Credits: Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Chris Bachalo, inks by Mark Buckingham and edited by Bob Harras.
Cast: Earth 295 versions of Piotr ‘Colossus’ Rasputin, Kitty ‘Shadowcat’ Pryde, Page ‘Husk’ Guthrie, Angelo ‘Skin’ Espinoza, Jono ‘Chamber’ Starsmore, Mondo, Vicente, Quietus, Ilyana Rasputin and a cameo by the Sugarman.
Plot: Hither comes the Sugarman. At the Seattle Core, energy source for the entirety of Apocalypse’s America, several enlsaved humans are being worked to death or tortured and killed by the misshapen Sugarman. One of these workers is Ilyana Rasputin, survivor of the Kiev culling. Unknown to her, her brother the X-Man known as Colossus and his students are coming to her rescue.
Two of those students, Chamber and Skin, kill two of the human orders who help the mutants at the core kill the humans to save their own lives. Outside preparing to break in are Colossus and Shadowcat. Colossus is only thinking of his sister and Shadowcat sees that this does bode well for her. The pair are attacked by underclass, shadowy members of the Core’s security force. They don’t last very long against an angrily determined Colossus.
Husk gets to Quietus, part of Core management, by replacing his human attendant. One of the attendant’s job is to help Quietus bathe and it looks about as creepy as it sounds. Once dry and dressed, Quietus tries to force himself on Husk, her more physical reaction to this, flags her as a mutant, which surprises Quietus. He then steals her hip flask and drinks from it, despite her protestations that it was her mother’s. Quietus comments that her mother smelled of elderberries (which did make me giggle) and downs the lot. He then explodes from the inside, courtesy of Husk’s partner Vicente, who was hiding inside the flask, as he can also exist in a liquid or gaseous form. The pair then search Quietus’ records for a way to find Ilyana.
Also sneaking around is Mondo, who has merged with the walls of the Core and kills a guard as Skin and Chamber get in as a way of hiding them. Husk and Vincente arrive (jointly disguised as Quietus who then picks the other pair to help him do his rounds. Elsewhere in the Core, Ilyana has survived another day.
Notes: In the next issue blurb it mentions the fact that this was the upbeat part of the series. Considering 3-5 people were killed and the nightmare fuel that is Ilyana’s life, that raises an eyebrow.
More than any series in the Age of Apocalypse event, this one gives you the feeling of a dystopia. Here the world has ended, hope is fleeting and fear is all encompassing. Even the Sugarman, as silly a name as he has, functions as a nightmare. This is the monster under the bed, the bogeyman of your childhood dreams. Misery and despair drip off every page and in a darkly comic moment it references Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I was giggling at the point where Quietus explodes. In another comic, this would be a severely disjointed tone, but it works here. Death, fear and overwhelming odds and apparently it’s only going to get more grim.
Writing: 4 out of 5 – Lobdell does good work with the teenage dialogue, continuing the tradition of teen X-Men’s lives being so much harsher and full of suffering than the fully grown X-teams. Piotr and Kitty deal with jealousy, whilst Paige and Vincente deal with attempted sexual assault and assassination by exploding. But it works, you are pulled in and like the Seattle Core, there is no escape.
Art: 5 out of 5 – Bachalo and Buckingham, do I really need to say anything else?
Okay, tone and atmosphere match the story and setting perfectly. Bachalo’s pencils walk the line between cartoony and highly detailed. This era of Bachalo did character designs and page layouts like no one else in the industry. It stood out at the time for all the right reasons and 25+ years later, it still holds up.
Overall: 9 out of 10 – This wasn’t my favourite spin-off title of this era, but it was technically the best done and that quality travelled easily into the Age of Apocalypse. Issues like this are why I am doing this re-read in the first place.
Next time: Secrets, lies and men in red lycra, it’s back to the Clone Saga.