Monday, May 25, 2015

Age of Apocalypse by Scott Lobdell and Others [Book Four]

"This was never our place, never our time, not really. And if Bishop did his job, we will be but memories by the time the bombs fall. Come to me, my wife, my son. Let me love you...before time slips away...I never would have believed until I met you, beloved, that hope would be so dear to me. But then, a good man once gave me faith that all things were possible. He preached a dream of harmony...and told me any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for. He taught me well. Had I these long years to live over again, I might have made other choices. I might have done many things differently. But I would never have stopped fighting for the dream. That is your legacy, Charles Xavier. Now--as I hold my family to me before the end--I thank you for changing my life."

You gotta hand it to Erik Lehnsherr of the Age of Apocalypse story arc; he has been consistent in his Charles-loving, Charles-missing and Charles-monologuing for all the four volumes of this so-called fan-favorite alternate-universe storyline. It's the one thing that never fails to amuse and move me deeply. The soliloquy above definitely takes the Cherik cake and eats it too, honestly. I could not believe how much Magneto pined over Charles Xavier so goddamn hard for this story arc and it has made me immensely giddy as a shipper. It would be an understatement to say that everything that Erik for this alternate universe has become is all because of the loss and sacrifice of his late friend. The moments in between when he just lavishes on the heartache of losing Charles are so telling; especially for a supposedly straight man married to a woman and has a damn kid--whom he, coincidentally, NAMED AFTER HIS DEAD BEST FRIEND. 

Now I don't know if this was intentional or accidental but, in any case, I THANK Y'ALL PROFUSELY, Scott Lobdell and co., for writing Erik in such a magnificently angsty way every time he mentions Charles or contemplates about life with/without him. It's...unbelievably SHIPPY. It's like you guys did not even bother to be subtle about it, Jesus.

This volume collects the last roster composed of: GENERATION NEXT #4, X-CALIBRE #4, X-MAN #4 and #53-54, FACTOR X #4, GAMBIT AND THE X-TERNALS #4, AMAZING X-MEN #4, WEAPON X #4, X-UNIVERSE #2, X-MEN: OMEGA, BLINK #4, and X-MEN: PRIME

More on Cherik commentary later. Anyone who has been reading ANY of my X-Men comic book reviews should know by now I WILL ALWAYS TRY TO FIND A WAY TO TALK ABOUT XAVIER/MAGNETO PAIRING so just learn to deal with this quirk, will you? But I'll get back to it again because for now I have to talk about my general evaluation for everything that was grueling and otherwise only slightly enjoyable stories that comprised this landmark nineties saga, Age of Apocalypse. To summarize all of my points from the previous three reviews, here are the important highlights which I hope can help for you to decide whether or not you want to read this for yourself.

