Saturday, September 5, 2015

Comic Book review: X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Prelude

Before Age of Apocalypse’s wildly different vision of the X-Men universe properly came into its own, Charles Xavier’s insane son Legion awoke from his long coma to find he had gained some degree of control over the multiple personalities swimming around in his head – enough control, that is, to formulate a plan to travel back in time to kill Magneto and alter the present day, but enough foresight to consider the ramifications of such a major rewriting of mutant history. The buildup to Legion actually putting his plan into action is something of a slow burn, but an effective one just the same. Seeing all of the major X-Men and a handful of both their allies and enemies as they are most well-known makes the transition to their dystopian Age of Apocalypse counterparts all the more powerful, as the contrasts between these are often drastic. Similarly, it offers better context to readers not as intimately familiar with the X-Men legacy.

There are two prominent points in history that this Prelude volume covers: the ‘present day’ before Legion’s actions cause a rewrite of the history of the X-Men readers once knew, and the past when Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (aka Magneto) shared a newly-forged friendship and were only just becoming familiar with the emergence of mutants around the globe. It is both insightful and amusing to see the relationship these two prominent leaders shared in their younger days, with Charles exhibiting more aggressive and impulsive behavior at times, and Magneto questioning the extent of the power other mutants could possess. While it is clear that these two do not share a perfectly matching view on the world and the struggles that it might one day face, there is a mutual respect that serves to shape Magneto’s ideologies in the later volumes of Age of Apocalypse.

Given how dark and desperate the world has become by the time volumes one through four of Age of Apocalypse roll around, it should come as no surprise that the X-Men, despite their best efforts, fail to stop Legion’s plans. However, these events do not play out in a predictable manner, as Mystique is the first to attempt to kill Legion in his comatose state, only to be thwarted by the members of X-Factor. The fact that different parties of mutants spend enough of their time squaring off against one another as opposed to focusing solely on Legion, as well as the fact that the extent of Legion’s powers are largely unknown until late in this Prelude, are what grant him the upper hand.

The X-Men throw nearly every plan that can scramble together on such short notice once the past becomes threatened by Legion’s intent to kill Magneto and alter the present. Cable and Domino are called upon, and both Charles and Jean attempt to maintain a psychic link with the mutants in the past. When the final hour is upon these heroes, they share a few somber, yet appropriately intimate exchanges with one another, before an awe and terror-inspiring wave wipes over the Earth, erasing the world as it once was and putting the Age of Apocalypse in its place.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

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