In a Nutshell
Magneto's X-Men battle Apocalypse's Horsemen at Cape Citadel
Writer: Howard Mackie
Pencils: Terry Dodson
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Matt Webb
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Chief: Bob Harras
Magneto oversees the training of his X-Men at their base on Wundagore Mountain, then introduces them to his newest recruit: Weapon X. Meanwhile, Apocalypse's ship appears above New York, and Candra declares that the time for the strong has come. Back at Wundagore, Mystique brings a young mutant named Rogue to Magneto, hoping to spare her from Apocalypse. Later, Apocalypse's Horsemen attack the Cape Citadel military base, targeting its nuclear weapons. Hearing of the attack, Magneto sends the X-Men into action, leaving Scarlet Witch behind with Rogue to watch over the base and the younger students, not knowing that the villainous Nemesis is watching from outside. After the X-Men leave, Nemesis attacks. At Cape Citadel, Sabretooth is unnerved when he learns the Horsemen intend to not just control the nuclear weapons, but use them. Just then, the X-Men arrive, and engage the Horsemen. They ultimately prevail, but when the X-Men return home, they discover their base badly damaged by Nemesis and Scarlet Witch having died fighting him off and saving the school. Though devastated, Magneto vows the dream of humans & mutants peacefully co-existing will live on.
Firsts and Other Notables
X-Men Chronicles is the "Age of Apocalyse" iteration of X-Men Unlimited; being quarterly, it only releases two issues during the event (instead of four). Given that, it serves to provide some of the only direct looks into the past of "Age of Apocalypse", at events which occurred in this reality before the main story begins in X-Men Alpha. To that end, this issue showcases the X-Men's first encounter with Apocalypse (or at least, his Horsemen), in a parallel to the events of X-Men #1. It also depicts the first meeting between the X-Men and Weapon X, and between Rogue & Magneto, as well as the death of Magneto's daughter, Scarlet Witch (whose death was referenced in X-Men Alpha).
Scarlet Witch is killed defending the school from Nemesis, who gets very little introduction here (even his powerset is vague), but the next issue of this series will reveal he is Apocalypse's son Holocaust, who will be attacked by Magneto in revenge for the death of Scarlet Witch, which leads to him needing the containment armor he is wearing in X-Men Alpha (and for the rest of "Age of Apocalypse").
A dying Scarlet Witch asks Rogue to be a friend to Magneto, laying the seeds for their eventual relationship.
Apocalypse sends his Horsemen to attack Cape Citadel (a parallel to Magneto’s attack in X-Men #1); they consist of fellow Externals Gideon & Candra, War, Death and Sabretooth (who will, of course, eventually defect for the X-Men). While I’m okay with there being five Horsemen, it’s always bugged me that two have “Horsemen” names while the other three don’t.
Like previous issues of X-Men Unlimited, this one concludes with a series of pin-ups - all Age of Apocalypse themed, of course.
This is a double-sized issue with a wraparound cover.
Through the Looking Glass
This issue shows the X-Men’s first base in Wundagore mountain, and establishes that Magneto’s version of the Danger Room has been dubbed “the Killing Zone”. The original X-Men wear red and gold-colored uniforms (not unlike the ones Generation X will don later in their series), and consist of Quicksilver, Iceman, Storm, Scarlet Witch, Jean Grey & Colossus.
They are eventually joined by their first recruit, Weapon X.
Mystique still found and (partially) raised Rogue, before turning her over to Magneto after she was targeted by Apocalypse.
Apocalypse's ship in this issue resembles Ship from X-Factor.
A Work in Progress
Rogue was attacked by Polaris, and during the fight, she acquired and retained a portion of Polaris’ magnetic powers.
Sabretooth breaks rank with the Horsemen when he learns they intended to use the missiles at Cape Citadel, not just capture them.
Weapon X and Sabretooth fight one another, a battle which concludes when Weapon X severs Sabretooth’s spine.
The first of two looks at the "past" of the "Age of Apocalypse" reality, this issue presents the first mission of Magneto's original X-Men, as they go into battle to defend the nuclear stockpile of Cape Citadel against the forces of Apocalypse. Obviously, this serves as an homage to the first issue of X-Men, in which Xavier's original X-Men defend Cape Citadel against a similar attack by Magneto, and that kind of cross-reality symmetry is what makes these kinds of stories fun (seeing which details of the established stories are "constants"). While the basic structure of the stories match (Magneto's oversees the training of the X-Men, introduces a new team member - here, somewhat winkingly, Wolverine is put in the original Jean Grey role - then sets the team off into battle), being a double-sized issue, this adds to the original story in two notable ways. First, it establishes a parallel attack on Magneto's Wundagore base, in which Scarlet Witch is killed. It doesn't really add a lot to the story (most of the attack happens off-panel), other than to deal with some continuity stuff (showing why the reality-altering Scarlet Witch isn't around for the story, and seeding the Rogue/Magneto relationship).
Second instead of the X-Men facing off against a singular foe, these X-Men battle Apocalypse's Horsemen. In general, this is disappointing, just because it would have been neat to see the X-Men take on the titular villain directly for the first time, but it also doesn't help that the Horsemen in this case aren't terribly interesting. Beyond the two generic "War" and "Death" characters, we've got two distinctly 90s characters in Gideon and Mackie-favorite Candra, making Sabretooth the only engaging one of the bunch (and that comes, in part, because we already know, from X-Men Alpha, that he's destined to jump ship for the X-Men). It changes the story from being the epic first confrontation between the X-Men and their mortal enemy, to one where the X-Men face off against their biggest enemy's goons, most of whom are 90s jobbers, at best.
The end result is perfectly fine: it does its job of presenting a historical tale of the AoA X-Men while filling in some continuity bits. The alternate reality setting keeps Mackie from indulging in many of his scripting tics, while the Dodson/Janson art proves a surprisingly good combination: Janson takes some of the cheesecake-y shine off Dodson's pencils, while Dodson still brings a kind of bright, classical superhero look that keeps everything from being too dark or gritty. It's a worthy representation for the setting: darker than the original timeline's story, but still not as dark as the AoA world readers will come to know as the event unfolds. But the deviations away from the homage to the original prove to be detracting, as the issue is at its best when it engages directly with its parallel narrative, and much less interesting when it tries to blaze its on trail by expanding on the original beyond the essential tweaks brought on by the alternate reality setting.
Next week, we dive deeper into the Age of Apocalypse with Astonishing X-Men #1, Factor X #1 and Weapon X #1!
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