Took Place In: Age of Apocalypse Alpha, Omega, Amazing X-Men 1-4, Astonishing X-Men 1-4, X-Calibre 1-4, Weapon X 1-4, Gambit & the X-Ternals 1-4, Factor X 1-4, X-Man 1-4, X-Universe 1-2, Generation Next 1-4
Written By: Scott Lobdell (Alpha, Omega, Astonishing X-Men, Generation Next), Mark Waid (Alpha, Omega), Fabian Nicieza (Amazing X-Men, Gambit and the X-Ternals), Larry Hama (Weapon X), John Francis Moore (Factor X), Warren Ellis (X-Calibre), Jeph Loeb (X-Man)
Art By: Andy Kubert (Amazing X-Men), Roger Cruz (Alpha, Omega), Steve Epting (Alpha, Factor X), Joe Madureira (Astonishing X-Men), Dan Green (Weapon X), Adam Kubert (Weapon X), Karl Kessel (Weapon X), Ken Lashley (X-Calibre), Tony Daniel (Gambit and the X-Ternals), Steve Skroce (X-Man), Chris Bachalo (Generation Next)
Characters Involved: Magneto, Rogue, Quicksilver, Storm, Exodus, Banshee, Iceman, Morph, Sabretooth, Wild Child, Sunfire, Dazzler, Nightcrawler (X-Men), Colossus, Shadowcat, Husk, Chamber, Vincente, Skin, Mondo (Generation Next), Gambit, Sunspot, Lila Cheney, Jubilee, Strong Guy (X-Ternals), Cyclops, Havok, Beast, Cannonball, Bedlam Brothers (Factor X), Forge, X-Man, Sauron, Toad, Mastermind (X-Man), Sinister, Holocaust, Abyss, Mikhail Rasputin (Horsemen), Apocalypse
Story: Hoo boy. I briefly touched on this huge story here, but let’s get into more detail. When Marvel announced that they were cancelling every book in the X-Men line, fans went apeshit. And when they announced they were relaunching them with all new #1 issues, retailers went apeshit (in a good way). Fans were backlashing something fierce, but then this trickle of teases came out, including a book that showed all of the new character designs, and all of a sudden people weren’t upset. In fact, they were really, really excited.
Before we get into the big event itself, the Age of Apocalypse really started in the X-Men books in a story called “Legion Quest”, which featured Legion, Professor X’s son, travelling back in time to kill Magneto. His thinking was that with Magneto out of the way the Professor’s dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants could actually be realized. The X-Men send a few members of their own back to stop him, including Bishop, Cable, Psylocke, and Iceman. Unfortunately for everyone, when Legion tries to kill Magneto the blast is intercepted by Professor X himself, who dives in front of his then-friend to save him. The blast kills the Professor, and time goes on the rag, leading to a timeline in which Magneto forms the X-Men to honor his fallen friend.
It’s amazing how different the world ends up being with the Professor to recruit and guide the X-Men. Apocalypse is never stopped repeatedly by his original students (then X-Factor in the regular timeline) Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Iceman, and Archangel, and as such becomes a nearly unstoppable power. His forces murder Magneto’s daughter, the Scarlet Witch, officially starting a war between the two sides that will continue for years.
Apocalypse is able to rise to a power level unheard of before in his history. He seems virtually invincible, and is by far the most feared being on Earth. His rule is law, and even the other most powerful men and mutants all bow to him and pee their collective super hero and super villain underoos at even the mention of his name.
Apocalypse and his four horsemen (Abyss, Holocaust, Mikhail Rasputin, and Sinister) have taken over the entire western hemisphere and are utterly unstoppable. America is a wasteland, and Canada and Central/South America are not much different. Entire cities are dedicated to centers where dead bodies (humans and sympathizers) are converted into foot soldiers for Apocalypse’s army. It’s basically Disney World, it’s so awful.
The X-Men have had to resort to pretty much terrorist/freedom fighter tactics, using hit and run attacks whenever they can to try to weaken Apocalypse’s infrastructure, but it’s not really doing anything. Things look awfully bleak until they run across Bishop, the only man to remember the way the timeline is supposed to be. He was present at the murder of Xavier, and as a man already out of time, was not subject to the same effects of the time warp that everyone else was. He tells Magneto what happened and that time is broken, and Magneto, finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, gathers his army with new plans. The story then splits into separate titles, each dedicated to one aspect of Magneto’s plans or the world itself.
