The X-Men are some of the most famous characters in the history of Marvel, if not all of comic books. The team has participated in many famous storylines and they manage to find a way into many Marvel events too. But Charles Xavier’s band of mutants can often seem separated from the rest of the Marvel Universe, which is why their events can be considered on their own. Of all the team’s events, “Age of Apocalypse” is one of the most famous and it remains a fan favorite. In 1995, Marvel launched this storyline, which placed the X-Men in a dystopian reality. When David Haller, or Legion, accidentally takes out his father, he causes a domino effect that leads to Apocalypse’s conquest of the world.
Subsequently, heroes became villains, antagonists fought for the good guys and every character was at risk of being victimized by Apocalypse or Mister Sinister. The story featured time travel, romance, and heartbreak while it strayed from some of the X-Men’s usual themes. Marvel has returned to this alternate reality a few times; notably, there was a tenth anniversary edition and other visits in 2011, 2012 and 2015. Despite these sequels, plenty of details about the event have faded from memory (not many fans remember the story’s pacifist Juggernaut). On the other hand, some things are hard to forget, like the Blob’s acquisition of superspeed. For these reasons, CBR has decided to provide a list of the top things fans forget about “Age of Apocalypse” and the top things they forget.
20 FORGET: MAGNETO LEADS TEAM
Magneto’s role as the leader of the X-Men was one of the most notable changes “Age of Apocalypse” made to the team. Charles Xavier was gone and, in his place, his oldest rival (and occasional friend) took his place. Magneto isn’t as virtuous as Charles tries to be, so this team of X-Men isn't limited to heroic members. Instead, it welcomed characters who were traditionally villains, too.
Magneto wound up becoming one of the true heroes of the story because he seemingly took Apocalypse down (Jean Grey was the real savior). Still, the event gave the Master of Magnetism a chance to temporarily save the day.
19 WISH: MAGNETO MARRIED ROGUE
Magneto is one of the most compelling characters in “Age of Apocalypse.” The man formerly known as Max Eisenhardt, who typically acts as the X-Men’s fiercest rival, founded the team in this world run by Apocalypse. Max is one of the most important heroes throughout this storyline but there’s one aspect of his character that remains a little questionable.
After establishing a relationship with Rogue as her teacher, Magneto eventually becomes romantically involved with her. The two would get married and they had a son, who was named after Charles Xavier. All in all, the romance seems regrettable given that the two characters remain constantly at odds.
18 FORGET: SPOTLIGHT ON LEGION
When Legion debuted in 1985, it seemed like he was destined to be an important character. As the son of Charles Xavier, he was supposed to be the next big thing in X-Men comics. However, after an early emphasis on David Haller, he struggled to find his place in the Marvel Universe.
"Age of Apocalypse" gave Legion a second chance, as it placed him at the center of the story (Legion was responsible for launching the alternate timeline when he failed to take out Magneto). The event revitalized David and made him an important player for years to come. Sure, he would eventually fade into obscurity again but this event showed readers what Legion is capable of.
17 WISH: EVIL CYCLOPS
Cyclops is one of the most divisive X-Men characters in the team’s history and he’s fought for noble purposes and less virtuous ones. But, traditionally, Scott Summers is one of the team’s leading heroes. So, in “Age of Apocalypse,” when Scott served as one of Mister Sinister’s top lieutenants, fans were somewhat taken aback. The Cyclops carrying out Sinister’s nefarious orders stood in stark contrast to the one that typically helped protect humans and mutants alike.
Scott eventually came to his senses, even in this dystopian reality. Still, due to his actions early in the event, fans never quite looked at Cyclops the same way.
16 FORGET: BLINK'S BREAKOUT
Before “Age of Apocalypse,” Blink was one of the many minor characters that failed to make a lasting impact in X-Men comics. During the event, though, Blink became a star. She wasn’t the most powerful character in the story but she might have been the most impressive, given her former obscurity. In this alternate reality, Blink mastered her ability to teleport and even managed to weaponize the power by using it to form javelins.
Later in the story, Blink became Sabretooth’s unofficial daughter and she went on to receive her own miniseries before she became the leader of the Exiles. Blink hasn’t managed to maintain her level of popularity, though a recent Exiles revival gave her another chance.
