched the story unfold, and got to the end of the issue sooner than expected, not realizing how much ground is yet to be covered between this final page and where Kurt and Destiny go in X-Men: Omega.

The art holds to a consistent quality; characters look familiar to my memory of prior issues, and the art itself never distracts. The layouts, however, prove distracting much as in Weapon X, as there are multiple double-page spreads where I have to physically rotate the entire issue 90 degrees to read the sideways double-page top to bottom. Forcing such movement proved quite distracting.

All in all…not a bad issue, not a great issue. Characters picked up with the term "X-Calibre" and used it as a team-name to describe the group, which is sort of disappointing to me after thinking for awhile since the previous issue how cool it was to have the title referenced as it was on a "meta" level without actually being otherwise referenced within the story. Granted, it FITS in this way, it just changes things a bit. And we again get an ending of "intent" though we have to see actual action to get the characters from here (point A) to X-Men: Omega (point B) or trust that it’ll be explained as having happened off-panel.

The end is in sight, and I think I’d’ve enjoyed this issue more in and of itself if I weren’t so eager to get to the end of everything.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #4

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gambitandthexternals004The Maze

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Salvador Larrocca
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Cover: Salvador Larrocca, Al Milgrom
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We pick up some time after the previous issue, and find our focal characters split. Dazzler and Exodus appear, and find the remains of the Nanny robot that was tasked with protecting Rogue and Magneto’s son. We then change scenes to later and elsewhere, to Apocalypse personally interrogating Rictor over his failure. We flash back from there to Gambit and Lila running from Rictor and those characters’ confrontation…and back to Apocalypse. Another flashback shows Jubilee with a child running from Guido (Strong Guy) who has apparently betrayed the group. We see more of the interrogation, and flash back to Rictor vs. Strong Guy and Strong Guy vs. Gambit. Gambit is forced to make a decision…and we move back to Apocalypse and learn of Rictor’s outcome as well as Strong Guy’s…and end on Gambit and Lila.

This issue is a great illustration (no pun intended) of how great single-issue comics can be when treated AS a single issue, even if it’s part of a larger story or mini-series or such. The storytelling is stylistically quite different from the previous issues…instead of things simply unfolding chronologically, this issue picks up "at the end" and while we learn of where things ARE we’re caught up on how things got there from where we ended from the previous issue. Though the characters, their mission, and this 4-issue series are part of one ongoing story, this is "just" one more issue, existing AS an issue, as its own entity, rather than simply being the fourth chunk of a singular story that was split into four equal pieces to be serialized.

I really enjoyed this shift in style, despite a bit of confusion at first. I certainly would have benefitted from a "Previously…" page as I did not recall the ending of the previous issue; but as this issue unfolds and we have the flashbacks and glimpses of the present, one is caught up rather easily (though Guido’s betrayal is still a bit iffy to me).

I was distracted enough by the story that the art was just "there," good and all but it didn’t distract me. I simply followed the story and appreciated the visuals for what they were.

I did not recall the events of this series or issue, but here found it a fitting end…concluding the adventure, leaving things at a place simultaneously dark and light, and directing readers to the end of the Age of Apocalypse itself by way of Amazing X-Men #4 and then X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Weapon X #4

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weaponx004Into the Maelstrom!

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colors: Joe Rosas
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Adam Kubert, Dan Green
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Weapon X and Emma Frost open the issue, showing Gateway a holographic projection of North America…the destruction, the death, the whole mess–as they seek to convince him to lead the humans’ armada to Apocalypse’s door. Though counter-intuitive, it ends up being Logan’s in-your-face attitude that ultimately convinces him–not the images of Apocalypse’s atrocities. Moving to the armada, as things get underway they’re attacked by Pierce, who has also alerted Apocalypse’s forces of the coming assault. Pierce is surprised by a trick not exactly up Logan’s sleeve that allows him to save Gateway…who in turn tries one last gambit to get the Armada where it’s headed.