First up is Generation Next, which replaced the newly launched Generation X in Marvel’s publishing line. This is probably the best book in the entire crossover, partly because of the awesome Chris Bachalo art, and partly because the story is just so full of gut punches. The team is led by the battle hardened married couple Colossus and Shadowcat, to whom Magneto has entrusted the task of training the new generation of X-Men. Their mission is to break into one of the slave pits and rescue Colossus’ sister, Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik), who everyone thought was dead. The belief is that her time travel/teleportation abilities will help in restoring the timeline. So Colossus and Shadowcat take their team, which consists of Husk, Skin, Mondo, Chamber, and Vincente into the lion’s den on a suicide mission to rescue little Illyana.
Things go very poorly, to say the least.
Mondo is killed by the ring leader of the slave pen, a freak called the Sugar Man. The others are swarmed by the Sugar Man’s forces when they are outed as spies. Colossus is able to retrieve Illyana, and gives her to Shadowcat to get to safety while he saves their students. When he gets to the doors of the slave pen, he sees that they are completely overwhelmed and have no hope of winning, so he closes the doors and leaves his students to die. Good times.
The next part of Magneto’s plan involves his wife Rogue’s ex boyfriend Gambit, and his group of thieves in “Gambit and the X-Ternals” (the team consists of Gambit, Jubilee, Lila Cheney, Strong Guy, and Sunspot). He sends them to the far side of the universe to steal the M’Kraan crystal from the loveable war mongering Shi’Ar. The plan is for Gambit’s current girlfriend, Lila Cheney, to use her powers to teleport them across the galaxy and steal the crystal right from under the Shi’Ar without anyone noticing.
Unfortunately, Rictor and some of Apocalypse’s Infinites show up, and in the chaos, Rictor ends up teleporting with the team. For strike two, the teleport brings Gambit and his team right in the midst of the Imperial Guard! Naturally, a fight ensues, and Gambit and his team barely escape, while Rictor is captured. He strikes a deal with Gladiator of the Imperial Guard, saying that he will assist in the capture of Gambit’s team if he is allowed to take them back to Apocalypse when they are done. Gladiator agrees, and the Guard track down Gambit and his team right before they are beamed away and onboard the Starjammer! The Starjammers are led by Deathbird, who wants to stop her crazy ass brother D’Ken from mucking around with the crystal, which is causing disruptions in reality. She joins the team in their assault on the Guard and the crystal.
Gambit is able to get a shard of the crystal, and his team is ready to leave, but have to leave Sunspot behind, and he’s absorbed too much of the ambient crystal energy and is about to go kablooey on everyone. Rictor, being johnny on the fucking spot in this reality, hitches a ride home. Once home, Gambit figures that Rictor will chase him and Lila, so he gives the shard to Jubilee and Strong Guy.
The two of them encounter the robot Nanny that is caring for Magneto’s son, and suddenly that bastard Strong Guy reveals he is actually working for Apocalypse, and destroys Nanny, taking the crystal shard AND Magneto’s son and leaving a distraught Jubilee behind to wonder wtf just happened. Gambit and Lila run into the traitor, but in the chaos the tunnels start collapsing, and faced with the choice of saving li’l Charles and the crystal or saving Lila, Gambit chooses Lila. Strong Guy takes the baby and the shard to the big A.
Next up is X-Calibre, which is pretty much a solo book for Nightcrawler. Magneto has ordered him to track down the only precog he knows of: Destiny. He knows that she is in a hidden sanctuary called Avalon, and he knows that Mystique, Nightcrawler’s mother, knows where it- and she- is.
Nightcrawler stows away aboard a ship bound for Avalon, unaware that some of Apocalypse’s spies are looking for Avalon, too, and have followed him. After dealing with some pirates, he meets up with his mother, who takes him the rest of the way to Avalon, where they are met by the humongous Cain (this reality’s version of Juggernaut). He introduces Nightcrawler to Destiny, who quickly makes it clear that she has no intention of joining Magneto’s crusade. She then has vision of Avalon in flames.
