web stats

CSBG Archive

Gimmick or Good? – X-Men Alpha and X-Men Omega

In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the variant cover for the first and last issues of Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse crossover…

XMenAlpha1_cover

XMenOmega1_cover

X-Men: Alpha #1 and X-Men: Omega #1 (published February 1995 and June 1995) – script by Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid (Alpha and Omega); pencils by Roger Cruz (Alpha and Omega); Alpha inks by Tim Townsend and Dan Panosian; Omega inks by Townsend, Bud LaRosa, Karl Kesel, Harry Candelario, Scott Hanna and Al Milgrom; Alpha cover by Joe Madureira and Townsend; Omega cover by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson

The release of the Days of Future Past film has inspired Gimmick or Good? to tackle X-Men and alternative timelines. I’ve heard rumors of some X-Men story from the 1990s that dealt with the idea of an alternative universe – do any of you know what I’m talking about?

“Age of Apocalypse” is one of the most famous comic book events of the 90s and is notable for using every single X-family series to tell the story of an alternative timeline where the evil mutant Apocalypse ruled, Charles Xavier was dead, and Magneto had taken his former adversary’s place as the head of the X-Men. Bookending the event were two one-shots, X-Men: Alpha and X-Men: Omega, which, in typical mid-90s fashion, each featured chromium embossed wraparound covers.

But what about inside the comics?

First, a disclaimer. Because “Age of Apocalypse” ran across more than 40 different individual comics in 1995-96, for the sake of brevity, all of my comments will pertain specifically to the Alpha and Omega one-shots. I understand it’s difficult to talk about something as massive as “Age of Apocalypse” without looking at the entire picture, and inevitably some things I say will relate to the event as a whole, but in the spirit of a column that looks at 90s comics with “gimmick” covers, I’m limiting my judgments to the two issues with the chromium on the front.

Years later, what’s so amazing about X-Men: Alpha is how it expertly engages the reader with this very dramatic shift in the status quo. With so many comic book series going through similar upheavals during the same timeframe, Alpha stands head and shoulder above the pack for the way it exudes confidence in its brave new concept.

AoA_01

Drawing clear inspiration from its time traveling predecessor, “Days of Future Past,” Alpha drops the reader into a dystopian alternative timeline without a huge amount of exposition. The net result is an incredibly unnerving and disturbing opening sequence where the reader sees a young girl running for her life only to fall into the hands of some of Apocalypse’s henchmen. Just when it looks like the girl is about to be murdered, the X-Men show up – except this is not the X-Men anyone was likely expecting when this story was first published. Instead of Professor X leading the group, it’s Magneto. And instead of it being the usual team of uncanny mutants (i.e. Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, etc.), it’s a mish mash of heroes and villains such as Sabretooth, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver, standing side-by-side.

AoA_02

The way the creative team pulls the curtain away on this new band of X-Men is the first of many shocking moments in Alpha and “Age of Apocalypse.” Again, it’s easy to look back at these images now and take it all for granted. I can only imagine the number of jaws that dropped when people first read this in 1995 (sadly, I was not an X-Men reader in the 90s).

Of course, it’s one thing just to shock people, but Alpha also goes ahead and sells its new concept. All of these characters, who are now apparently aligned against Apocalypse, still maintain traces of their core characteristics. There’s a pompousness to Magneto and Sabretooth is still anxious to rip his advesaries to shreds.

We also see the flipside of this with some of the characters who were once regarded as “heroes” now working for Apocalypse. Hank McCoy’s Beast still has a passion and aptitude for science, but he’s using his knowledge to torture the opposition. Cyclops exhibits his trademark leadership, but with a twinge of melancholy and regret. These characters are recognizable, while also being very, very different.

AoA_04

There is also a host of new character dynamics to create intrigue in this storyline. Magneto and Rogue are together and have a child, while Gambit pines for Rogue. Wolverine and Jean Grey are a couple but operating as part of another group dubbed the Human High Council.

And just to make sure the reader isn’t totally lost, the creative team brings in Bishop as an omniscient character to announce to the audience that there’s something extraordinarily screwy about this timeline. While the next four months of X-Men comics would all operate as if this alternative timelines was the new normal, Bishop’s role in Alpha is to provide readers with the inkling hope that order will eventually be restored to the franchise.

AoA_03

Alpha misses some marks. Despite being giant-sized, there are sequences where the issue reads more like a checklist, skipping around from character introduction to character introduction more out of obligation to making sure everybody’s rule in the new status quo has been established. By shuffling through so many characters so quickly, the reader doesn’t get a chance to develop attachments or emotions to some of these subplots.

While Alpha sets up the new timeline, Omega does the dirty work of breaking everything down. As the final chapter to such an ambitious storyline, Omega yields some very powerful moments, but those emotional punches don’t always land as solidly as they should because it is patently obvious as the issue moves along that the original status quo will be eventually restored.