15 WISH: LOGAN/JEAN ROMANCE
Logan and Jean Grey might be the most star-crossed lovers in comic books. Various forces and circumstances are always keeping them apart. So, in “Age of Apocalypse,” you’d expect fans to be excited to see this romance come to fruition. However, as with other doomed relationships, when it got a chance to thrive, writers got overly eager and tried to force it along. The Weapon X tie-in series excessively focused on this romance and inadvertently smothered it.
“Age of Apocalypse” showed fans what a relationship between Logan and Jean could actually look like and many fans realized the truth behind the saying, “ignorance is bliss.”
14 FORGET: EFFECTIVE CROSSOVER
“Age of Apocalypse” didn’t just bring in most X-Men characters. Sure, it also included characters from the greater Marvel Universe. But the event was also remarkable because it truly impacted the entire X-Men side of Marvel Comics. During the lengthy event, regular (bestselling) series were cancelled and rebranded as “Age of Apocalypse” tie-in books. At the time, this strategy was fairly new, so it’s all the more impressive in hindsight.
Any X-Men comic a fan could read was impacted by the event. Plus, early on, each book mapped out the world in “Age of Apocalypse,” which added to the overwhelmingly in-depth feel of the event.
13 FORGET: DARK BEAST
It’s not every day that an evil version of a superhero from an alternate reality manages to stick around, so Dark Beast deserves some credit. Henry McCoy is traditionally a scientific genius and, in “Age of Apocalypse,” Marvel introduced a version of the character that used his knowledge for evil purposes. Dark Beast was even more wicked than Mister Sinister because he showed no mercy to his subjects.
Dark Beast has certainly impacted X-Men history; he helped create the Morlocks and he later led Gene Nation and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But, for fans of Henry McCoy, it was disturbing to see their beloved hero warped to be such a dark figure.
12 WISH: WEAPON OMEGA
“Age of Apocalypse” saw Wolverine experience many changes. Rather than his typical name, Logan went by the alias of Weapon X (an odd choice, given the character’s history with the program). Plus, like other X-Men, Logan fought alongside his classic rival, Magneto. A number of these alterations were positively received by fans. However, later on, the character took a turn for the worse.
To save the planet from the Celestials, Logan sacrificed himself to the powerful beings. At the expense of his mind, they upgraded his body. The newly dubbed Weapon Omega turned on his friends and allies but he was ultimately stopped by the Uncanny X-Force. Logan’s been a villain before but, here, he was particularly terrible.
11 FORGET: MAIN MU CONNECTIONS
It would have been easy for “Age of Apocalypse” to focus exclusively on the X-Men; it was a story about the reign of terror by an X-Man villain. Naturally, Charles Xavier’s band of mutants were the characters most clearly affected. Plenty of events focus on the characters closest to the heart of the story, which can limit the scope of these crossovers, but this crossover involved the greater MU. It brought in characters like the Hulk, the Absorbing Man, Ahmyor (Annihilus) and Iron Ghost.
While it’s clearly an X-Men story, “Age of Apocalypse” acknowledges the universe around it, which sets it further apart from other crossovers.
10 WISH: FAST BLOB
The Blob, or Fred Dukes, holds a complicated place in the history of the X-Men. He’s one of the team’s longest-running villains (he debuted in X-Men #3) but he usually serves as a lackey to Magneto. Yet, in “Age of Apocalypse,” the Blob received a (slightly) larger spotlight because Dark Beast upgraded his powers; the new Blob had superspeed.
Seeing the Blob without his greatest weakness was bittersweet. Now, his appearances are just a reminder of his hidden potential and the significant limitations of his classic power set. In the 10th anniversary edition of the event, Blob received another similarly frustrating upgrade.
9 FORGET: BISHOP'S DESTINY
Time-traveling mutants don’t have a place in every story because, by now, exploring time travel is a staple of X-Men stories. (Lucas) Bishop debuted back in 1991 and, even then, he struggled to maintain a presence in the team’s corner of the Marvel Universe. But “Age of Apocalypse” was the story Bishop was meant for. Lucas went back in time to stop Legion from setting off the dystopian future and this purpose allowed Bishop to display his merit more than ever before.
Bishop was instrumental in the restoration of reality as he knew it. As a result, Lucas went on to serve as a recurring savior of reality and protector of the timestream.
8 FORGET: POWERFUL ICEMAN
X-Men fans have often wanted to see writers show the full extent of Iceman’s powers. Bobby Drake always seems to hold back but he clearly has a deep well of power he can unleash at a moment’s notice. Finally, in “Age of Apocalypse,” Bobby got the chance to show his might.
