“Age of Apocalypse” #1 by writer David Lapham and artist Roberto De La Torre returns to the fan-favorite alternate universe most recently seen in “Uncanny X-Force” — but all may not be as you expect to find it.
Marvel’s recent modus operandi when bringing back old concepts has been to give them such a severe “freshening up” to the point where they become almost unrecognisable. Therefore, there are reasonable concerns about how closely the world seen in this “Age of Apocalypse” book resembles the one seen in the AoA adventures you’re already familiar with.
Let’s not beat around the bush. As reworks go, it’s fairly substantial. The principal cast retains only two of the AoA X-Men: Sabretooth and Jean Grey (both of whom were de-powered in the “Uncanny X-Force” Point One lead-in issue) and the bulk of the book is given over to introducing the X-Terminated, a cast of human resistance fighters in a world now controlled by mutants. Obviously, their position is an inversion of the X-Men concept, but whether there’s a deeper point behind that approach remains to be seen. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be.
Some would argue the “shattered mirror” idea was what made the original AoA story so interesting, so it’s good to see Lapham indulging in a little of that, introducing an Age of Apocalypse Daredevil. The X-Terminated do have Marvel Universe counterparts, but as human antagonists from the X-books, they’re mostly one-note and not very interesting. An alternate version of Graydon Creed could be a good character, but there’s no inherent thrill in seeing a different version of him.
Lapham’s plotting is certainly on form and even though this is a wordy book, it’s filled with character-based nuance rather than needless infodumps and exposition. It does get a little clunky when attempting to explain the events of the prelude issue, but not to such an extent that it substantially detracts from the plot. Even the character introductions are handled well, fitting organically into the story — no small feat when there are so many characters to spotlight.
However, the book’s rather grim outlook is a definite problem. The artwork has the smudgy, grainy look of a low-budget horror film and the characters don’t exactly sport a sunny disposition. It’s angst-ridden in ways making “Uncanny X-Force” look like children’s television and badly in need of some comic relief. Even the original AoA had Morph around for that.
With so much about this book’s premise already telegraphed in its prelude, the big question (certainly, for me) was what hook Lapham would come up with to bring readers back. The appearance of an unexpected character at the end prompts a tentative eyebrow raise, while the narrative twist intrigues rather than excites. There’s definite potential, if only it can lighten the tone slightly and give us reasons to care about the characters. Let’s hope issue #2 delivers.