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