As a result, a lot of the death and destruction in this comic –via self-sacrifice and murder – can feel a little cheap and unnecessary as the issue accelerates towards the hard reset button. That’s not to say the comic is devoid of emotion. Watching Logan mourn over Jean’s fallen body saying she’s no “Phoenix” is a poignant nod to X-Men history and the final battle between Magneto and Apocalypse is quite exhilarating. Seeing Magneto walk away from the shattered Apocalypse saying “We were the mightiest of our race, Apocalypse. Supposed we’d been on the same side. What a world that would have been …” is an iconic comic book moment.

AoA_05

But when reading Omega nearly 20 years later, the big game-changing moments come across as something that was unearthed from a time capsule. The emotions and stakes were clearly very real at the time that this story was published, but I can’t say with confidence that everything has aged well when examining it in present day.

That’s not to take anything away from “Age of Apocalypse’s” ambition and as the two bookends of this revolutionary arc, Alpha and Omega are a critical part of a story that is universally (and rightly) considered a success and an achievement. In many ways, “Age of Apocalypse” is the quintessential storyline for this column: it is unquestionably a gimmick, but one of the most well-executed and inspired gimmicks of the 1990s.

Verdict: Good

60 Comments

Don’t know if I’d call it good. Better than most other events from the 1990s? Certainly. But still sub-par when compared to what the X-Books were doing 10 years earlier.

My big problem with AoA was that every veteran reader knew it wasn’t for real and that the reset button would inevitably be pushed. That is not a problem by itself, but it can’t sustain the interest for 20+ issues. Claremont and Romita Jr. did it better with the Kulan Gath story in UXM 190-191. Two issue are enough to present a entertaining alternate reality.

Most events are just over-inflated stories that would be done in 2 or 3 parts in the older times. That adds to sense of pointlessness.

But yeah, it was still relatively well-executed.

I was at my first peak of comic collecting when this event came out, and I forgave a lot of crap that came out later. Judged on their own merits, Omega suffers from having to service the reader with all the information that was laid out in the other titles, while still bringing the whole story to a coherent end, but Alpha really captured a lot of the thrill I got first reading DoFP in trade. I’d rate these Great on nostalgia alone. I know they’re not flawless, but I agree that they were more good than gimmick, despite the chromium covers.

In 1995 this story was amazing to watch unfold. It was a great look at how the major players of the time might have turned out had their circumstances been a little different. I thought the only downside to the whole story was the way the survivors from that world were shoe-horned into current continuity (save X-Man which was handled rather well compared to Beast and Holocaust). That aside, it still holds up pretty well as a stand-alone story.

Captain Haddock

May 23, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I remember loving this as a kid and reading these from start to finish at least 100 times. I maintain as far as event books go, this one did a pretty good job of being new-reader friendly (like I was) while having something for the longer term fans. And Scott Lobdell doesn’t get enough credit for how well he’s able to create distinct “voices” for the characters. This was around the time of Generation X as well, so as a kid, Lobdell was my favorite writer. Shame what’s happened to him recently….

Rather amusingly, I saw Roger Cruz’s art before I saw Joe Mad, so I remember my first Joe story and thinking “WTF! This guy is ripping off Roger Cruz!” How foolish I was :P…

Oh man, what a read. It’s part of that overly-convoluted stuff that made the X-Men what it was. It was a four months of a new universe. The beginning and the end right there. It was done right and was very effective, so much so that when it was done it was still relevant to the X-Men books afterward. People wanted Blink back, too. I didn’t even know who she was before this. I didn’t read the Phalanx Covenant before this event so I didn’t know who she was or that she had died. The characters that came out the worst were Colossus and Beast. It was still hard to buy Beast as a bad guy and Colossus was even more pathetic than his counterpart, afraid that he’ll be alone and realizing that his sister had died in the original universe.

Alpha effectively set up the universe and wanted me to buy all the books. I bought almost all of them, I was so into it. Omega gave it a great ending. What might of been if things had been different. Magneto was a hero.

Oh man, what a read. It’s part of that overly-convoluted stuff that made the X-Men what it was. It was a four months of a new universe. The beginning and the end right there. It was done right and was very effective, so much so that when it was done it was still relevant to the X-Men books afterward. People wanted Blink back, too. I didn’t even know who she was before this. I didn’t read the Phalanx Covenant before this event so I didn’t know who she was or that she had died. The characters that came out the worst were Colossus and Beast. It was still hard to buy Beast as a bad guy and Colossus was even more pathetic than his counterpart, afraid that he’ll be alone and realizing that his sister had died in the original universe.

Alpha effectively set up the universe and wanted me to buy all the books. I bought almost all of them, I was so into it. Omega gave it a great ending. What might of been if things had been different. Magneto was a hero.

