A Guided Tour Through the ‘Age of Apocalypse’
When time travel went amok, the X-Men’s alternate reality was born! Read the entire saga on Marvel Unlimited.
READ THE ENTIRE AGE OF APOCALYPSE EVENT HERE!
Twenty-five years ago everything changed for the X-Men. What started as the story of a child wanting to make an impression on his estranged father, ended in a crystalline wave that tore time and reality apart!
In the case of David Haller, AKA Legion, and his dad, Professor X, the situation involved time travel and the accidental murder of the man who would go on to create the X-Men. With Charles out of the picture, the past changed. Magneto became the leader of the X-Men, but he wasn’t enough to stop Apocalypse from taking over the entire X-Universe with plans for further domination!
Welcome to the AGE OF APOCALYPSE! This event took readers by surprise in 1995 when it erased all of the main X-titles from existence and replaced them with familiar-but-different takes on favorite characters, resulting in a post-Apocalyptic world where humans (or “flatscans”) were rounded up in camps. Some mutants thrived under Apocalypse’s “survival of the fittest” mantra. However, not all of the mutants agreed with their ruler’s treatment of their brothers and sisters, and they formed a resistance with all the support they could muster.
That’s the backdrop on the AGE OF APOCALYPSE—now, we’re going to get into the nitty gritty with this guided tour through all of the event’s important books and milestones. And, you can read them all on digital comics mega-library Marvel Unlimited!
Years earlier, the X-Men came to learn that Professor X had a child named David Haller who suffered from multiple personalities, and that each one of his egos had its own mutant power.
By the time the “Legion Quest” story came along in 1995, though, Haller seemed to have a better handle on his abilities, if not his full faculties. In this story—which you can read in X-FACTOR (1986) #108-109, UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #319-321, X-MEN (1991) #38-41, and CABLE (1993) #20—the team tried stopping Legion’s rampage in the present, but a few of them—including Bishop—found themselves thrust back in time to the early days of Charles Xavier’s friendship with Magneto.
David intended to make his father’s life easier by removing his friend-turned-enemy Magneto from the board. Instead, he ended Xavier’s life in that past, which sent ripples forward through time, essentially erasing the Marvel Universe (though only if you were reading just the X-books!). This moment, noticed by Apocalypse, inspired the villain to start his plans for world domination earlier than expected, resulting in the AGE OF APOCALYPSE!
By the end of “Legion Quest,” readers knew things were changing, they just had no idea how much so until X-MEN: ALPHA (1995) #1 hit. This one-shot set the stage for the entire event and the eight series’ that appeared to take the place of the pre-existing ones.
Initially we met a lost mutant named Bishop who gets saved from Apocalypse’s Infinites by Magneto and the X-Men. Upon coming face-to-face with his saviors, Bishop ranted about time being out of whack before Magnus put him to sleep. Thanks to Bishop’s unique status as a veteran time-traveler, he was not erased by the time ripples, but was driven mad and wandered the land for two decades.
Meanwhile, the action cut to Dark Beast’s lab where Apocalypse’s loyal soldiers Cyclops and Havok debuted alongside the always-duplicitous Mister Sinister. The villains plotted a new attack on humanity that would prove devastating for most of the planet’s inhabitants, all while Apocalypse lied to the rest of the world about making peace.
This issue also established: Gambit’s rocky past with Magneto, a secret working relationship between Sinister and the duo of Weapon X and Jean Grey, and the revelation that Magneto and Rogue had a child named Charles! Most importantly, Bishop managed to share his memories of the X-Men’s original timeline with Magneto, setting up the roadmap for the rest of the event.
Long before Joss Whedon and John Cassaday launched the legendary ASTONISHING X-MEN (2004), this title debuted as an AGE OF APOCALYPSE tie-in replacing the ‘Uncanny’ flagship series. This entry saw Magneto and the X-Men facing some hard truths.
The leader of the X-Men confided in Nightcrawler that he suspected Bishop was telling the truth about reality being broken. He wanted to fix it, even if that meant wiping his soldiers, and family, out.
Meanwhile, the stakes continued to grow for every living thing on the planet as Sunfire and Blink uncovered that Apocalypse had authorized more genetic culling, even though he claimed to have ceased all operations.
ASTONISHING also established the paternal relationship between Sabretooth and Blink.
