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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

X-amining X-Men Omega #1


In a Nutshell
The X-Men infiltrate Apocalypse's citadel to rescue Magneto and bring an end to the Age of Apocalypse.

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz
Inks: LaRosa, Townsend, Kesel, Candelario, Hanna, Milgrom
Letters: Richard Starkings w/the Comicscraftsmen
Colors: Steve Buccellato w/the Electric Crayons
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Apocalypse taunts the captive Magneto, while elsewhere, Angel frees Karma and the X-Men teleport into Apocalypse's citadel. Outside, Cyclops & Jean Grey lead the freed prisoners out of Manhattan, even as they're unknowingly followed by Havok, while Angel sacrifices himself to take out the defensive shield around Apocalype's citadel, enabling Nate Grey to get inside. As the Shadow King suddenly announces that the Human High Council has launched their nuclear attack, wiping out the Midwest, Nate bursts into Apocalypse's inner sanctum, freeing Magneto & attacking Holocaust. Below, the X-Men penetrate the chamber holding the crystal as Nate's fight spills out into the same area, allowing Magneto to be reunited with the X-Men. As they hold off Apocalypse's forces, Destiny, Illyana & Bishop go inside the crystal. Outside, Weapon X parachutes into the city as Jean realizes the Human High Council have launched their nuclear weapons against Manhattan, and throws up a telekinetic shield over the island.

Inside the crystal, Destiny & Illyana work together to send Bishop into the past. Outside, Apocalypse orders his seawall defenses to go on the attack and destroy Europe, and then Magneto & Rogue confront him directly, looking for their son. Outside, Havok reveals himself by killing Jean, thereby removing the last line of defense against the human's bombs. He then kills his brother, and is slain in turn by Weapon X. In the citadel, Colossus, consumed with his desire to retrieve his sister from the crystal, murders Shadowcat, and is mortally wounded by Gambit, while Rogue kills Strong Guy and is reunited with Charles while Magneto battles Apocalypse. In the past, Bishop attacks Legion before he can kill Xavier. Their powers interact, create a loop of psionic energy that kills Legion, causing Bishop to fade from existence while the X-Men are pulled back to their future. In Apocalypse's citadel, Nate stabs Holocaust with a shard of the M'Kraan crystal while Magneto uses his power to pull Apocalypse apart, killing him. With Apocalypse defeated and the nuclear bombs starting to fall, Magneto holds his family one final time, remembering Charles Xavier and the power of his dream as the world fades to white.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the conclusion of "Age of Apocalypse", as Magneto & the X-Men succeed in their plan to send Bishop into the past to prevent Legion from killing Xavier, thereby preventing the AoA reality from being formed. Their success coincides with the nuclear attack on America launched by the Human High Council, bringing an end to things in two different ways.

Despite this, the Age of Apocalypse reality and most of its surviving characters will return, eventually earning its own ongoing series (well, as ongoing as anything at Marvel is these days) for a time, essentially robbing this story of its impact by turning it into just another alternate reality (despite the fact that the whole point - from which much of that narrative impact derived - was that it replaced the prime reality, rather than representing just another a parallel reality diverged from a specific point in time, and then was willing wiped out so that the prime reality could resume its rightful place).

The prime reality is restored when AoA Bishop, sent back in time from inside the M'Kraan crystal by Illyana, creates a psionic feedback loop with Legion, which allows Legion to see the AoA world briefly before killing him. Though Legion will eventually return from his death here, he does stay gone a good long while, not returning until the relaunch of a new New Mutants series in 2009.

After Legion is killed, the four X-Men who followed him into the past - Storm, Iceman, Psylocke, and Bishop - pulled back to their future, leaving "20 Years Ago" Xavier, Magneto & Gabrielle Haller with nothing but quickly-fading memories of what transpired (Bishop, we'll eventually learn, does return some memories of the Age of Apocalypse, presumably due to his brief interactions with his AoA counterpart in this issue).

Shortly before everyone is annihilated by nuclear bombs/cease to exist thanks to time travel, Magneto kills Apocalypse by using his power to rip him in half.

Though the AoA reality ceases to exist (for now) with this issue, four characters will survive its destruction by jumping into the prime reality in this issue, all using the M'Kraan crystal as the conduit (and all, we'll eventually learn, arriving in the prime reality at different times). First up is Sugar Man, who leaves Colossus’ boot (where he hid himself in Generation Next #4) to head into the M’Kraan crystal.

Next, Beast teleports himself into the crystal as a way to escape the X-Men (though dialogue between Quicksilver & Blink seems to suggest Quicksilver foiled this attempt, Beast will turn up in the prime reality, suggesting the teleport worked as intended).

Finally, Holocaust & Nate Grey are transported into the prime reality (we'll eventually learn) when the latter stabs the former with a shard of the crystal.