  • If you want something for posterity's sake then go on and pick this up. Be warned, however, that these four volumes of the "complete saga" IS NOT PUBLISHED IN A CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER in spite of what the blurbs might say. Fuck those lying pieces of shit. Reading AoA using these four books will get really annoying because their ordering is fucked. I suggest that you consult online fansites about the recommended reading order and follow that flow instead once you acquire these standard volumes or, better yet, the thousand-plus-paged omnibus. I'm not sure if the omnibus finally got the ordering right. If it didn't either, then srsly, FUCK WHOEVER DECIDED TO PUBLISH THEM OUT-OF-ORDER. That's the most crucial thing to remember about reading AoA. The goddamn out-of-order publication of the issues certainly affected my reading experience for the worst.
  • In the first volume, it should already be giving me a glimpse of who is Apocalypse and what he is capable of; what he plans to do exactly, and why is he a threat to the world. But all I got are crumbs of these things and the villains who act in his name are at best vaguely represented and under-utilized while others are barely competent. I don't understand the alternate reality that AoA operates in. No amount of world-building is sufficiently spent for readers to imagine and comprehend without the narrative bubbles for that being reduced to eye-rolling purple prose. The only thing I know is the fact that Xavier died so he never founded the X-Men so it was Magneto who took his place instead and now he plays the role of this tortured good guy who laments the lost dream he shared with his late friend while also doing a 'will-they-won't-they' dance with Rogue (WHICH IS AWESOME! THIS IS PROBABLY THE ONLY THING THAT KEPT ME READING).
  • By the 2nd volume, I realized that though Age of Apocalypse is considered to be one of the landmark stories in the X-Men universe, I'm starting to think that it's mostly because it went on and on and on AND ON, spanning for fourteen separate titles over the course of what I assume are two to three years. Quality-wise, I'm not convinced it's a worthy classic. There are just so many stuff going on and most of them don't make sense as a unit. If solely viewed as issues belonging to their respective titles, I suppose they can be excusable but the problem is the references and callbacks about other events from other titles will force you to look back because you can't expect to remember everything clearly while reading through issue after issue of expanded expositions, action scenes that serve no purpose, and what little character and emotional developments that are squeezed in between the action. I can't bring myself to care about the supposedly major scenarios happening because the abruptness of  scenes and the overall chopped way the stories are collected just distract me from fully immersing myself in this alternate world. 
  • There are plenty of things to love about the third volume, however, like the fact that certain character relationships were finally allowed to grow. I'm talking about the issues with mother and son, Raven and Kurt; Logan and Jean Grey's doomed yet easy-to-root-for love affair; Gambit's complicated yet intriguing dynamics with the Externals; and Sabretooth and Blink's surrogate father-daughter moments in between.  Because that's what makes me read X-Men: THE RELATIONSHIPS in the context of the madness and discrimination, the deaths and the second chances that surround these rag-tag team of lovable freaks. In addition, three characters as individuals stood out for me the most for this volume and they have been performing rather impressively since the second volume began (aside from Magneto who, let's face it, spends a good seventy-percent of his page time pining over Charles): I'm talking about Rogue, Cyclops and Morph. GODDAMN MORPH who serves as a comic relief but who actually gives this fucking story arc an unmistakable heart in its messy core. Rogue here has been placed in stressful positions and yet she always comes up on top. That's my girl right there! Cyclops, on the other hand, actually plays the bad-guy role like a pro (EPIC FORESHADOWING, AMIRITE?) and Morph is so amazingly quirky and inappropriate sometimes but the fact that he always tries to make people laugh in spite of the bad timing of it all doesn't come off insensitive but rather sad and sympathetic. 

My favorite part of Age of Apocalypse--when all is said and done--remains to be Magneto. This version of him is a noble, heroic mentor and founder of the X-Men, and he is quite simply breathtaking in so many ways. His courage, his clear sense of purpose, his vulnerability...everything about this version of Magneto is sympathetic and compelling. Unfortunately, he belongs to an alternate world that in the end had to be erased to prevent Apocalypse from dominating everything. And Erik knows this as well so he selflessly allowed Bishop to travel back in time to fix what has happened during the prelude, Legion Quest. This is very brave and altruistic of him, considering in his world he is considered a savior and a husband and father to Rogue and Baby Charles--but he will sacrifice that if it meant the survival of both human and mutant kind. He believed in a dream worth fighting for but in the end, he also believed some dreams have to be given up and sacrificed in order for something better and long-term to take their place and that is probably the world where Charles Xavier lived to found the X-Men and changed history--even if it is also a world where he, Erik Lehnsherr, is the villain. 

When nothing else about Age of Apocalypse made any sense for me, I decided to focus more on Magneto's character arc and I believe it's a redemption story for him too that comes full-circle after the painful strife during Fatal Attractions where he was a super-mega-douche asshole. That's the most recommended facet of this storyline for me. Anyway, let's go back to Cherik. As I stated time and time again, Magneto consistently keeps talking about Charles, volunteering the information readily even when no one asked him to, and even when he's under duress while facing Apocalypse himself, or ready to watch the entire world as he knew it get wiped out in the end. What matters for him ultimately is the chance to TALK ABOUT GODDAMN XAVIER:

Overall, Age of Apocalypse was not as "epic" as I was led to believe. Some of it is entertaining while others continue to baffle but if you find a way to focus on a specific title or a character then perhaps you could appreciate it more. Either way, reading this has been very confusing at the very least, with some of the issues barely making sense together or having any unifying theme or flow. When they do find the right stride, my annoyance level has already reached its limit that I can't even care as much. Still, this is a 'landmark' X-Men story from the nineties that you must read if you want to be a completeist and all that. Personally, I recommend it because of Magneto's characterization for this arc, especially his undying devotion to his shared dream with Charles Xavier.


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