Oh man, what a read. It’s part of that overly-convoluted stuff that made the X-Men what it was. It was a four months of a new universe. The beginning and the end right there. It was done right and was very effective, so much so that when it was done it was still relevant to the X-Men books afterward. People wanted Blink back, too. I didn’t even know who she was before this. I didn’t read the Phalanx Covenant before this event so I didn’t know who she was or that she had died. The characters that came out the worst were Colossus and Beast. It was still hard to buy Beast as a bad guy and Colossus was even more pathetic than his counterpart, afraid that he’ll be alone and realizing that his sister had died in the original universe.

Alpha effectively set up the universe and wanted me to buy all the books. I bought almost all of them, I was so into it. Omega gave it a great ending. What might of been if things had been different. Magneto was a hero.

Oh man, what a read. It’s part of that overly-convoluted stuff that made the X-Men what it was. It was a four months of a new universe. The beginning and the end right there. It was done right and was very effective, so much so that when it was done it was still relevant to the X-Men books afterward. People wanted Blink back, too. I didn’t even know who she was before this. I didn’t read the Phalanx Covenant before this event so I didn’t know who she was or that she had died. The characters that came out the worst were Colossus and Beast. It was still hard to buy Beast as a bad guy and Colossus was even more pathetic than his counterpart, afraid that he’ll be alone and realizing that his sister had died in the original universe.

Alpha effectively set up the universe and wanted me to buy all the books. I bought almost all of them, I was so into it. Omega gave it a great ending. What might of been if things had been different. Magneto was a hero.
Good thing they had that Cruz guy to do Joe Mad’s style.

Yes, it was very good.

Meh. I started reading X-Men during the Claremont/Silvestri era, and quit at the end of Legion Quest. I knew, even before this “event,” that it would be overwrought and overrated. Nothing in it was a surprise, because it was all announced ahead of time, and promotional art was everywhere.

Years later I bought most of the AoA story from the 3/$1.00 bin at my LCS. It was exactly what I had expected; dull, predictable, with ugly art and no interesting characterization.

Jumping to the bottom and figuring I’d read this later, I was very surprised at the verdict, just because the cover and scans look so terrible. But I guess you had to be there at the time.

akkadiannumen

May 23, 2014 at 3:49 pm

“Despite being giant-sized, there are sequences where the issue reads more like a checklist, skipping around from character introduction to character introduction more out of obligation to making sure everybody’s rule in the new status quo has been established. By shuffling through so many characters so quickly, the reader doesn’t get a chance to develop attachments or emotions to some of these subplots.”

While I agree that Alpha and Omega could have used a bit more room to tell their stories, they are bookends. The purpose of Alpha was to introduce the new status quo and provide a tantalizing taste of wild things to come in the ongoings: Magneto is the X-Men’s leader, Rogue is his wife, Wolverine minus a hand plus Jean, etc. More than enough to hook curious readers. And Omega was the end of everything, supposedly wrapping the party and pulling the curtain on this universe. That’s it. You weren’t supposed to develop attachments. That takes time and a one-shot starring a multitude of characters in the beginning of a massive crossover is not the place for that. The emotions were supposed to come from previous attachments as in: “I’ve been reading Wolverine for a while and I love him. How the hell did he lose a hand? I didn’t think that was even possible.”

“As the final chapter to such an ambitious storyline, Omega yields some very powerful moments, but those emotional punches don’t always land as solidly as they should because it is patently obvious as the issue moves along that the original status quo will be eventually restored.”

That happened because you consider them to be essentially the same characters so even if they died they’d resurrect in a short while along with the traditional MU. As far as I’m concerned, those characters died there and never came back.

Imraith Nimphais

May 23, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Yes, you had to be there at the time.
Back then, for a gimmick, it did answer the huge “What if…?” question hanging over the X-Men pertaining to Apocalypse, Magneto and Xavier…and from that perspective it was quite successful. Eventhough I knew the timeline would be reset eventually, those four months had me riveted for the sheer scope and depth of the story being told. And after re-reading it early last year I have to admit it still holds up quite well as an entertaining story.

Also, back then there wasn’t the dreaded “event fatigue” malaise looming over our hearts and sanity. So it was easier to appreciate it for the rarity it was.

@Imraith Nimphais: Man, I disagree on both points. There was plenty of “event fatigue.” This came right on the heels of the not-so-successful X-Cutioners Song, which was just a few months after the Muir Island Saga, which was shortly after the X-Tinction Agenda, which came right after Acts of Vengance and Atlantis Attacks and Evolutionary War and Inferno, and … ugh. I was sick of it even then. Part of the reason I got out when I did.