After experiencing Bishop’s memories in the ‘Alpha’ one-shot, Magneto sent Nightcrawler to meet with his mother Mystique who would then take him to Avalon, (AKA Savage Land), to retrieve Destiny so they could either corroborate or debunk Bishop’s thoughts, as seen in X-CALIBRE (1995). Thanks to some help from Angel and John Proudstar, Nightcrawler got on a submarine, but a betrayal in the form of their transporters ended the journey for all but Kurt who got his revenge before meeting up with Mystique.
Upon arriving in Avalon, Kurt and Mystique met with Destiny and fended off an attack from Damask and Dead Man Wade, although the former decided to switch sides upon seeing the glory of Avalon. Even after hearing Nightcrawler’s story, Destiny planned on staying behind, but an attack from another of Apocalypse’s agents, Shadow King, destroyed the community. With nothing left, she swore vengeance against the dictator and traveled to the States with Nightcrawler, Mystique, Damask and Switchback, a mutant who could teleport up and down her own timeline by 10 seconds.
In GAMBIT AND THE X-TERNALS (1995), the series that stood in for X-FORCE (1991), we found out why Magneto called on Gambit in ALPHA. He wanted the master thief and his crew, the X-Ternals, to steal a mysterious jewel from Apocalypse’s “Science Vault.” There, they kickstarted Lila Cheney’s space-bending abilities which sent them to the Shi’ar galaxy to acquire the M’Kraan Crystal with the villainous Rictor tagging along!
Once in space, the X-Ternals ran afoul of Gladiator and the Imperial Guard and teamed up with Deathbird and the Starjammers. Gambit learned of the crystal’s reality nexus nature and the fact that the collapse of the correct reality was going to destroy all the others by its protector, Jahf. The plan then became clear: steal a piece of the M’Kraan Crystal and use it to send Bishop back in time so he can stop the death of Charles Xavier! However, Apocalypse had his own spies in place to bolster his power.
Even in a world run by Apocalypse, Magneto saw the need to teach younger mutants to use their powers against their shared enemy, as seen in GENERATION NEXT (1995) (formerly 1994’s GENERATION X)! In this series, Colossus and Shadowcat had been tasked with training Chamber, Husk, Mondo, Skin and Vincente (who would debut in the 616 shortly after AoA) in and around a giant castle in the Rocky Mountains. However, that all changed when Magneto paid the group a visit and discovered that Peter’s sister Illyana was actually still alive and held captive by Sugar Man at the Seattle Core, which provided energy for all of Apocalypse’s operations across the country. In addition to the Rasputin connection, Magneto also wanted to extract the girl because she may have possessed a latent ability to time travel!
So, with double incentives in mind, the Gen Next kids and their teachers got to work out a plan to infiltrate the facility. As with most heists, this one goes well until it doesn't, and the characters involved have to make some very difficult decisions that may affect all of reality.
After dispatching the other teams to take on their specific missions, Magneto returned to Storm, Iceman, Banshee, Quicksilver, Dazzler and Exodus in the pages of AMAZING X-MEN (1995) (which had been adjectiveless X-MEN up to that point). In the first two issues, the team helped keep a large group of humans safe from Apocalypse’s forces in an effort to get them to the safer region of Eurasia.
The team returned from that mission to find the grounds of the estate a mess with signs of destruction everywhere. Apocalypse personally attacked Magneto and Bishop, besting both of them and taking the two men back to his citadel in what used to be Manhattan. While Storm, Exodus and Quicksilver made a stealth attack that freed Bishop and took Jamie Madrox’s duplicates off the board, the other surviving teams reunited at the old Xavier Mansion to set the stage for the epic conclusion in X-MEN: OMEGA (1995) #1!
Not every Age of Apocalypse book followed orders set out by Magneto. In WEAPON X (1995) (a.k.a. 1988’s WOLVERINE), Logan and Jean Grey attempted their own missions for the “Human High Council” located in Europe, based on transmitted information from Mister Sinister.
The duo split over the Council’s decision to blow up most of the United States in an effort to stop Apocalypse’s rule. Logan saw the merit in the harsh reaction, but Jean could not let all that death and destruction go on without trying to stop it. She left for the States, and a single Logan stayed behind.
A solo trip to Mount Wundagore brought old memories back to Logan, while also filling us in on some of his history with Magneto. There, he ran into Carol Danvers who protected Gateway, the teleporting mutant Logan wanted for the bombing mission. Though plagued by betrayals and failures, the European contingent managed to send their fleet through... but with enough time to drop their bombs? Read to find out.