This comes to fruition rather quickly, as the Pale Riders, Apocalypse’s spies, show up and start killing everyone they can. Damask, the leader of the Riders, has never seen a place like Avalon, and feeling that it needs to be preserved, turns on her teammates, and starts killing them. She warns that Apocalypse will probably send someone else, and as if on cue, the bastard Shadow King starts possessing residents of Avalon and making them kill each other and themselves.
Nightcrawler and Damask figure out how to kill the Shadow King, but at the last second, he lashes out at Destiny to rob the X-man of his victory. Her adopted son Douglas Ramsey jumps in front of the blast meant for her, which kills him. With Avalon in flames and her son dead, she has nothing left there for her, and decides to return to Magneto with Nightcrawler.
The next title is Astonishing X-Men, not to be confused with the incredible Joss Whedon/John Cassaday title of the same name. This book follows Rogue, Magento’s wife and the mother of his child, and her team, which consists of Sabretooth, Wild Child, Blink, Morph, and Sunfire. Of all of the redesigns of the characters, Sunfire’s might be my favorite, and actually was brought over the regular Marvel Universe due to its popularity. Their job is to help stop the cullings, in which Apocalypse sends his forces to massacre humans and to take their remains to his processing plants to make more foot soldiers. While there Sabretooth convinces Blink to teleport him directly to Holocaust, who they learn is personally running the culling.
She reluctantly does as he asks, and watches in horror as Holocaust seemingly murders Sabretooth (in this reality he ends up being a rather honorable guy, and is a surrogate father to Blink). However, because of his sacrifice, the X-Men learn of the location of the Infinite (the foot soldiers) processing plant, and are able to destroy it, hindering Apocalypse’s war efforts. Sabretooth is revealed to have survived, albeit barely. High fives all around, until they return home to discover Iceman waiting for them, and he informs them that D’oh! Magneto and li’l Charles Xavier (his and Rogue’s son) have been captured by Apocalypse!
The rest of Magneto’s X-Men, led by his son Quicksilver (joined by Storm, Banshee, Iceman, Dazzler, and Exodus), travel to the northeast to help with the evacuation of human refugees hoping to get a ride with the Sentinels of the Eurasian Human High Council to escape Apocalypse and his forces (in Amazing X-Men). They mask themselves from the Sentinels, but find their job has become even harder than they expected when some of Apocalypse’s Brotherhood shows up to kill humans, led by the Horseman Abyss.
The X-Men defeat the Brotherhood, with only Box and Copycat escaping by blending in with the refugees. Quicksilver is able to defeat Abyss by forcing him into his own void. Meanwhile, Apocalypse has learned the location of the X-Men’s headquarters: Charles Xavier’s old mansion. He personally attacks the mansion, and renders Bishop and Magneto unconscious, capturing both.
Bishop is tortured by the Shadow King (before Nightcrawler kills his ass), who learns Bishop’s secrets. Bishop forces the Shadow King out of his head before he can learn too much, however, Abyss rematerializes and realizes that Bishop, whatever his story is, is probably bad for Apocalypse, so he probably needs to die.
The X-Men return home to discover the remains of the battle, and quickly figure out what has happened. Iceman stays behind to inform Rogue’s team of current events, while Dazzler and Exodus search for the Nanny robot and li’l Charles. Quicksilver, Storm and Banshee will try to rescue Magneto and Bishop, no matter the cost. They travel to Canada, where they discover Abyss and his army: Jamie Madrox and his duplicates! Storm goes after Bishop, while Quicksilver and Banshee fight Abyss. Banshee goes all badass martyr on them, flying directly into Abyss’ void and tearing him apart from the inside with his sonic scream, but at the cost of his own life. Quicksilver and Storm return home with Bishop, but no Magneto, and find the other teams waiting on them with varying degrees of success in their own missions. They figure that, even with Illyana and Destiny, they still need the M’Kraan crystal shard and most likely Magneto to succeed in putting reality right, so they decide that time is up: it’s time to attack.
Moving away from the core X-Men for a little bit, we check in on everyone’s favorite smelly, midget Canadian, Wolverine. I mean, Weapon X. He and fellow former X-Man Jean Grey left the team after she was left alone in Sinister’s genetics laboratories. She was freed by Sinister’s adopted son Cyclops, to whom she felt an immediate attraction, and vice versa. Li’l Logan didn’t like that so much, so he and Cyclops fought, which resulted in him losing a hand, which for some reason he encased in metal.
Logan and Jean are meeting with the Eurasian Human High Council, which consists of Brian Braddock, Emma Frost (who has had a lobotomy to remove the part of her brain that made her mutant), Bolivar Trask (inventor of the Sentinels), his wife Moira, and one Mariko Yashida, who Logan finds super hot. They assist in allowing the Sentinels to breach a wall Apocalypse has erected in the Atlantic Ocean, allowing the Sentinels to evacuate the refugees (from Amazing X-Men), and are successful, despite some interference from Sinister’s other ‘son’, Havok.
When they return they are informed that the High Council has decided that the best course of action against Apocalyplse is a direct nuclear strike. Logan’s like “fuck yeah”, but Jean isn’t so hot on the idea. She boards a plane to American to warn allies and people of the coming attack. While Logan is getting busy with Mariko and telling the High Council where they should strike first, the Reavers attack, and are successful in disabling the guidance system for their missiles. Logan has an idea for a replacement system, and goes looking for his old friend, Gateway.
He finds Gateway and Carol Danvers, and eventually he convinces Gateway to act as a delivery ‘system’ for the attack. Carol sacrifices her life against more Reavers to allow Gateway and Logan to escape. They are successful in getting the armada through, despite more Reaver attacks, and seemed poise to destroy North America and everyone in it.
Over in Sinister’s genetic pens, it seems he’s gone missing. It appears he has been planning for some time to betray Apocalypse, but things don’t look so hot for him getting that accomplished. However, he feels his subterfuge has been discovered, so he blows town, leaving Cyclops and Havok to vie for leadership of this freakshow, which includes Beast (who knew how much Xavier influenced him? The fucking psychopath), the Guthries, Northstar, Aurora, and the Bedlams. Cyclops reports Sinister’s absence and apparent betrayal to Apocalypse, who puts him in charge (much to Havok’s chagrin) and even hints that he will be the next Horseman. Havok, who already hates his brother, begins to plot a coup of his own.
Both Summers brothers have been up to some shenanigans of their own. Havok has been spending his nights at Angel’s nightclub, and has been sleeping with the lounge singer, a human woman. Cyclops has been spending his nights freeing inmates of the breeding pens, like he did for Jean Grey. One night he is nearly discovered, and is forced to attack Northstar and Aurora, putting them in comas. Unbeknownst to him, Havok gets footage of the escape and the attack.
Things turn when Jean Grey shows back up. She knows Sinister has been working against Apocalypse, and thinks that if anyone can help her stop him and stop the nuclear attack, it’s him. Not knowing he isn’t there anymore, she infiltrates the pens, and is attacked and captured by Havok. He takes Scott to see her, knowing how he feels about her, and confronts him about the escapes he’s assisted with. Cyclops is attacked by the Guthries and Havok, and given to Beast, along with Jean, for experimentation. Jean and Scott eventually escape, and head for freedom and to warn about the nuclear strike, with Havok right on their heels.
So, where did Sinister go when he abandoned his genetics labs and his role as one of the five most powerful people in the world? Well, as I mentioned previously, he had been working in secret to bring Apocalypse down, and it seems he has disappeared to try to set his secret weapon on the big A.
His secret weapon? Nate Grey, the age of Apocalypse’s version of Cable. When Sinister had Jean Grey captive, he took genetic samples and mixed them with his ‘son’ Cyclops’, which resulted in the most powerful mutant on the planet. He escaped the genetics labs and, not knowing who he is or really anything, ended up joining up with a small resistance cell led by Forge (also including Sauron, Toad, Brute, Mastermind, and Sonique).
Sinister tracks the group down and shapeshifts to a new guise: Essex. As Essex he infiltrates the group and tries to begin manipulating Nate. Brute figures out who he is, but before he can tell anyone Essex kills him.
Forge, as Nate’s mentor, has cautioned using his powers too much, as it may draw Apocalypse to them well before they are ready for that kind of trouble. Sinister/Essex encourages the opposite. He tells them about an Infinite processing plant, and eggs Nate on until they have almost no choice but to attack. During the attack Nate cuts loose, and his power is registered by the Shadow King (before he is killed by Nightcrawler, of course). He tells Apocalypse, who sends Domino, Grizzly, and Caliban to go capture or kill Nate. They attack the group, killing Mastermind. Nate gets super pissed and makes Domino relive the pain of all of her victims, putting her right into a nice, relaxing torture coma.
Meanwhile, Forge discovers Brute’s body and confronts Essex, who brutally attacks Forge, mortally wounding him. Nate hears Forge’s death in his mind, and his last words are to find Magneto. Nate confronts Essex, who shapeshifts back to Sinister and explains his origins and his purpose as a weapon against Apocalypse. Nate fucks Sinister up something fierce, stopping just short of killing him, when he realizes that Sinister is right; if he wants any kind of peace in his life he needs to kill Apocalypse. He uses his telepathy to find Magneto, who if you remember is Apocalypse’s prisoner, and sets off to free him.
The finale comes in X-Men: Omega, which sadly is not that great. With all of the craziness that has been building up, this almost needed to be yet another mini-series, but instead we get 48 pages to wrap up about 200 pages worth of material. Characters are killed off randomly and in ways that shouldn’t work, just to up the body count.
Holocaust and some other cronies are having a grand old time torturing the shit out of Magneto when they are informed that the Eurasian Human High Council has unleashed their attack in middle America, decimated a large part of Apocalypse’s kingdom and killing millions. Apocalypse orders his defense grid expanded, fully aware this will result in the deaths of everyone in Eurasia (why didn’t he do this to begin with?). They are a bit preoccupied and as such don’t notice when Blink teleports everyone into Apocalypse’s citadel.
The find the chamber Apocalypse keeps the M’Kraan crystal in, and Destiny reveals that only she, Magik and Bishop can enter, as they don’t have any versions of themselves already existing in the prime, true timeline (Bishop because he’s all disconnected from time or whatever, Magik and Destiny because they are dead in the real timeline).
Nate Grey frees Magneto, and the two begin fighting with Holocaust and Apocalypse, who all burst through the wall into the crystal room. Shit goes crazy, with everyone fighting at the same time, while Illyana and Destiny send Bishop into the crystal and back to the moment Legion killed Magneto.
Outside, Cyclops and Jean Grey are storming the citadel, not aware they are being stalked by Havok, when Jean senses the deaths of those killed by the High Council’s attack (she can sense that, but not Havok twenty feet behind them??). Realizing they are probably about to share the same fate, they begin to attack in earnest, when Weapon X parachutes down like ‘sup?’. Before he and Jean can have any kind of reunion, she is killed by Havok, who then kills Cyclops (even though they are supposed to be immune to each other’s powers. See what I mean about being killed without it making sense?). Weapon X then kills Havok and cries like a bitch. A bunch of other people are killed right and left, with little meaning to any of their deaths. It’s weird that they put so much effort into the build up and so little, seemingly, into the finale.
Inside the citadel Nate Grey rams a shard of the M’Kraan crystal into Holocaust’s chest, trying to kill him, but they both vanish from sight (they are teleported to the real timeline). Magneto is getting his ass handed to him by Apocalypse, but he is just biding his time and building up magnetic fields, so he can do THIS:
Reuniting with is wife and son outside as the bombs begin to fall, he thanks his dead friend Charles Xavier for giving his life purpose.
Meanwhile, back in the past, Bishop stops Legion from killing Magneto by forcing him to see the Age of Apocalypse. The psychic feedback of so much horror, that he caused, kills Legion. With the timeline he caused no longer existing, the AoA Bishop also fades from reality, and is replaced with the prime timeline Bishop. With Legion dead, the four X-Men (Bishop, Cable, Psylocke, Iceman) are pulled back to the present.
The Age of Apocalypse timeline didn’t just vanish, but instead continued to exist as an alternate timeline, which Marvel would revisit a few times moving forward. The Age of Apocalypse’s Sugar Man, Dark Beast, Holocaust, and X-Man (Nate Grey) would all end up in the ‘real’ timeline.
All in all the Age of Apocalypse stands as one of the most successful undertakings in the history of the X-Men, if not Marvel as a whole. It was wildly popular, and remains so to this day.