And the “What if…” gimmick didn’t ever make sense to me. I never agreed that the death of Xavier would have given way to the rise of Apocalypse. Xavier’s backstory and Apocalypse’s then-backstory were entirely unrelated. I thought the plotting there was sloppy and forced.

But different strokes for different folks, and all that.

akkadiannumen

May 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm

“My big problem with AoA was that every veteran reader knew it wasn’t for real and that the reset button would inevitably be pushed. That is not a problem by itself, but it can’t sustain the interest for 20+ issues.”

It wasn’t supposed to sustain interest for 20+ issues. It was supposed to hook as many readers as possible with as many books as possible, sustain their interest for 4 months and keep them hooked with 616. Iirc, it did pretty well.

“Claremont and Romita Jr. did it better with the Kulan Gath story in UXM 190-191. Two issue are enough to present a entertaining alternate reality.

Most events are just over-inflated stories that would be done in 2 or 3 parts in the older times. That adds to sense of pointlessness.”

You completely missed the point. Yeah, 2 issues are more than enough to PRESENT an entertaining alternate reality but you can’t EXPLORE much of it. Certainly not in detail. AOA was a massive story that was composed of multiple smaller stories exploring this alternate universe and the fairly different characters populating it and the situations they had to deal with. If you can’t grasp the difference in what you’re comparing…

“AOA was a massive story that was composed of multiple smaller stories exploring this alternate universe and the fairly different characters populating it and the situations they had to deal with.”

And why should I be interested in exploring an alternate universe with that insane level of detail? Why devote a billion issues to what is basically a glorified “what if Prof X had died”? Just imagine if, instead of that one episode where Buffy never came to Sunnydale, they devoted half a season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER to that alternate reality, just to press the reset button 11 episodes later, so they could show what every single minor character in the Buffyverse was doing.

It’s pure gimmick. A “massive” story that has no repercussions and little value is the very definition of an “event”. Except AoA is a little more honest than most events, because anyone can tell, from Day 1, that no true repercussions are possible, because they WILL put the timeline all back together by the end.

Get a concept that has worked before and stretch it for how many issues we can. That is an “event” for you.

“It wasn’t supposed to sustain interest for 20+ issues. It was supposed to hook as many readers as possible with as many books as possible, sustain their interest for 4 months and keep them hooked with 616. Iirc, it did pretty well.”

It was supposed to sell a bunchload of comics, you mean. Yes, and I suppose it did very well at that.

But as far as 1990s comic book events go, AoA was not bad. Maybe it’s better than most. But talking about 1990s crossovers and choosing the best of them is like choosing among the least painful places to be kicked.

Those AoA had some of my all time least favorite art. Not the worst art I’ve seen, but it’s interesting how many of my pet peeves it included: bad faux manga, horrible proportions, faux kinetism, overinking, overcoloring, too much going on in each panel

The statement “sadly, I was not an X-Men reader in the 90s” undermines a lot of your credibility. Consider yourself lucky if you missed the mega-truckloads of EXXTREEME!!! crap that was 90’s X-Men comics.

Omega’s art is mediocre. Alpha’s is very weak even by 1990s standards.

I hope the plot, at least, was interesting. Not that I want to check it out.

It’s too bad with all that lead-up, Apocalypse took an easy defeat.

Maybe stay away from the guy who can control metal if you’re made out of metal, Pocy.

Even in an event named after him, he can’t get a break.

AoA Colossus straight up running over hus wife, Shadowcat, was the beginning of my not liking the character.

Wasn’t this storyline voted the third best ever X-Men story by the readers of this site? I’m honestly okay with people disagreeing with the verdict here as it runs counter to the “why is this column so predictable” meme that arises, but I’m shocked by the amount of negativity in the comments here. Just throwing that out there.

Gods below, the colours on those covers (especially Omega) are EYESEARING…

I had stopped collecting comics, cold turkey, for a year and a half prior to the AoA story. This is what got me back into the game for another decade or so.

The story/event was unique for the time, and most importantly, it was fun. My only complaint would be that by the end of things, it got too unwieldy; I mean, some characters literally disappeared! Sunfire, for example, was awesome and survived the four issues of the Astonishing X-Men, but was nowhere to be found (or even mentioned) in X-Men: Omega.

All in all though, it was fun and it did the job it needed to do: sell comics and entertain!

my son's name is Wolvie

May 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

I read those back when they were first published, so many memories, I really liked AoA!

I loved AoA at the time. Haven’t re-read it more or less since it came out, but I’m willing to bet I’ll still love it. I don’t get the complaints that it “doesn’t count” or is basically just a long “What If?” story. Firstly, nothing much “counts” as far as long term change in comics. They almost always eventually revert back to the status quo. And secondly, if a story is good, who cares if it counts? I still found it to be an enjoyable story, and I really liked how the various corners of this world were fleshed out through the various titles. But I also have always been a bigger fan of What If? than the average comic reader, so that might have something to do with it.