FACTOR X (1995) shined a light on the darker side of the AoA world by focusing on Cyclops and his moral struggle as one of Apocalypse’s main agents. We also learned that Sinister decided to give the humans information through Weapon X in order to stop Apocalypse’s plans for death and destruction which clashed with his own desire to guide mutantkind to the next stage of evolution.
Tension began to grow between Cyclops and the others. His brother Alex resented the attention their lord Apocalypse showed Scott. Meanwhile, he angered Beast by destroying many of his mad science experiments. Matters got all the more complicated when Jean Grey flew into FACTOR X from WEAPON X (1995) intent on recruiting Sinister to help stop the impending devastation. Her capture by Havok, and his accusation that Cyclops had been passing her secrets, led to Scott’s imprisonment right alongside Jean. The two managed to break free, defeat Cyclop’s old team, knock Havok out for a brief time and save scores of innocents from yet another war spree, just before the events of X-MEN: OMEGA.
As seen in X-MAN (1995) (previously, 1993’s CABLE), the mysterious telekinetic known as Nate Grey escaped from Mister Sinister’s lab with assistance from Cyclops. From there, he buddied around with a traveling theater troupe led by Forge who recognized the boy’s incredible power and potential. He wasn’t the only one, though. When Apocalypse got word of Nate’s existence, he sent Domino and her team to track him down to offer him a place in the organization… or wipe him off the board.
The appearance of the mysterious Essex (actually Nate’s creator Mister Sinister in disguise) concerned Forge, but Nate liked this less-cautious individual who also had it in for Apocalypse. It turned out that Sinister was not done tinkering with Nate, so he killed a few of his friends while the young hero fought Domino. The scientist then revealed that he used accelerated materials from Cyclops and Jean Grey to create him. Enraged, Nate dealt with Sinister and then flew off to face Apocalypse, but only after briefly meeting his “parents!”
The AGE OF APOCALYPSE may have focused on how the mutants reacted to the villain’s rule, but a number of more human heroes also appeared, mostly in the pages of the two-issue X-UNIVERSE (1995) limited series. Picking up threads from the other books, Apocalypse’s Fourth Prelate Mikhail Rasputin traveled to Eurasia to meet with human representatives. He opened his ship to the likes of Dr. Donald Blake, Tony Stark, Victor Von Doom, Dr. Bruce Banner, Susan Storm, Ben Grimm and Gwen Stacy, under the auspices of achieving peace. That, of course, turned out to be a lie, as Rasputin whipped the assembled crowds into a frothy madness by way of the mutant Empath. Luckily, the humans weren’t fooled and came up with their own counter-plan.
Other offerings from this era included AGE OF APOCALYPYSE: THE CHOSEN, a look at files on the various characters populating this universe. The first two issues of X-MEN CHRONICLES also added to the AoA experience by giving readers more of a history of the new versions of these characters, showing off a time before Apocalypse ruined just about everything. A similar approach was taken with the TALES FROM THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE one-shots that came out a few years later.
All of those individual stories lead to the earthshattering conclusion in the pages of X-MEN: OMEGA (1995) #1. Knowing that the assembled X-Men would attack his stronghold in search of both the M’Kraan Crystal and their fearless leader, Apocalypse laid a series of traps to thwart their efforts. However he did not count on the one-two punch of Nate’s presence along with the surprise bombings facilitated by Logan and Gateway.
While a massive battle was waged and the bombers neared Manhattan, Destiny and Illyana utilized the M’Kraan Crystal to send Bishop back in time where he succeeded in stopping Legion from accidentally killing his father, thus righting the time stream and seemingly erasing the Age of Apocalypse from memory.
For years, it seemed as though the Age of Apocalypse had officially ended not long after it began. Things got back to normal as the ongoing series returned to their original titles. X-MEN: PRIME (1995) #1 acted as a re-entry point for the mutants, but also revealed that Nate, Sugar Man and Hank McCoy (now dubbed Dark Beast) had made their way to the X-Men’s main universe. Nate even carried on his own X-MAN series that would run from 1995 until 2000.
In 2001, AoA fans got some good news in the form of a BLINK limited series as well as the launch of EXILES (2001), a series that plucked various characters from alternate realities and sent them on adventures in other dimensions. That series starred Blink and Sabretooth among other Age of Apocalypse denizens.
Though the Age of Apocalypse reality appeared completely wiped out, it did make a reappearance to celebrate the event’s 10-year anniversary with a one-shot as well as a six-part limited series both called X-MEN: AGE OF APOCALYPSE (2005). Since then, the reality has been visited a number of times including a SECRET WARS tie-in of the same name. It’s even received an official designation as Earth-295!
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