John Romita Jr. draws the cover which, like X-Men Alpha, is a wraparound chromium-enhanced cover.

Through the Looking Glass
When Destiny looks at the M’Kraan crystal, she sees glimpses of the Prime reality.

This leads her to sign off on Magneto’s plan, and says that only she, Bishop, and Illyana can enter the crystal, since they alone have no counterparts in the other reality (though technically, at this point, Blink doesn’t either, while Bishop does - the prime reality one fighting Legion alongside the rest of the time-tossed X-Men in the past; they even interact in the course of this issue).

A Work in Progress
It doesn't really amount to anything, but Angel rescues Karma from Apocalypse early in the issue.

He then sacrifices himself to take out the force field protecting Apocalypse’s citadel, allowing Nate to get inside.

For whatever reason, several notable characters are missing from the large group of X-Men who teleport into Apocalypse's citadel, including Sabretooth, Wild Child, Sunfire, Exodus, Dazzler and Storm.

There’s a disconnect between the art and the script, in which a weird two headed guy alerts Apocalypse to the Human High Council’s attack, and dialogue refers to him as the Shadow King (who is technically dead at this point).

Magneto recognizes Nate as the mutant Forge promised to deliver to him someday.

In response to the nuclear attack, Apocalypse orders his sea wall to go on the offensive, precipitating the death of the Human High Council.

Jean is killed when Havok catches up to her & Cyclops. Havok also kills Cyclops somehow (despite Factor X #4 establishing their powers have no effect on each other), and is, in turn, killed by Weapon X, who dropped into the city in search of Jean.

The Havok/Scarlett affair is paid off, more or less, via a line of dialogue from Havok about how both he and his brother have a thing for traitorous redheads.

Colossus, determined to stop his sister from restoring a world in which she’s dead, first kills Iceman (technically, he could probably pull himself back together, but he’s not seen after Colossus smashes him apart).

Shadowcat then stands in her husband’s way, confident enough that he won’t harm her that she remains solid. Her confidence is misplaced, as he simply runs her over, killing her.

This leads to Gambit ultimately striking a killing blow on Colossus to stop him, and he dies just after Illyana emerges from the crystal, having sent Bishop into the past. All in all, Colossus’ behavior in this issue reinforces the notion that he didn't really try as hard as he could have to save his students in Generation Next #4, and generally makes him a really annoying character (his shortsighted focus on his sister and constant cries of “Illyana!” make him the issue’s equivalent of Michael from Lost, doing nothing but yelling for “Waaaalt!”).

Strong Guy pops up, still in possession of Charles. Rogue gets her revenge for his abduction of her son by draining away his power and punching him out of the citadel.

Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
In one of the more poignant moments, Weapon X alludes to the myth of the Phoenix as Jean dies, lamenting that she won’t return from the dead like the legendary bird.

Austin's Analysis
The big conclusion to the four-month, ten-series (plus a few one-shots) "Age of Apocalypse" event, this issue is certainly a bit rough around the edges. Professional Chameleon Roger Cruz handles all the pencils as well as can be expected (though every time I see the JRjr cover, I shed a single tear at the thought of having him on these interiors, as well), but the half dozen inkers do the book no favors in terms of consistency, with some pages looking perfectly fine if unexciting (aka the Roger Cruz trademark style), while others look downright ugly. Narratively speaking, Lobdell & Waid similarly get the job down, concluding the most notable lingering plot threads left over following the series' conclusions and restoring the prime reality, while working in at least a few distinct character moments along the way (Colossus' wife-killing obsession with saving his sister and Weapon X's quiet lament over the body of Jean Grey are particularly effective, though the closing panels of Magneto, Rogue & Charles watching the end of the world are not without their poignancy as well).

But there are flaws a plenty, starting with the notable absence of a handful of X-Men from the big finale for no discernible reason, continuity hiccups that editorial should have caught (like Quicksilver seemingly stopping Beast from teleporting into the crystal, even though he did, in fact, teleport into the crystal, or Havok killing Cyclops with a plasma blast despite it being well established that the brothers are immune to each other's powers) and some rushed plot points (Angel is just sort of...there, until he sacrifices himself entirely independent of all other actors even though his sacrifice unknowingly benefits those actors, while Apocalypse wiping out the Human High Council is rushed and feels unnecessary).

Yet on the whole, this is nevertheless a rousing conclusion to the event, bringing together the various plot threads in an exciting and suitably-epic-feeling manner, one which benefits from the bittersweet dichotomy at the heart of the story: even if the X-Men of this world win, they still die, as victory means they've prevented themselves from existing. Thus, we are left feeling both triumphant, for the X-Men succeed in their mission, while Rogue retrieves her kidnapped son and Magneto personally dispatches Apocalypse in an ultimately pointless (reality is already coming apart) but still eminently satisfying moment, but also sad, because that victory is still the lesser of two evils, and all the characters we've followed for the last four months get to celebrate their hard-fought victory by not existing any longer.

That (most) everyone, in the end, dies, underscores how, at its heart, "Age of Apocalypse" is essentially a glorified & extended issue of What If?: "What If Magneto Formed the X-Men?" or "What If Apocalypse Conquered the World?" (just as so many of those stories answer their titular question with "everyone, ultimately, dies", so too does story). But thanks to the scope & level of craft on display throughout the event and the caliber of the creative teams across the line, which create not just a one-off story but a fully-formed, fleshed-out world for the characters to inhabit, a world which, thanks to the market-driven decision to present the stories by cancelling and relaunching the entire line of X-books for four months, carries a narrative weight these kinds of stories usually lack, (ie even though this marks the end of the "Age of Apocalypse", the story still "counts", narratively-speaking), "Age of Apocalypse" stands as so much more than a run-of-the-mill What If?.

As a storyline, "Age of Apocalypse" is by no means perfect - it is almost too big at times (with the standard four issue length for all series cutting some narratives short while stretching others too thin) and also too small (as it fails, despite the efforts made in X-Universe, to address the full ramifications of its reality alterations on the entirety of the Marvel Universe), but it represents perhaps the most perfect union of marketing zeal & artistic vision, striking the right balance between the push & pull of those forces which have long dominated comics (and, really, all commercial art). In that regard, "Age of Apocalypse" is also perhaps the most 90s comic book storyline ever, in the ways both good & bad conjured by that term. Even if the artistic execution across the board doesn't quite live up to the marketing success, it is without a doubt a staggering achievement of both, the creative & commercial zenith of 90s era X-Men, and a storyline that will, like the twin pillars of "Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past", loom large over the franchise for years to come.

Next Issue
The old reality returns in X-Men Prime #1!

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  1. This issue really underscores how rushed the whole event felt. As much as I'm glad we didn't have to suffer through six months of X-Calibre, the two or three central story titles really could have benefited from two more issues to flesh out the stories instead of forcing them all to come together in one single issue. Were they afraid that readers who had favorite plotlines/characters would suddenly stop reading the event the minute their chosen story got resolved?

    1. It does feel a bit like Marvel was concerned about stretching this too far - that if they let the gimmick of "cancelling & restarting all the X-books" carry on people would eventually leave and not return when the books resumed normal operation. Concluding the story with its own series (instead of the Alpha/Omega bookends) might have given the whole thing a little more room to breath (even if a few of those issues had to run alongside the other series set chronologically-earlier in the story).

      Nowadays, of course, Marvel would have just released this whole thing while also keeping the "regular" books going, with an eight issue miniseries running alongside all the "altered" series for the duration instead of the bookends (with at least three of those issues getting delayed and hosing up the flow of the story).

  2. I assumed that because quicksilver says dark beast planned to teleport himself into the heart of the m’kraan crystal, that he intended to create or rule a reality and therefore quicksilver pressed buttons to prevent that (which ultimately ends up sending him to the prime reality, but It didn’t sound to me like that was beast’s or quicksilver’s intent).
    Also didn’t angel kill karma, not rescue her? She was in the armor shooting at him and he shot her back, not knowing it was her. I thought that was what spurned his sacrifice.

    1. Also didn’t angel kill karma, not rescue her?

      Yeah, you're right. Looking at the panels again, the art doesn't make it very clear that Karma is inside the green armor Angel shoots up, but it seems like that's the gist of it. That does help mitigate his sacrifice later, though it still involves the huge coincidence of him taking out the force field right when Nate needs to get inside.

  3. I agree with all that has been said above, wanting to add that I disliked Cruz’s art then and now. It’s just awful. They could have asked for Paul Smith or JRJr, but, well, Madureira’s style was all that mattered. We’ll have to endure Cruz’s “art” for a few more issues in the main series.

    I’d like to criticize the use of Magneto’s powers here. I think this a consequence of what he did back in UXM 304, where he held all mutants in place by holding the iron in their blood stream (!!!). I’d say: stop. When you turn a character this powerful, it’s hard not ask “why didn’t he use his powers like this again in issues X or Y?”

    I think you all forgot to mention that, despite the huge success of the AOA event, it wasn’t milked as it would normally be afterwards. Marvel published a few specials here and there, but that was it. They could have easily created several spinoffs, but didn’t.

    Lastly, regarding the characters that made the jump, I can’t understand why dark Beast was picked. And his existence in the main timeline will only make things worse, as he replaces Beast for a time and is considered the creator of the morlocks. He should have died with AoA. Same with Sugarman. What’s the deal about him? We don’t even know his powers. Why him?