Jazzbo –

I am older. I was reading comics in a time when Jean Grey died and seemed to stay dead. When Elektra and Adam Warlock died and seemed to stay dead. When it really seemed like Hank Pym and the Wasp were through with each other as husband and wife.

Yes, I still had the illusion that stories counted and that things didn’t always revert to a nebulous status quo.

I started to get “cured” of that illusion by the late 1980s, and by the time AoA rolled around, like annual crossovers inevitably rolled around, I was already very jaded and sick of it all.

Actually, I am not being completely ironic here. Eventually I even started to gravitate to the point of view that what matters, above all, is a good story. A pity that AoA was very derivative and kewl and a so-and-so story, at best.

Mark –

I suppose it’s a generational thing. AoA is somewhat popular with people that came of age by the time it was published. With older readers, not so much. I think that is true of everything in comics, to be honest, but doubly so with the Image/X-Men/Event stuff published in the 1990s, when they really seemed to stop caring about older readers and investing heavily in those younger than 13.

I always thought this was kind of dumb because the similarities and the differences between the two timelines make very little sense and are kind of lazy.

For example as someone earlier pointed out, the idea that not having Xavier around would lead to the rise of Apocalypse earlier and a totally oppressive future I found to be a bit much. That difference I didn’t buy. Meanwhile, despite such a different world forming due to Xavier dying, so much else was still inexplicably similar to the normal timeline. The Generation X team somehow formed with almost the same membership roster as they did in the normal timeline. All the same mutants who were major players in the superhero/supervillain world in the normal timeline were somehow the exact same mutants who were major players in the Age of Apocalypse timeline, despite the fact that many of them were originally recruited by Xavier or by recruits of Xavier, and they even retained the same codenames. Many of the same romantic entanglements from the normal timeline were repeated in the new timeline, despite the fact that many of those romances first blossomed in the normal timeline due to Xavier bringing people together.

There were very few original characters created. You would think without Xavier there would be a whole bunch of different mutants who became the major players in the mutant world, with only a few of the same major players overlapping between the two timelines.

So basically, the things that were different in both timelines I felt were very improbably and implausibly exaggerated in a way that was lazy and cliched, and things that should have been far more different werevery improbably and implausibly minimized.

I found the whole makeup of the alternate universe to be unpardonably lazy and uncreative.

Well, time travel and alternate reality stories usually depend on a person’s philosophical outlook, to a far greater degree than many think.

If you believe that the universe is a mess of violent, chaotic forces with no guiding hand, then obviously any change in history will produce a wildly different result.

However, if you believe that there IS some guiding hand, call it God, fate, collective unconscious, or whatever, then a change in history will not stop that one couple from meeting and falling in love, or people who are buddies in Universe A from being buddies in Universe B.

Xavier’s fall giving rise to Apocalypse’s rise is just a way to show how important and influential Xavier is supposed to be. Yes, it ignores the fact that Magneto’s X-Men seem to not lack firepower or dedication, as compared to Xavier’s X-Men, not to mention that they are now freed from having to fight Magneto himself, also the presences of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, etc. So why is it exactly that this Apocalypse is so successful as compared to “our” world’s Apocalypse?

I agree that the AoA is uncreative and lazy, though. It’s just another dark future (or dark alternate universe). Like many of crossovers, it would not be bad if they did it for one or two issues.

Xavier’s fall giving rise to Apocalypse’s rise is just a way to show how important and influential Xavier is supposed to be.

Oh yes, I definitely understand that was the point. It’s been a popular trope since It’s a Wonderful Life. I just thought they went overboard in order to prove that point because they were too lazy to think of subtler, more plausible, challenging ways to illustrate that same point.

However, if you believe that there IS some guiding hand, call it God, fate, collective unconscious, or whatever, then a change in history will not stop that one couple from meeting and falling in love, or people who are buddies in Universe A from being buddies in Universe B.

Yes, the storyline really did seem to believe in predestinations and guiding hands. Everyone who was meant to meet somehow did indeed meet. Somehow Logan and Jean Grey still end up meeting and being romantically involved in this alternate reality even though without Xavier around to bring them together it seems like a really big coincidence.

In our reality, there are many mutants, millions even, who choose not to become superheroes or supervillains but rather just live normal lives. Without Xavier and with Magneto in charge, you would think it would be likely that one of those “normal” mutants in this reality ends up becoming a superhero or supervillain in this new one. Or someone who was recruited to become a superhero or supervillain thanks to Xavier’s death and instead the quiet life of a “normal” mutant. But nope. All the exact same people are the critical players, even without Xavier to recruit them. And even the heroes who received their names from Xavier still end up having those exact same codenames, like Cyclops.