I’d previously "written off" the events of X-Universe as being entirely tangential to stuff and unimportant…the references it gets in this issue shows–at least–that effort is being made to have it matter, and I suppose it actually does, just not in any essential way. Much of this issue is "action," mixed with some foreshadowing. Though the scene with Apocalypse leaving Magneto’s interrogation and showing off a gene-tank to his minion adds context for Carol’s appearance, explains a fatal flaw in Apocalypse (he could easily stop the armada but chooses to allow things to play out just for the entertainment, justifying it that if he WOULD actually be brought down, hey–"survival of the fittest" and all that) and fills a couple pages.

I do feel somewhat disappointed in this issue–I think I feel like while we’ve SEEN a lot of Weapon X here, we haven’t really gotten to KNOW the character. There’s plenty of posturing, but for me at least, I "hear" and see WOLVERINE more than I do this character. Sure, semantics and all, this IS the Wolverine of the AoA reality and all, but the character serves more as "just another character" amidst the Human High Council and such. There’s something to be said of the character not only being capable of but actually working as part of a team, serving as an "agent" of (in this case, the Human High Council) and whatnot…but in retrospect it seems like Logan’s been a small player in his own title.

I like the visuals of the issue overall. I don’t quite "get" visually that Logan’s arm is all that damaged, and while I appreciate that he IS shot on-panel, it looks a bit "convenient" in a sense, like a box being checked. Otherwise, no real complaints on the art, outside of the usual–I don’t like the sideways double-page spreads, as turning a page and then realizing I have to further physically rotate the way I’m holding the comic itself is a huge distraction.

This issue is definitely a product of its time–the 1990s–both hokey and "fitting." Logan chomping a cigar, the various characters’ posturing and recklessness just to show how "cool" they are, etc. Still, it makes for an issue that feels like that bit in a movie where you realize that what’s come before is about to fall by the wayside for the climactic stuff that’ll end the whole thing and leave you barely remembering the story from the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the story thus far.

Had this been a contemporary series, I would not be surprised if Logan would have interacted with characters in X-Universe, as some of that stuff could have been folded together, this series’ chunk of story having such a huge involvement of the HHC. Weapon X doesn’t really tie much up, outside of Pierce being removed from the equation…but where we leave off here has a huge impact, if I’m correctly recalling, on the events that unfold in X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #4

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generationnext004"Bye"

Created by: Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Inks by: Mark Buckingham
Lettering by: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors by: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon
Cover: Bachalo
Edited by: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This is certainly the darkest end to any of these minis yet, for the Age of Apocalypse.

Illyana’s been found…but her rescuers are not unscathed from their trials. Even with the arrival of Colossus, the kiddos aren’t quite able to make it, and the students find themselves left behind as Colossus INSISTS she be carried to safety, the mission Magneto set. Only then does he "go back" to save his students…and the result is where lies the aforementioned darkness.

As with the rest of the series, I’m not a big fan of the art on this book. In many places it’s just too "busy" for my tastes, with too many lines, and this title definitely has some of the weirdest-looking characters. It remains distinctive and carries a darker tone, so the uncomfortable weirdness is appropriate…it’s just not something I particularly enjoy.

While the characters and situation are believable, I don’t much like seeing this side of Colossus, or Kitty…it’s uncomfortable to see them in these roles. Still, the story is rather believable, especially given what we’ve seen of them before–students AND teachers…and we’ve been set up to see this as a "suicide mission," just that we don’t normally see the sorts of character deaths that we do here.

Of course, that’s something that "can" be done in this case–the final issue of a four-issue glimpse into the twilight of the Age of Apocalypse. Consciously, as readers, it was clear by this point that the "regular" X-Men universe would return and that the Age of Apocalypse–if only in terms of publishing–was racing to its conclusion. Unless characters would cross over, or get a scene in X-Men: Omega…this would be "it" for them, and the story already being a divergent status quo, stuff can be done that simply would not fly in the regular books.

Though I’ve not been a fan of the art in particular on this series, the story’s been good, and it’s been a lot more interesting than I’d expected going in. Generation Next #4 now balances to Generation X–four issues of each, with Generation X only "taking the lead" by the return of the regular books and cessation of Generation Next…an interesting "meta" dynamic I’ve always noticed.

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