I don’t know about you, but Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse mega-event from the 1995 stands as one of my favorite events ever. Sure it was super-long, spanning nine different tie-in series over an entire year, but the alternate reality where Charles Xavier’s death ushered in the dominance of Apocalypse was exciting and entertaining. Writers like Mark Waid, Jeph Loeb, Warren Ellis, and Fabian Nicieza and artists like Ken Lashley, Salvador Larocca, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Tony Daniel, and Steve Epting brought that dystopian world to light.
Marvel’s latest Secret Wars has provided the catalyst for Fabian Nicieza to revisit the world where Magneto led the X-Men, Wolverine and Jean Grey were finally together, and Scott and Alex Summers fought for Apocalypse. In the Secret Wars litany of tie-ins, Age of Apocalypse #3 presents everything that was great about original series along with some new additions to the cast of characters and surprising twists.
In issue #3, the mutant resistance to Apocalypse’s genocidal tyranny is faced with poverty and hardship, yet with the addition of Cipher – a mutant who can decode language and the capture of Prelate Scott Summers – the X-Men hope to track down a bio-weapon created by the humans to end all mutants. On the opposing side, Apocalypse’s cadre of Horsemen and other minions plan to wipe out all opposition.
Nicieza brings the dystopian violence between opposing forces together with the emotional struggles of each character extremely well. The heroes are damaged and brave, while the villains are abhorrent and twisted. While fans of the original event will gravitate towards mainstay characters like Logan, Magneto, Jean Grey, Apocalypse, Scott Summers, and so on, it’s Nicieza’s additions of minor characters like Dr. Nemesis and Carol Danvers that diversifies this series.
While both are minor characters, Nemesis and Danvers present a well developed dichotomy. Nemesis is terrifying in is total disregard for for suffering in face of scientific experimentation, while Danvers is a beacon of heroism as she is tortured for information. These brief moments compliment the larger, more obvious conflict between mutant domination and human resistance to paint a satisfying message about who the real victors are in the survival of the fittest.
Gerardo Sandoval’s art is excellent in how it matches the art in the original event, yet finds a way to be unique. The over the top muscles and emotional responses to action bring a sense of nostalgia to the issue for returning fans, while blurred scratchiness of softer, dialogue driven moments drives the conflict of the story home. Another outstanding aspect of Sandoval’s art is how terrifying he depicts the villains. While in the normal Marvel universe (whatever that is these days) Dr. Nemesis is less than terrifying, Sandoval’s Age of Apocalypse Nemesis is dripping with violence and vanity.
The Age of Apocalypse is a story focused on human and mutant suffering versus absolute tyranny. Nicieza and Sandoval perfectly tap into everything that was great about this series and extends the established canon by finding new ways to connect the reader to the characters.