So when the movie comes out, is this a trilogy-type of story or will one movie be enough? And, do you think average movie goers will be turned off by another timeline story?

T. –

The “million of mutants” thing is a retcon. I don’t know who was the first writer to come up with it, but in the Claremont years, the number of mutants was tiny. Claremont himself said that, when he commented on Morrison’s run. Claremont’s idea was that the Avengers and other popular heroes could easily round up all the mutants in America with no trouble in a few days. That was the basis for Days of a Future Past, BTW.

By the time of Morrison’s run, there were millions. I don’t know what the numbers were supposed to be when AoA was written. I don’t know if what Morrison wrote was a retcon, or if the number of mutants just skyrocketed in a few years.

In any case, by the time Xavier founded the X-Men, it’s assumed that there were only a handful of mutants in America, and he chose the five most suited to the superhero life. Magneto replacing Xavier would not have changed that line-up so much, except by adding Wanda and Pietro to the roster.

Mark-

Great column this week, I agree with most everything you said. What I loved most about Age of Apocalypse was the imagination it took to plan. Not only did it use every X-title, but it also used virtually every X-character from the entire (at that point) 32-year history of the mythology, and re-imagined all of them in ways that mostly made sense. I love how many minor characters show up in odd places with totally unique uses, like Madrox being the Madri, basically Apocalypse’s entire army. I liked the use of Blink, a character that never really got a chance in the main continuity, I liked the reworking of Cable into Nate Grey, the adding of Lila Cheney and Wild Child into major roles on teams, and so much more. The level of planning and coordination that went into this is (arguably) second only to Crisis, and on that level, it fascinates me.

Plus, even though it was a gimmick cash grab on many levels, it had some truly great creators really pouring their best efforts into it. It’s undoubtedly Lobdell and Nicieza’s best writing, and it also featured good work from Hama, Ellis, Waid, Moore, and Loeb. On the art front, even though it has a lot of 90’s excess, it’s some of the best work from the careers of Madureira, the Kubert bros, Epting (at least until the Winter Soldier stuff), Bachalo (the prime of his collaboration with Buckingham), Skroce, and Pacheco. I’d argue that these stories are what elevated Madureira to super-star status.

Seriously, why even judge Alpha and Omega IN THE FIRST PLACE? They are awesome, aesthetically and entertaining!

“For example as someone earlier pointed out, the idea that not having Xavier around would lead to the rise of Apocalypse earlier and a totally oppressive future I found to be a bit much. ”
In Legion’s Quest is shows that the X-men fighting Legion in the past cause Apocalypse to awake early… pretty easy to follow IMO

I loved some of the character stuff in the other series. Highlights were:

Holocaust vs sabretooth (‘nice try victor’) and holocaust vs blink.

Collosus leaving the gen x kids to die.

Mr sinister dying in a field after sending xman after apocalypse

It was a good alternate universe crossover overall!

TheGreenMalice

May 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

These gimmick covers are what got my younger self into comics. The realization that I would have to buy many many issues outside of just X-Men to get the full story, is what steered me away from the mainstream. As a young kid with little cash, there was no way to really keep up with events like these.

Boy oh boy, the negative voices here are really something. I was, and still am, a huge fan of AoA. I loved everything, still do. Sure, lots of it is just slugfests and of course the in hindsight everything could have been better, but overall it was a great crossover.

Boy oh boy, the negative voices here are really something. I was, and still am, a huge fan of AoA. I loved everything, still do. Sure, lots of it is just slugfests and of course the in hindsight everything could have been better, but overall it was a great crossover.

Obervation: it wasn’t “Xavier’s death led to Apocalypse rising earlier.” In the prelude issues in Uncanny/Adjectiveless X-Men, Magneto and the time-traveling X-Men had a *very* public battle with Legion some 20 years in the past. This was presumably at a time when “super heroes” were largely unheard of in the Marvel U, World War II notwithstanding. (You’ll note that in the AoA comics dealing with the non-mutant characters, the WWII characters never show up. Presumably, Captain America was never thawed from the ice, and a footnote mentions that Apocalypse killed Namor.)

Anyway, Apocalypse is in seclusion at the time and monitors the battle as the news broadcasts it. He decides that mutants are now arising in the world, and it’s time for him to begin culling the humans. One would assume that absent this battle, the timeline would have continued as normal and Apocalypse wouldn’t go public until mutants appeared “for real.”

I guess that makes sense, although it doesn’t explain why Apocalypse never went public in World War II when people like Namor and Toro started appearing. Maybe he was hibernating, but you’d think a world conflict would have brought him out.

I was going to say exactly the same thing as Adam.

After reading the comments, I get the feeling that most of the people here either never read the AoA books, or just feel like hating on them because it’s cool to hate the 90’s anymore.

