Credits: Written by Jeph Loeb, pencilled by Steve Scroce, a bunch of inkers and edited by Lisa Patrick
Cast: Earth Nate Grey, Brute, 894 versions of Forge, Mortimer ‘Toad’ Toynbee, Karl ‘Sauron’ Lykos, Jason ‘Mastermind’ Wyngarde, Apocalypse, Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers (in flashback), Erik ‘Magneto’ Lensherr and Bishop (in some sort of astral place thing), Theresa Rourke and Essex.
Plot: Nate Grey is lost in memory. He remembers being rescued from Sinister’s pens by Cyclops and escaping Apocalypse’s stronghold. Then the memory shifts to the former Xavier Mansion in Westchester, seeing a meeting between Bishop and Magneto, I say meeting, arguement. Nate is fascinated and doesn’t see his mentor/father figure Forge sneaking in to pull Nate out of this astral scene. In actual Westchester, we see Magneto notice Nate in the mirror out of the corner of his eye.
It turns out Nate is somewhere else in the midwest US, one of the places ravaged by Apocalypse, where he, Forge and the rest of their troupe of performers (Sauron, Toad, Mastermind and Brute) who have been doing Shakespeare plays for the remaining human populations. Forge shows Nate that while he was in this astral place, his physical power of telekinesis has wreaked havoc over the surrounding countryside.
That night, the troupe perform ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for a local town, Mastermind is able to make Sauron and Toad look relatively human, but the locals are still suspicious. The town sheriff is about to become a problem when all of a sudden they just walk away. Forge angrily questions Nate, who admits to altering their minds to get rid of them. Forge is both angry and scared that Nate’s power will be noticed by Apocalypse.
Meanwhile back in Manhattan, the psionic power of a unknown mutant has been noticed by Apocalypse, or at least his servant the Shadow King. This comes as Cyclops informs his master that Sinister has gone. Unworried, Apocaylpse orders one of his hunters Domino to find this new psychic and either recruit, or murder them.
Back in the midwest, a human populated town has been attacked by Infinites and it’s people (including a girl called Thersa) placed on trains to be sent off to die. Miles away and hours later, Sauron bombs the train, leaving Mastermind, Toad and Brute to free the humans. Forge and Nate are nearby, Forge points out that Nate needs to be away from the battle, keeping an eye out for the Infinites.
But as expected, Infinites arrive and also as expected Nate ignores Forge and attacks the Infinites. Sauron is hurt in the crossfire and Theresa discovers she has latent mutant powers, specifically a sonic scream. The battle is short lived, the troupe heading out very quickly with an exhausted Theresa and an injured Sauron. Forge promises a long conversation with Nate about his actions. On the road, they meet a strange man who offers help to them, a man who calls himself Essex.
Notes: This is the last of the monthly 1’s that replaced the monthly ongoing X-Titles, this one being a replacement for Cable, it shares a creative team and sort of a title character. Nate Grey ends up being the son of Cyclops and Jean Grey, rather than Cable who was the son of Cyclops and Madeline Pryor (a clone of Jean Grey) giving this a sort of What If kind of feel. What if Cable hadn’t been infected with a techno-organic virus and had full access to his powers.
With the character’s premise out of the way, we get the comic’s status quo which is a group of Shakespearian actors travelling the remains of Apocalypse’s America giving culture and entertainment to the masses in between rebel raids. This is a sort of away team for Magneto’s rebellion, doing small jobs where they are needed the most. It is in that manner that the comics succeeds the most. It fleshes out these secondary characters in a way that it completely fails to do with it’s lead. The issue also suffers in regard to paces with the flashback being long and then we rush to an action set piece that is also rushed. We also have a tacked on bit with Theresa and the obviously villainous Essex who is clearly Sinister, with no effort made to hide this. It just seems oddly put together, which takes away from my enjoyment.
Art 4 out of 5- This book looks good, the character designs are amazing and I prefer this look of Forge to the 616 version. The flashbacks and astral plane stuff being different colours from reality and one another really fleshes out the different levels of reality and while the action scenes seem rushed and ill-timed, they do at least, look good.
Writing 2 out of 5- Apart from the amazingly disjointed pacing and tone of the comic, we also have such arch dialogue, all full of import and a touch of pretension. I have enjoyed the work of this writer before, but he is also responsible for the worst comic I have ever read. This falls more towards the latter than the former.
Overall 6 out of 10 – A solid mid-carder title that had the potential to be one of the best of this era. It had just enough to keep me wanting to find out what happens next.
Next time: Web of Life comes to an end.