Columnists Joe and Kevin take you through the experience of learning to read comic books. Each week they alternate as Joe (the teacher) explains why he picked a specific book, and Kevin (the student) gives his impressions.
Previously on CBL
Think back to the moments of you childhood when your mind was so blown out by a pop culture event that you still talk about it to this day? I like to think back to when Optimus Prime died at the beginning of Transformers the movie, or when the batplane flew in front of the moon in Burton’s Batman.
For me, one of the coolest mind-blowingest moments was when Charles Xavier’s illegitimate son, Legion, traveled back in time to kill his own father, and he succeeds!
This of course leads up to the four month spring event of 1995 known as “Age of Apocalypse” !!!
AoA as it’s colloquially called was not a big press moment like Death of Superman. As a 14 year old, I was blown away. I was used to mega crossovers at this point. I had faithfully collected every issue of “Reign of the Supermen”, and I was reading multiple DC books leading up to the “Zero Hour” Crossover. AoA was a cut above the others though.
First off, AoA was monstrousy large, each X-Men book having a four part independent story arc that bent into the larger arc. Secondly, it was helmed by Scott Lobdell and all of the designs were done by the then red-hot Joe Madureira (this was after all the age of the artist). I would sit there for hours apeing his drawing style, trying to figure out why I fell in love with his designs.
Part of the reason the AoA stuck with me for so long was that it didn’t have all the baggage the X-titles (or any other book in the 90’s) had. This was a fresh take on old characters. I was able to root for Magneto (who was essentially on hiatus since being mind wiped in Fatal Attractions). Wolverine finally got Jean Grey, and Cable actually made sense.
But I think what made AoA so important that I had Kevin read it is that it really expanded my comic book world view. Here was a storyline that was almost like a novel, a sprawling epic. There were dozens of characters, many I recognized, but there were many I didn’t. Characters that sucked were now amazing. It also showed me that comic characters were not lame because of the writing, but because of their constraints. A character placed in a cool setting can become awesome. That, and some characters are amazing in any setting.
Most of all AoA didn’t feel reactionary, it didn’t feel like it was part of a ploy or a marketing gimmick, it felt natural, like it was part of the X-Men’s saga. Of course it was just a marketing ploy, but it was an example of how that’s supposed to be done. The story was riveting, since the characters were not actually the characters we knew and loved it didn’t matter if they died, but because we were familiar with them it broke our hearts none-the-less. Also there were so many excellent cameo’s from X-Men lore past. There were obscure characters like, the now at the forefront, Morph. Characters long dead returned from the grave. Excellent mcguffins like the return of the M’Kraan crystal.
That’s not to say that every book in the series was a home run. Excalibur (always one of the weakest books) transformed into X-Calibre focusing on Nightcrawler and Mystique’s journey to Avalon to find the mutant, Destiny. Seeped with so much obscure mythos, it was near impossible to read as a kid, and even now I find it tedious. However most of the weaker titles including Gambit and the X-Ternals, Generation Next, and Factor X were fun rides. I was even pleasantly surprised by how much I still enjoy X-Man.
Standouts for me were
Sabertooth and Blink: How I loved their dynamic. Essentially with Wolverine out of the main books running around in his own series, Sabertooth took over as the resident bruiser.However he went from the mindless brute of Wolverine fame and actually became a 3 dimensional character. He also took on a fatherly relationship with Blink, a new character, whose cuteness and naivety contrasted to make a compelling relationship.
Morph: Inside the extremely dreary world of AoA, humor seems to be the last thing on anybodies mind. however, Morph, who was based on a villian from very very early in the series, really livened up the book with some truly funny moments.
Dark Beast: Though he is just the AoA version of our Beast, Dark Beast was a sadistic monster working for Mr. Sinister, one of Apocalypse’s horsemen. He was a truly terrifying creation, and popular enough to crossover to our universe when the timeline was restructured.
Speaking of restructures, The AoA universe did have lasting effects, creating several new character. The AoA universe’s popularity gave Marvel a bit of swelled head, and they started doing what DC did with Earth’s 1 and 2. Which led to a bizarre run where all the Image creators took over Marvel’s books for a year. This is why all of a sudden Marvel developed “the Ultimates” universe and the zombie universe.not to mention the universe hoping book Exiles starring AoA’s Blink.
Marvel tried for years to recreate the magic it had with AoA. House of M, Civil War, Planet Hulk all tried but could never really hit that level of 90’s awesomeness. not to say that was the end of Marvel in my eyes. We’ll get to some of the best Marvel books later.
Read along with Joe and Kevin!
Next up: Age of Apocalypse- Kevin’s Take
- Starman Vol.1-3
- Crisis on Infinite Earths
- Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
- Invincible Vol.1
- Hellboy Vol 1-4
- Alias Vol.1
You can also hear Joe and Kevin on their podcast.
Previously on Comic Book Logic