But really, much like the supposedly self contained two issues of Days of Future Past, this story had ramifications beyond those four months. X-Man and Exiles both came from the fallout of this story, and even books as recent as Uncanny X-Force have turned back to this reality. Not to mention the actual Age of Apocalypse titles.

@Adam — you’ve hit the nail on the head. The whole “Apocalypse was hibernating until the mutants emerged” plot was pretty stupid. It was introduced in AoA. Before that, we had Apocalypse emerge in X-Factor with no explanation for his earlier absence. Whoever thought of that particular plotline really was reaching.

@Rene — I wouldn’t call the “millions of mutants” thing a “retcon,” per se. it was just the natural evolution of the MU from the Claremont era to the Morrison era. More and more mutants were being revealed, one by one; it makes sense that more and more were being born that weren’t being shown in the comics. It was a good idea, and it’s too bad they undid it with Decimation.

i still can reread most of the AoA stuff from the initial run. the add ons after don’t feel right.
alpha at the time blew my mind, and rereading it brings a smile to my face, because it’s like knowing a secret is still there.
omega was just so bad ass, a weakened (he lost most of his strength before the series started), beaten magneto ripping apocalypse in half…i was blown away. i still get gleeful with that

Greatest ever. I don’t read comics anymore but I hold AOA in very high regard. You guys who are saying negative things didn’t read it at the time. I want to re read now bc it was that good. Back then, I had no idea status quo would return which made the last issue in 616 so powerful. I recall a storm moment but forget the details. Followed by awesomeness. Sabertooth Blink relationship? Amazing. Colossus behavior? Powerful. Iceman? Recreated and redefined. Wild child? Awesome! Bishop? Never been better. Blink! Holocost! So sick. Seriously amazing. Don’t hate. Even the covers….legit.

Nu-D –

Considering comic book time and how it is only “ten years” since Fantastic Four #1, I don’t know if mutants going from hundreds to millions is a good idea.

What a ridiculous article…any franchised spin-off is gimmick regardless of it’s cover or contents. The notion that there can be multiple literary variations of the same intellectual property is a sad reality that there’s no editorial credibility. It’s all marketing and even sadder is that there are grown ass adults who are suckered into buying this shit.

I’m not X-men hater, I actually enjoy the whole premise, but I don’t like the many many and too many freakin’ spin-offs. If there was only ONE X-men title on the market for $7 dollars…I’d be buying it every month knowing that it’s not going get canceled, rebooted, or a spin-off. I’d know that there’s only one ongoing X-men book I can hand to my non-comic book friend with confidence.

@Rene — I would argue the “ten years” rule is the “bad idea.” Marvel should be growing up, not treading water. But you know, to each their own.

I read AoA as it came out also. It was a huge deal, as it came out at a time when Marvel was on pretty shaky ground.

IIRC, Marvel was faced with a looming bankruptcy and fans were turning their backs at the publisher because of the Spider clone saga and Heroes Reborn fiascos.

Talent was flocking to other publishers and Marvel didn’t have near the market share that it enjoys today. Marvel just wasn’t very cool anymore….So to me, AoA, although not a masterpiece, was an event that brought a bit of excitement back to comics.

I loved the costume redesigns for the most part…..except for Colossus. Why does he have a mask on? To conceal his identity?

My mind was blown when the AoA originally dropped. Different from a typical crossover, the entire WORLD was altered. Joe Madureira’s costumes were cutting edge, and the mixing of characters from various teams meant two things:

1. It was exciting to see various characters interact who would otherwise not interact.
2. Readers got a chance to sample other titles for a few issues. I was a fan of X-Factor at the time, but I picked up Gambit and the Eternals because I wanted to see the new version of Strong Guy, and I picked up Astonishing X-Men simply because I wanted to check out Madureria’s artwork (a move that resulted in me becoming a regular reader of Uncanny once AoA ended).

The main reason that AoA might not read well today is because the x-books took the cool parts of the universe and have milked them dry since then. For example:

Blink.

Shiro’s costume design.

Pairing Sabertooth with Wildchild.

Sugarman.

The adjective “Astonishing” paired with “X-Men”.

Rogue and Magneto in a serious relationship.

Magneto as a hero.

Xavier gone.

Dark Beast.

etc.

Brian from Canada

June 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm

@Nu-D: Apocalypse’s hibernation was defined later in Further Adventures Of Cyclops & Phoenix: Sinister had caused enough damage that his master had to remain in hibernation until the mutants of the world could rise up against him. Thus, when Legion kills Xavier, it triggers it early.