In this story, Iceman displayed the ability to turn himself into a giant. He could also essentially clone himself. To the delight of the fans, Bobby showcased several new, impressive powers, which validated the widely held belief that Iceman is secretly a powerhouse. Bobby has somewhat reverted to his less imposing nature but fans still know he can tip the scales in any battle.
7 WISH: X-MAN
“Age of Apocalypse” introduced several new characters and, of them, Nate Grey is one of the most notable. Nate, or X-Man, was created using DNA from Scott Summers and Jean Grey. Like Sugar Man, Nate would make his way to the main MU but he didn’t enjoy as much success there. After all, he proved to be fairly similar to Cable, a much more dynamic character.
In this alternate reality, Nate had been one of the most powerful characters in the universe before Weapon Omega weakened him. Hopefully, through Uncanny X-Men, a new chance in the spotlight will restate Nate as one of the most important characters in the X-Men’s collection of heroes and villains.
6 FORGET: NOT TRADITIONAL X-MEN STORY
There’s one reason “Age of Apocalypse” can be considered an excellent X-Men story or one that’s not about the team at all. To clarify, the event doesn’t necessarily showcase the team’s traditional themes. It’s not a story about fighting for equality or peace. The event isn’t about typical heroes beating the usual villains. The story offers new, different takes on classic characters and, for that reason, fans love it or they don’t.
It’s fair to argue that enough of the changes are worthwhile and the event is enjoyable because it goes against the grain of most X-Men stories. Not every dark alternate reality story works but this one does.
5 WISH: SUGAR MAN
Sugar Man is one of the several characters that found their way to the main Marvel Universe after debuting in this alternate reality. Under Mister Sinister’s tutelage, Sugar Man became a skilled geneticist and he ran one of North America’s many containment camps.
Sugar Man was seemingly destroyed later in the event but he would return and become one of the many minor X-Men villains that occasionally bothers the team. He was eventually written off and he doesn’t seem likely to return. To be fair, the character has a promising power set (including sharp claws and the ability to control his mass). As a result, future stories could make Sugar Man more worthwhile.
4 FORGET: HEAVILY FLAWED HEROES
Plenty of stories set in dystopian realities feature gritty takes on classic heroes. In this story, Beast, Cyclops, and Wolverine are all notable villains. However, “Age of Apocalypse” is also remarkable because it features protagonists that, while still heroic, are quite flawed. Colossus is the clearest example.
Colossus fights for the good guys but he ultimately fails. He chooses to protect his family above all others, which has fatal consequences for some of the X-Men. Piotr Rasputin also accidentally hurts his wife in a similarly lethal manner and the accident breaks his spirit. This version of Colossus was a shining example of an imperfect hero.
3 WISH: GAMBIT AND THE X-TERNALS
“Age of Apocalypse” was one of most efficiently executed crossover events of the ‘90s; it affected every X-Men series and tried to bring in most characters. At times, this expansive nature backfired and Gambit and the X-Ternals might be the best example of the negative consequences of tying in everything. Plenty of the crossovers that followed suffered from similar flaws.
Rather than focusing on a few main series, many events branch into a plethora of titles (which can make it hard to follow the main story.) Several of these series are inherently excessive because they are based on light storylines. Here, Gambit and the X-Ternals featured one long hunt that easily could have been confined to a few issues elsewhere.
2 FORGET: PACIFIST JUGGERNAUT
As an incredibly powerful character, Juggernaut could have been a difference maker in “Age of Apocalypse.” Powered by the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, Cain Marko has superhuman strength and can generate a force field. He also has unstoppable momentum when he runs. Plus, without his brother Charles to steal the spotlight, Cain could have finally received the chance to shine. Instead, in this famous event, the Juggernaut is a pacifist, a lifestyle that makes it difficult to tip the scales in a world run by Apocalypse.
Cain failed to make a notable impact here but the idea of a pacifist Juggernaut was quite unique; it’s a twist that, at some point, deserves to be explored further.
1 FORGET: INCLUDED EVERYONE
“Age of Apocalypse” was a remarkably successful event, especially for one that came out of the ‘90s. One of the reasons for its fame was its ability to incorporate every X-Men character. Some of them made brief appearances while others received much more attention. Previously minor characters like Blink and Sunfire held prominent roles in the event while, of course, the classic X-Men were important, too.
Many crossovers tend to focus on a small group of characters. On the other hand, “Age of Apocalypse” managed to include a wide array of heroes and villains. While this style can backfire, it was carried out fairly well here.