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Age of Apocalypse (2015) #1 [Review]

secretwars_ageofapocalypse001Sticks and Stones…

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Sandoval & Curiel
Asst. Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Katie Kubert
Executive Editor: Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: September 2015
Cover Price: $4.99

For what I believe is the first time in years, the “classic,” ORIGINAL Age of Apocalypse logo is back (though lacking the oval and “After Xavier: The“). For over a decade, it seems a newer logo/font has been the “in” thing for use with the branding, from the 10th anniversary-onward. Add to that the fact that we have Magneto and Rogue prominently shown as well as a gratuitous placement of Weapon X (Wolverine)’s hand and claws, and this is something that absolutely grabbed my attention. (There’s also the fact that I revisited the saga in its entirety earlier this year, too!). While the characters are a bit “off” in appearance on the cover, this is still a great image to me, and I especially dig this rendition of Rogue.

We open the story to find the Savage Land under attack by Holocaust–son of Apocalypse (and in this Secret Wars version of the world, Apocalypse is Baron of the realm, with only god Doom above him). Holocaust is also one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, sent to retrieve the young mutant Doug Ramsey (aka “Cypher”). Storm and Quicksilver’s squad of X-Men arrive to fight the monster and save Cypher…though things quickly go pear-shaped for all involved. We then shift to the aftermath and find what Mr. Sinister, Dark Beast, and the Summers brothers are up to as well as learning more about the situation, as Cypher pieces together an important bit of information. And finally, we get to Magneto’s squad of X-Men…and are left hanging for next issue.

As mentioned above about the cover, Sandoval and Curiel‘s art has the characters looking a bit “off” to me…but despite that, the work is very good, and overall I like what I got in this issue. Maybe I would have enjoyed this even more with one of the “classic” artists that worked on the original 1995 Age of Apocalypse, but this IS a newer story, a new look at stuff, and is not actually that SAME Age of Apocalypse (evidenced especially by the presence of modern Tablets that didn’t exist in any sort of commonality back in ’95). There are some differences–Magneto seems overly muscled, Cyclops’ hair seems a lot thicker, longer, and far more wild, and Sinister’s coloring seems more muted than I expected–but in and of itself, I’m cool with it. I enjoyed the look and feel of this issue.

Another selling point for me was very definitely that Nicieza–one of the writers on the original story–is the writer here on this book now. I generally find that I am far more accepting of changes to core elements of a story in new “takes” on an original when an original creator is involved…it’s sort of their seal of approval, being involved.

As we only have a few issues for this story as opposed to several dozen for the original, Nicieza deals nicely with scaling down the cast for the main story while directing our focus a bit. There’s a certain familiarity here that I truly appreciate, while the differences seem to come primarily from the fact that this is an Age of Apocalypse that is part of Battleworld and not solely its own thing…so certain continuity elements simply don’t exist here that did in the original…and/or they flat-out don’t matter. The story rang true to my reading, even more than probably anything else done with the AoA in the past 10  years.

You don’t need to have read the original story to follow this…there’s plenty in-context to move things along. As a part of Secret Wars and the whole “NOW, ALL THAT REMAINS…IS BATTLEWORLD!” this functions believably as simply an alternate take on/situation for X-Men characters. If you’re familiar with and enjoyed the original Age of Apocalypse epic, this version of the characters seems plucked from the heart of that, rather than some new status quo picking up years after the original.

The $4.99 cover price is a bit steep…and though I think I knew OF it a few weeks back looking ahead, I forgot about it, so was somewhat surprised when I re-realized what I’d paid for this. That’s probably also credit back to the cover imagery and logo and then my enjoyment of the story–I was distracted and not bothered by the price. We get about 30 content pages–more than the standard 20-22, so as much as any are these days, I’ll accept that as “justification” for the $4.99.

I thoroughly enjoyed the issue, and despite trying to shift to Marvel‘s Digital Comics Unlimited, I may actually keep current with this series. Highly recommended to Age of Apocalypse fans in particular…this may not be nearly as special as the original story, but as a new story it captures something that really works…at least to me.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #4

aoa_revisited_logo

astonishingxmen004Plot/Dialogue: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Townsend/Milgrom
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Madureira, Townsend, Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Doing what comics did well BEFORE they were commonly written-for-the-trade, this issue picks up a bit after the previous issue’s cliffhanger. Where there we saw Blink horrified at finding the eviscerated body of Sabretooth, here we find that she’s gotten over that shock and is now confronting Holocaust over the issue. The "Infinite factory" has been taken apart, and she’s soon joined by the rest of Rogue’s group of X-Men, and together they face Holocaust, each with plenty of reason to take the Horseman apart. The monster holds an ace in the sleeve, though, and escapes…but not before revealing to Rogue that her husband, son, and the stranger Bishop have been taken by Apocalypse…and setting her on a determined course.

Yet again, I found myself enjoying Madureira‘s art in this issue. By name, I’m inclined to want to avoid it in contemporary comics…but here, it’s very good and I enjoyed it. Twenty years ago, it just WAS…and with no name recognition I was–and still am–good with it. There’s a definite "feel" of it being ’90s art–particularly Holocaust’s appearance with the shoulder armor and such–but I’m definitely ok with that.

The story itself moves things along a bit and ties some things up–Sabretooth’s fate, the team’s handling of it, the immediate threat of Holocaust himself, the team dealing with the Infinites, etc. I nearly chuckled at the "smart-arse" back and forth between Rogue and Holocaust, and remember truly laughing out loud in the past when I’d read the scene. "From where I’m standing…" and Holocaust simply punching Rogue away "Then stand over there!" Childish perhaps, but a nice bit of levity within the already dark story.

While functionally a 4-issue mini-series and this is the "finale," the story doesn’t actually end here…just the chapter. The issue ends with a note to follow things into Amazing X-Men #4 and then X-Men: Omega…and that’s what all the AoA series do. We started with X-Men: Alpha with a singular whole, splintered off to the 8 (or 10) minis, and everything re-converges for the true finale in X-Men: Omega.

Were this a contemporary issue/contemporary end-of-a-miniseries, I’d be very annoyed, I think. As-is, seeing this as simply a part of the larger whole and having ZERO expectation of Astonishing X-Men wrapping up as a full self-contained thing, I’m perfectly fine with this, and suspect that (as with this issue) the rest of the #4s will be similar: each leaving me all the more eager to get to the grand finale, having journeyed through the separate sub-stories that make up the overall Age of Apocalypse story.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #2

aoa_revisited_logo

astonishingxmen002No Exit

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers:
Dan Green & Tim Townsend
Color Art: Steve Buccellato & Digital Chameleon
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Rogue’s team finds themselves in the remnants of Chicago about to be trampled by its fleeing human population. Sunfire lashes out, determining that he MUST take the fight to Holocaust…but Rogue winds up stopping him, keeping her team together to help the humans here, now…not fly off half-cocked to be slaughtered. Meanwhile, Bishop finds Magneto sitting quietly alone while his young charges race around the globe, and chastises him…before realizing he is functionally saying goodbye to the infant son whose very existence will be sacrificed by "remaking" the world to what it should have been. Further meanwhile, Sabretooth enlists Blinks help to take the fight to Holocaust, eluding Rogue where Sunfire did not…and battling the monstrous son of Apocalypse…a battle that goes roughly as he planned, but not before sending Wild Child away with valuable information to survive the encounter.

Re-reading the Age of Apocalypse epic issue-by-issue in single-issue format for the first time in nearly two decades has been a true delight, taking me back at once to my all-time favorite X-Men story, period…as well as a nostalgic, simpler time when I found the X-Men comics to BE fun and enjoyable and a real treat to read…a time before the Internet and daily spoilers and the Next Big Event being hyped hardly halfway into the Current Big Event…when the Current Big Event mattered, was huge, was all-encompassing, was…THERE.

This issue embodies all that. We have favorite characters–Rogue, Magneto, this version of Sabretooth, Blink, Bishop…we have the latest chapter of an epic adventure, the last adventure, the One That Will Change Everything…as we witness the twilight of the Age of Apocalypse, the last-ditch effort of all those involved to make a difference in this darker world. And while the darkness and death is by no means a fun thing, a fun setting…the story itself, reading this…is.

Madureira’s art works really well for me with this issue…the entirety of the issue just looks very good, affirms my (perhaps altered-by-recently-re-read-issues) memory of how much I loved the look of the book at the time as I quite enjoy it here. The characters are all familiar, successfully distinct where I’d expect and any similarities or indistinctness is minimal and only noticed by looking back through for such things and never took me out of the "reading experience."

The writing–the story–simply "is" for me. And that’s a good thing. I read the issue, and was sucked in and maintained page after page, knowing I’ve read this, vague memories creeping up and ever so slightly reminding me that something happens to this character, or that character actually does survive, etc. But by and large the "details" have been forgotten and so are read here anew as a fresh story that is quite enjoyable. This issue fits the ongoing narrative of the epic, gives a number of characters some significant facetime, and unfolds details that add further depth to them…from Rogue’s reluctance to use her powers on a teammate or see any of ’em throw their lives away; to Magneto struggling with the reality he knows versus the knowledge that everything he’s known for two decades can be (MUST be) somehow undone; to Sabretooth and what he means to Blink as well as seeking to atone for his past.

The reading of this issue "kicks off" Month #2 for me in this journeying back through the Age of Apocalypse…and leaves me extremely eager–moreso than I’ve been so far–to get through the entirety, wishing I had the time to just sit and devour the saga…and yet all the more curious (just for myself) at what the overall experience will be and how my own reading is impacted by taking the time between the reading of each issue to write these reviews, forcing myself to think and self-analyze, at least–on what I’ve read.

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