Credits: Written by Howard Mackie, pencilled by Terry Dodson, inked by Klaus Janson and edited by Kelly Corvese
Cast: Earth 295 versions of Magneto, Quicksilver, Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, Logan/Weapon-X, Gideon, Candra, Sabretooth, Mystique, Rogue and Apocalypse, also original characters Death, War and Nemesis.
Plot: It is perhaps 10 years ago, maybe more and Magneto has gathered young mutants to train and guide, naming the older students after his fallen friend Charles Xavier as the X-Men. Already on the team are his children Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch and he has also recruited Iceman, Storm, Jean Grey and Colossus and as the rest of the team learn, he has already brought in Weapon-X, this version of Logan has no control over his berzerker rages and needs Jean Grey’s help to bring him down after a fight. Magneto has faith in their growing skills but knows that they are a long way from being ready for an actual mission against the threat of evil mutants.
Then this is the perfect time for Apocalypse’s ship, which was stolen from the Celestials, to appear over New York and project a huge image of his herald Candra who informs the human population that their time is done and the age of mutant supremacy has arrived.
Back at Magneto’s sanctuary (hidden in eastern Europe on Mount Wundagore) Mystique brings in Rogue, her young charge, who she seeks to protect from Apocalypse. Rogue’s powers are to absorb memories, energy and even gifts/powers from anyone who she makes skin to skin contact with. She is recovering from an encounter with a mutant called Lorna Dane and needs help, but isn’t keen on mingling with the team. Magneto welcomes Rogue and asks his daughter to show her around. Scarlet Witch talks with Rogue about how much of an impact the death of Charles Xavier had on Magneto’s life.
Cape Citadel, Florida and Apocalypse’s ship appears overheard with Candra bringing Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen Death, War, Gideon and Sabretooth who attack the base to gain control of the nuclear missiles found within. The X-Men learn of this attack and prepare to head out. Magneto leaves Scarlet Witch in charge of the younger students, including Rogue and head off towards the US.
The Horsemen complete their takeover of the base, killing all of the soldiers before the X-Men arrive. By this point Sabretooth has gained control of the missiles, but Candra informs him that they missiles are to be immediately launched, not simply controlled. Sabretooth balks at this, losing his position within the Horsemen to Candra, but Candra aims him at the X-Men rather than kill him. Jean Grey takes on Candra, Weapon-X takes on Sabretooth, while the rest of the X-Men battle War and Death.
Deep inside the base, Magneto battles Gideon over the missiles. Back at Wundagore, Nemesis has arrived to destroy Magneto’s sanctuary and kill all of his students. He is opposed only by Scarlet Witch and an inexperienced Rogue.
The Horsemen are defeated, the control room of the base destroyed, seemingly killing both Magneto and Gideon, the Apocalypse appears ready to kill the X-Men, but a very much alive Magneto makes his way through the ruins to see of Apocalypse’s ship. Apocalypse leaves with nothing and the X-Men feeling pleased with themselves head home.
Back home, Wundagore is in ruins and all but Rogue are either dead of dying. Wanda asks Rogue with her dying breath to take care of Magneto, to be his friend, so he won’t be alone. But after he arrives and cradles his dead daughter, how can he feel anything but?
Notes: There had to be a starting point, where events diverged more dramatically from the 616 time-line. Charles Xavier’s absence needed to have more impact that one less academic and one less cult-leader and it’s the Cape Citadel attack seen in X-Men 1 back in 1963 and this issue seems to be set at that time. In the 616, Magneto attacked the base and the X-Men defended it. In this time, Magneto was with the X-Men and so we needed a new villain and Apocalypse fits the bill quite nicely. Some changes would have already occurred, hence no Beast, Angel or Cyclops in this lineup, two of them already part of Apocalypse’s team before his ascension and the changes from blue/black to red make sense based on where we are in the time-line. Beyond that, it’s a more traditional super-hero adventure trying to fill in some of the gaps between Xavier’s death in Israel and where X-Men Alpha started up, which I am guessing is what this title is basically trying to do.
There is a lot to like, the parallels are interesting as well, the school set up, the team being ill-prepared for their mission against a global level threat and even the lack of resolution. More interesting are the differences. We have Logan as part of the team far earlier, making his relationship with Jean even more creepy than it was before. Speaking of creepy relationships, we have Magneto being a holocaust survivor, so being born in the 1930s at the latest and his daughter trying to fix him up with a teenage girl, if you read that part after the battle, it is a way of reading it, so that’s that is at least a 34 year age difference at this point. That does make Magneto as creepy as Xavier, so there’s that.
We also get to see the ahead of schedule Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, whereas before we have War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, now we get War, Gideon, Sabretooth and Death (must’ve missed that part of revelations) as well as Candra as a herald. This group make little sense with War and Death being quite un-memorable, Candra and Gideon working for Apocalypse despite being immortal beings of world-conquering ambition themselves and we also have a squeamish Sabretooth, none of it works that well.
The thing that holds the story together is the Wundagore stuff, with the loss of the students and Scarlet Witch’s last stand making the X-Men’s victory incredibly pyrrhic. The last page is quite effective in displaying the pathos and when you realise that this isn’t the first daughter he has lost it is doubly tragic.
The negative here is that this is more plot than character-focused and as a result doesn’t give enough attention to any one character that it comes across as an uncoordinated mess of linked-ish scenes that don’t really add up to a satisfying story as much as a collection of deleted scenes, there are emotional beats that don’t really save this worst example of an unnecessary prequel.
Writing: 2 out of 5 – As earlier stated, this is a bit of an unfocused mess and it overshadows Mackie’s grasp of character and dialogue, individual scenes are good, but the whole isn’t as good as the sum of some of its parts.
Art: 3 out 5 – I like Terry Dodson, have met him and got work of his signed and his pencils. layouts and character designs work really well. The problem is the pairing with Klaus Janson, who’s inks go better with moodier fare like his collaborations with Frank Miller who is enhanced by this scratchier and looser inking style.
Overall: 5 out of 10 – This was a good effort at doing a lost years tale of the Age of Apocalypse, but to be honest, I don’t think it really came off well. The loss of Scarlet Witch is well handled, but really we aren’t given much reason to actually care about her and the fate of the younger students is for the most part ignored. It could have been very good, certainly had all the parts needed, but eventually failed to deliver on the promise, a bit of a wasted opportunity,
Next time: We get Unlimited.