If someone had asked me not too long ago if I would be interested in reading a new comic set in the Age of Apocalypse universe, my answer would've been a resounding no. "AoA" was, as far as I was concerned, something that could remain buried in the heap of '90s-era comics marketing gimmicks. But then Rick Remender worked the Age of Apocalypse universe into his run on Uncanny X-Force, and my opinion began to change. This wasn't the same Age of Apocalypse that brought us Gambit and the X-Ternals. It's been updated and reformed, a twist on the comics from 1995 as opposed to simply a continuation. So when I heard that David Lapham (currently also working on the other alternate-universe Marvel title, Deadpool: MAX) was going to be writing a new Age of Apocalypse comic based on the version created in recent issues of Uncanny X-Force, I was willing to give it a try. Now, after reading the first issue, I'm glad I put aside my '90s-borne prejudices against anything with "Age" and "Apocalypse" together in the title.
The world in this comic feels removed from both its predecessor and the current canon of the Marvel Universe. While it follows the history of the Age of Apocalypse that went before it, it picks up several years after those comics with several intervening events that have changed the world's landscape considerably. Many of the key characters from the original are gone, leaving only a handful of familiar faces. In fact, many of the central figures in this universe are villains in regular X-Men continuity. Almost all of humanity has been wiped out and the world is being run by the mutant elite, oppressing both what's left of the human race and the "dregs" of mutant society. In a world where humans are nearly extinct and mutants are power hungry and evil, it gives a different spin to characters like William Stryker and Graydon Creed, and the use of them in this comic is an interesting one. On the other hand, the central villain in this world is none other than Wolverine – or, as he's known here, Weapon Omega. Corrupted by the "Apocalypse Seed" and hellbent on killing his ex-wife, Jean Grey, he's a darker, more twisted version of the character.
We're also given a POV character not from the Age of Apocalypse, but instead an accidental visitor from the regular Marvel Universe who has found himself trapped in this dark, bleak world. Although we aren't shown who's speaking until towards the end of the issue, his narration is compelling and engaging, presenting a good framing device for setting up this world as it is now without feeling too heavy on exposition. He's someone who's familiar with both worlds, and it's a technique that works nicely to set the foundation for this series. Lapham has a lot of ground to cover with an entire world and familiar-yet-different characters to set up, and he does a good job of achieving that while maintaining a narrative flow and avoiding an info-dump.
Age of Apocalypse is a dark, brutal comic, a fact that is reflected in both the writing and the art. It's not a glossy world, and it's not one where you can take for granted who are the "good" guys and who are the "bad." Yet at the same time, it's a compelling comic that pulls you in and keeps you reading. The last page offers an interesting surprise that sets up a fair amount of excitement for issue two. Overall, it's definitely worth a read, whether you were a fan of the original Age of Apocalypse or not.
Sara McDonald started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.