    1. They could have asked for Paul Smith or JRJr, but, well, Madureira’s style was all that mattered.

      To be fair, we don't know they didn't - Smith does the first few post-AoA Adjectiveless issues, and JRjr does this cover. It's entirely possible one or the other (or both) passed on the opportunity to draw this issue in full.

      When you turn a character this powerful, it’s hard not ask “why didn’t he use his powers like this again in issues X or Y?”

      You're not wrong, though I'm more forgiving of this kind of stuff with Magneto since his powers have been used ridiculously since his very first appearance, when "magnetism" was the catch-all answer to how Magneto could do all kinds of crazy things with his power (heck, on the cover to the very first issue, he's deflecting Cyclops' optic blast even though it's not a magnetic metal).

      Marvel published a few specials here and there, but that was it. They could have easily created several spinoffs, but didn’t.

      Yeah, it bugs me that they revisited it at all, but they definitely could have milked it more (and sooner) than they did, not establishing that the reality still existed until its 10th anniversary in 2005, with all the various one-shots and minis prior to that taking place before the events of this story. And even while they had AoA Blink, Morph & Sabretooth running around in EXILES, they mostly stayed clear of the AoA reality itself.

      It's definitely been milked a lot more in the last few years, but given that's ten-ish years after the fact, that still shows a remarkable level of commercial restraint regarding what is still one of the X-books more highly regarded crossovers.

      I can’t understand why dark Beast was picked. And his existence in the main timeline will only make things worse, as he replaces Beast for a time and is considered the creator of the morlocks.

      The Morlock stuff (and Sugar Man's roll in Genosha) is utter nonsense, but I suspect Beast was brought over specifically to replace Beast for a time; Dark Beast is one of the more explicitly "opposite" AoA counterparts, and the desire to do a good/evil doppelganger story was probably too much to resist.

      Sugar Man, I have no idea (beyond what Anonymous below suggests, that he has no prime counterpart and thus is the opposite of Dark Beast, an AoA character with no obvious story and therefore, more opportunity for the writers to do whatever they want with the character), especially because he's just such a nothing of a character to begin with.

  4. Sugar Man was at least one of the few AOA characters who didn't have a counterpart in the main universe.
    If you were going to choose a few select individuals, I guess Sugar Man would be a good choice.

    They didn't have ideas about how to use him in the 616 Universe though. So, there was really no purpose in him crossing over either.
    He ended up sort of like Dark Beast (except not redundant), in that they tried to shoehorn him in to the back-story of Genosha.
    Which was completely unnecessary and worked about as well as the Morlocks tet-con.

    1. I think X-Man is way more redundant than Dark Beast- he's just a younger more power version of Cable from an alternate timeline as opposed to an alternate future. Dark Beast was at least in contrast with the normally joyful Hank McCoy- and I did enjoy when DB had to be an all-purpose doctor/scientist when he took normal Beast's place, as opposed to the highly-specific geneticist he was in AOA. He kind of retroactively makes the Mutant Massacre make more sense - Sinister going after shitty versions of his own technology makes more sense to me than hunting...bad mutations?

      Holocaust was mostly a waste- he never lived up to the potential of being the son of Apocalypse once he left AOA. Sugar Man is almost a non-character and making him a part of the Genoshian mutate process didn't add anything to the story - and their were three geneticists running around on Apocalypse's team?!?

  5. " or Havok killing Cyclops with a plasma blast despite it being well established that the brothers are immune to each other's powers)"

    I've read somewhere (probably in Not Blog X) that the "BLAM" effect was added later in an attempt to cover this mistake, as if Havok had shot Cyclops with some kind of gun.

  6. I know it’s probably too specific to have been estsblished, but I’m slightly skeptical of Gambt’s kinetic charge being strong enough to kill Colossus in armored form.

    1. Given that the Marauder Riptide was able to pierce Colossus's armored for with just really fast thrown ninja stars and the grim and gritty power-creep Iceman, Jubilee, and other characters experienced I dont see a problem with Gambit able to focus greater energy in his throws.

  7. Peter killing Kitty in a mad rage isn’t even “lousy What If?” bad — never mind “abandoning Paige et al. to die in Generation Next #4” bad — it’s just stupid. Again, I know this isn’t MCU Prime Colossus, but his marriage to Kitty and mentorship of the younger X-Men positioned him amongst the characters most consistent with their Prime selves extrapolated to this reality, and what becomes of him here really torques me off. Not that his joining the Acolytes was a shining moment — so color me grateful one more time for having dropped the series years before.

  8. I dropped all X-men titles right before this started. So while I am tempted to pick it up, if it's the same quality as what came before it, I won't bother.

  9. I agree, it's a satisfying conclusion despite the flaws. Re Sabertooth being missing, he is actually seen in two battle scenes inside Apocalypse's citadel. But that doesn't explain where Storm is! Epic fail.


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