Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Friday, June 7, 2019

X-amining X-Calibre #1

"The Infernal Gallop"
March 1995

In a Nutshell
Nightcrawler heads to Antarctica to meet with his mother.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciller: Ken Lashley
Inkers: Wegrzyn, Moy and LaRosa
Letterer: Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
Nearing the end of the "infernal gallop", a mutant named Switchback is delivered to a massive monk named Cain. He proceeds to lead her through the freezing Antarctic to the tropical haven of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Nightcrawler meets with Angel, looking for travel arrangements to Antarctica in order to meet his mother, on Magneto's orders. Angel reluctantly directs him to a nearby warehouse and a man named Proudstar. Meanwhile, Magneto contacts Mystique, and asks her to help Nightcrawler enter Avalon & find Destiny, over Mystique's objections. Back in the city, Nightcrawler meets with Proudstar, who is none too pleased with the way Mystique extracts payment from the refugees he sends her way, but Nightcrawler defends his mother, then demands Proudstar get him to the antarctic. Unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by Danielle Moonstar, an agent of Apocalypse. Upon hearing her report, he sends her and the rest of the Pale Riders to follow Nightcrawler to Avalon. Later, as Nightcrawler leaves the city aboard a submarine, Switchback meets Destiny in Avalon, but when Destiny reads Switchback's future, all she sees is the apocalypse.

Firsts and Other Notables
The "Age of the Apocalypse" book with the laziest title change (it's the same title, just spelled differently!), this is the counterpart to Excalibur, and as such, it will focus on Nightcrawler (who, of course, is just one of the X-Men in this reality), and the mission he received from Magneto: the track down his mother, Mystique, and get her help to find Destiny. In the process, it will also deal with the human/mutant sanctuary of Avalon, located in the Savage Land.

This series centers in part on the "Infernal Gallop", a sort of Underground Railroad-type journey that ferries humans and mutants looking to escape Apocalypse's regime to the sanctuary of Avalon, a hidden community within the Savage Land. Nightcrawler departs on the first leg of the journey, in an attempt to reach his mother, in this issue.


There's an odd moment in this issue, in which the Sentinels are shown on the title splash page flying through Manhattan. It's essentially an establishing shot of the apocalyptian city before zeroing in on the Heaven nightclub, but there's no reason for Sentinels to be there: it's a plot point in both Weapon X & Amazing X-Men that specific holes need to be created in Apocalypse's defenses to allow the Sentinels in, and once that's happened, they are all sent to New England for the human evacuation. And, of course, there's no reason Apocalypse would allow the mutant-hunting Sentinels to just fly around Manhattan.


Switchback, a mutant with the ability to manipulate time to limited degrees who is the only surviving member of a larger group (including her boyfriend) to reach the end of the Infernal Gallop, makes her first appearance in this issue, and she will remain a recurring character in this series. She is an "Age of Apocalypse" original character, with no 616 counterpart.


Through the Looking Glass
The opening pages of the issue introduce the AoA Juggernaut, who is now a monk named Cain working in service of Avalon. He is not wearing the Juggernaut armor, but is quite massive in size.


Nightcrawler’s last name is Darkholme, not Wagner, as he was actually raised by Mystique.

Mystique serves as a ferryman of sorts, helping shepherd people to Avalon, though Angel suggests her motivations are less than altruistic (something to which Nightcrawler takes offense).


John Proudstar, who was the first casuality of the "All New, All Different" X-Men in the prime reality, helps set people in New York on the first step of the Infernal Gallop, a process which, in part, involves an American Indian Ghost Dance ritual.


The sub-boss for this series is the Pale Riders, a trio of mutants in the service of Apocalypse, sent to follow Nightcrawler to Avalon (and destroy it), consisting of the Age of Apocalypse versions of Danielle Moonstar, Deadpool (Old Man Wade) and a new character, Damask, whose prime counterpart will be introduced later in Warren Ellis' Excalibur run.


The Age of Apocalypse Destiny, the ultimate target of Nightcrawler's plot in this series, debuts. She is the sort of matriarch of Avalon, but is otherwise fairly close in demeanor to her prime counterpart (though lacking the cool mask).


A Work in Progress
Magneto needs Destiny to corroborate Bishop’s story.

The Infernal Gallop begins in an abandoned Stark Warehouse.


Nightcrawler hates churches.


The submarine taking Nightcrawler to Avalon is named “Excalibur”.


Austin's Analysis
In a lot of ways, X-Calibre is one of the more straightforward Age of Apocalypse series, at least in its first issue. The AoA Nightcrawler, his harder edge and winking dislike of religion aside, is not all that removed from the prime version. This issue follows a pretty standard plot setup, with Nightcrawler sent on a mission and carrying out the initial steps to make it happen, ending with him embarking on the first step of his journey. The most shocking moment comes when he teleports off one of Proudstar's fingers (an attempt to showcase that aforementioned harder edge), and the most intriguing element of this particular plotline, thus far, is the question of Mystique's morality in skimming her charges for delivering them to Avalon (and Nightcrawler's defense thereof), but otherwise, this is a pretty standard "start of a new plot" issue, one which, tweaks to the setting aside, wouldn't feel terribly out of place in the prime reality. Which isn't inherently a bad thing, but does make this series, at least at first, somewhat less attention-getting & memorable than its other AoA brethern.

Next Issue
Next week: Generation Next #1 and X-Man #1!

Like what you read? Then support us on Patreon!

11 comments:

  1. You forgot to mention that Nightcrawler’s power is also stronger in this reality, as with others: he teleports only John Proudstar’s finger.

    I strongly disliked and still dislike the art. It’s just terrible. I was also unpleased on how John Proudstar and Cain Marko were treated in this series. They deserved a chance to shine.

    Does it make sense that Nightcrawler was raised by Mystique? Even if Apocalypse appeared a little bit earlier in this continuity (probably around the time the Fantastic Four would receive their powers, but, instead, were sabotaged), Nightcrawler would still be an adult, orphan, and raised in a circus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny and belief-stretching that the international Second Genesis X-Men handpicked by Xavier in the 616 timeline would still end up to Apocalypse's America and being X-Men.

      Nightcrawler of AoA isn't necessarily stronger but merely more ruthless. The deed itself was successfully attempted with Nimrod's arm in 616 universe and should work to flesh and bones too.

      Technically I guess when he teleports he must cut a chunk of existence around him with air (and other persons when applicable), and when he moves from point A to point B, that air and tangibles transport with him and replace the air molecules and whatnot in point B that is transported to point A. By intentionally altering the borders of this "cut&paste" field (that as default mostly includes him and the persons he's transporting) he would cause only a part of Proudstar or Nimrod getting transported. So technically he couldn't transport into a solid rock in case a blooper happened, but into the space within the solid rock that his powers create.

      Obviously this goes against what we have been told about the BAMF coming from air rushing to fill the void created by his transporting away. But maybe the other dimension he's using is his demon dad's hell dimension that he uses as a clipboard of sorts, and his dad steals a bit of existence every time Kurt uses his powers that creates a little bit of void.

      Maybe the good people of Winzeldorf were onto him and his dad's scheme.

      Delete
    2. Does it make sense that Nightcrawler was raised by Mystique?

      I'm not sure he was raised by her - his Wagner surname is referenced, so he spent at least some time with the circus - just that he has a better relationship with her here than in the prime reality. Which makes some sense, as it seems likely Magneto would have brought them together much sooner.

      @Teemu: It's funny and belief-stretching that the international Second Genesis X-Men handpicked by Xavier in the 616 timeline would still end up to Apocalypse's America and being X-Men.

      Nightcrawler, at least, makes some sense, given Magneto's first X-Men base was in the Eastern European Wundagore, making it easier for him to have heard about that furry German circus acrobat.

      The larger question is how are there any X-Men at all without Cerebro to help locate them? Or, for that matter, how does Magneto know Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch are his kids when he didn't learn that until well after the start of the Marvel Universe this reality sidestepped?

      *shrug* At some point you just have to roll with this stuff in the interest of fun, interesting stories. Maybe its a multiversal constant that at some point, Storm is going to leave Africa and join a team of mutants fighting oppression, whether she's pulled out by a Cerebro-backed Xavier or however-Magneto-does-it-here.

      Delete
    3. @Licínio Miranda Does it make sense that Nightcrawler was raised by Mystique?

      @Austin Gorton The larger question is how are there any X-Men at all without Cerebro to help locate them? Or, for that matter, how does Magneto know Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch are his kids when he didn't learn that until well after the start of the Marvel Universe this reality sidestepped?

      I love this stuff, and I love it in no small part because it's unexplained. Did Mystique feel compelled to seek out the child she abandoned after Apocalypse began his rise to power? Did Magneto encounter the High Evolutionary after Xavier's death, and thus discover his children much earlier than otherwise would have? Is that why he built his first base at Wundagore Mountain? I thought about this stuff for hours and hours and hours as a kid. I loved how this whole event was an invitation for my imagination to run wild.

      @Teemu It's funny and belief-stretching that the international Second Genesis X-Men handpicked by Xavier in the 616 timeline would still end up to Apocalypse's America and being X-Men.

      Well, if you think THAT is belief-stretching, just wait til we get to X-Man and discover that Irishwoman Theresa Rourke -- whose powers have not manifested themselves and who therefore thinks she is a baseline human -- has inexplicably fled the safety of Europe for America's heartland, where humans are routinely mass slaughtered. Not that she came to the States to be a freedom fighter or anything. She's just living in Kansas for ... reasons. And then running for her life. Cuz that makes PERFECT sense, right?

      Delete
    4. Black Tom dropped her off in Kansas.

      Delete
  2. The art in this is so very 90s. Look at Proudstar's feet - they're downright Liefeldian.

    I remember liking some of the concepts in this series (like the safe haven of Avalon) but it never quite gelling with me for some reason. I just wish I could place why. Maybe it was making Kurt so joyless? Even when he was evil in other timelines, he was never miserable. But I guess having more than one character who wasn't brooding all the time wasn't allowed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm especially curious to revisit this series - it's one of the "forgotten" AoA books in my memory. I don't remember much about it beyond the broadstrokes.

      Delete
  3. “The Infernal Gallop” sounds too ridiculous to be my new band name.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The "Age of the Apocalypse" book with the laziest title change (it's the same title, just spelled differently!)

    But it's named after a bullet calibre! LOL

    Switchback, a mutant with the ability to manipulate time to limited degrees who is the only surviving member of a larger group (including her boyfriend) to reach the end of the Infernal Gallop, makes her first appearance in this issue, and she will remain a recurring character in this series. She is an "Age of Apocalypse" original character, with no 616 counterpart.

    [...]

    The sub-boss for this series is the Pale Riders, a trio of mutants in the service of Apocalypse, sent to follow Nightcrawler to Avalon (and destroy it), consisting of the Age of Apocalypse versions of Danielle Moonstar, Deadpool (Old Man Wade) and a new character, Damask, whose prime counterpart will be introduced later in Warren Ellis' Excalibur run.


    I was not an Excalibur reader before AoA, so I had no idea at the time that these were new AoA characters. I thought they were all just warped versions of people featured regularly in that series. This event seems like a poor way to introduce new characters. I doubt reader investment in alt-universe characters starts off very high, and introducing new characters on top of that seems to only lower the stakes.

    I'd have taken both new characters out of this series. Psylocke works much better in Switchback's role. She's fleeing human-controlled Europe (and her own brother, who leads the human resistance) as the war with Apocalypse heats up. Her British heritage and connection to Brian give her at least some connection to 616 Excalibur, which is more than be said about any character in this book besides Nightcrawler, and her telepathic powers make her the perfect stand in for Damask in the climactic battle with the Shadow King.

    Damask's villain-turned-hero-because-she-saw-some-leaves story is total nonsense and doesn't need to be in here at all. But if Ellis wanted some sort of reconnect-with-nature epiphany from one of his villains then Dani Moonstar is right there! She exists in this series exclusively to die in a half-assed effort to make Damask look like the most evil/awesome villain ever. It's lazy and it's stupid. Have Dani flashback to her last memories before Apocalypse, of her grandfather and her quasi-telepathic connection with the mountain lion in Marvel Graphic Novel 4. Then have her kill Wade and join (sigh) X-Calibre. (I can't believe someone pitched this title change with a straight face.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This event seems like a poor way to introduce new characters.

      Agreed. I suspect it might have something to do with Ellis' relatively recent arrival on the book. He probably had ideas for new characters and not a ton of familiarity with the canon (as evidenced already in "The Soulsword Trilogy" so he probably shrugged and just used them here.

      Delete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!