@Adam: Two points answer your question about the other heroes. One, Marvel wasn’t really into WW2 stories in the 90s, with the Timely and Atlas days pretty much ignored except for odd reprints. If Cap was still frozen and Namor dealt with, that only left Fury and the Commandos to kill. Two, Apocalypse conquers America first and that would have interrupted the normal set of events for the rest of the heroes. The US would not be racing against the USSR to study cosmic radiation, for example. X-Universe showed some humans ended up in prominent roles anyway, but most of the heroes would have been killed in childhood or their parents before. (X-Men Chronicles also shows the ineffectiveness of The X-Men to stop the stronger Apocalypse — meaning it would take another generation to have the power to take down Apocalypse in his decadence, the decadence already shown in Adventures Of Cyclops & Phoenix).

As for the review itself, it’s fairly spot on. Alpha is a bookend that checkmarks all of the characters enough to set up eight monthly books — plus a quarterly and a 2 issue mini — and ends up costing itself more depth. Omega spends too much time on exposition for those who haven’t read the monthlies and tying up loose ends that it becomes an exercise in destruction before the obvious reset. It would not be until a THIRD bookend (sadly missed here) called X-Men: Prime that the checklist would tick off the monthlies again *with* the impact of what happened as a result of After Xavier: The Age Of Apocalypse.

But it should be pointed out too that Omega’s ending was ruined by returns to the AoA over the next decades. Now, it’s just another functional universe in Marvel.

@Chelo,

Not sure about the clone saga, but Heroes Reborn was several years after AoA.

Brian from Canada

June 2, 2014 at 8:19 am

@Nu-D.: “Heroes Reborn” was one year after. The first Uncanny afterwards has Juggernaut mention “Onslaught,” which set up the next year’s event. That, in turn, created “Heroes Reborn.” “Heroes Reborn” ended prematurely, though, as Marvel waited too long to renew the contract with Image — and thus we got a thirteenth issue of those series before “Heroes Return.”

Even if there was a somewhat plausible reason giving for why Xavier’s absence would cause the rise of Apocalypse, I still think it’s a lazy choice to have such an extreme alternative be the main result of Xavier’s death. I think it would have been far more interesting and challenging, both to the creators and the readers, to have a more subtle exploration of what a world without Xavier would have been like.

Also, were the X-Men still called X-Men in this alternate version of earth? If so, what was the in-story reason given?

bklynesfynest2000

June 2, 2014 at 11:17 am

I know it seems that AoA wasnt that great of a storyline or for some of you doesnt hold up to the test of time but honestly as far as these over hyped and over used crossovers go it is one of if the not the best example of great storytelling and art. The stakes felt incredibly high and real for this group to fix reality and end that Age of Apocalypse, I enjoyed all the corssovers and honestly I have never felt the urge to buy all the issues of any cross prior or after that one. I had all the x-titles in AoA and it felt like one big gigantic story but if you didnt get the various titles you still didnt lack a great story. The reason why AoA got watred down or doesnt seem as great to me is due to the fact marvel went to many times to that well and each time they did it was dilluted more and more…Rick rememder’s uncanny x-force version of AoA was pretty good but by then they had done AoA once too many times…

I wish they would collect all the AoA stuff in one omnibus, I always wanted to read it all.

While I agree that “Alpha” is a well-done and well-paced initial kick to the storyline, I beg to differ by saying “Omega” is a mess of a story, rom the cover (the worst work of John Romita Jr. I’ve seen) to the “WTF”-face-making ending.

I was already reading that issue with a bias –these stories which explored so well a new world would end after that 48 pages, and soon the comics would return to the then-painful to read status-quo, that “Mexican tearjerker soap”, as we call them in Brazil. So, any mistake would be bigger than it was.

And there were many mistakes. “Omega” was too full of characters, with little to no space for them on it. The script was rushed, and the final battle between Magneto and Apocalypse was disappointing: if he could tear the villain apart, why the hell didn’t he used this trick at all the times they met?

Also, the sad ending where Eric, Rogue and their kid look at the horizon while everybody –including them– is burned by atomic bombing is too tearjerkey for me. That only reinforced my decision to stop with super-heroes at age twenty.

(Indeed, soon I stopped buying any super-hero story that wasn’t “Justice League” or “Legion of Super-Heroes” and entered the Vertigo and European worlds.)

T- Magneto named them the X-men in honor of his fallen friend Charles Xavier.

Although Charles totally denied they were named after him at all.

I didn’t have a problem with so many of the same characters ending up together in the end. They were initially some of the most powerful mutants on the planet, so the fact that they ended up as pawns of one side of the battle or another is somewhat plausible. I understand what you’re saying, but I didn’t think it was such a stretch. And of course, in the most cynical fanboy way, why would we care what happened to anyone else?

I can’t get over how awful the proportions of Apocalypse are in that picture. I’d give the excuse that it’s because he can control his own molecular structure, but Sabertooth doesn’t look any better in the following pic. This is Barbie-like babe comic cover bad.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives