I continued my reading of X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse saga with X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 3 (Graphic Novel 340 pages).
This is the official back of Book 3: “The mirror gets darker and the Amazing X-Men more Astonished as the Age of Apocalypse hits its third quart! Magneto has dedicated his life to freeing humanity and mutantkind alike, but will Apocalypse now require him to destroy reality to save it? Sides are switched and secrets shown with repercussions ranging from the Savage Land to the Shi’ar Galaxy! Plus: a rare look at how Apocalypse altered the rest of Marvel’s mightiest! Doctor Doom and Reed Richards, side-by-side? Matt Murdock and the Kingpin, allies? Gwen Stacy in mourning for Peter Parker? Avengers, Exiles, and more in the original alternate X-saga!”
But I like this description better, from the first inside page: “America is dead. What sits in its place is a gangrenous wound of a nation – the American dream of the creature Apocalypse. These altered states of America have become a staging area for Apocalypse’s next, best nightmare – the corruption of the rest of the world. The troubled dissident movement within America has, until recently, been fighting a losing battle, outmatched and riven by internal dispute. Now, with the discovery of a man purporting to be from an Alternate Timeline, they move with new purpose. Kurt Darkholme, guerrilla fighter with the revolutionary band named X-Men, has been dispatched by cell leader Magneto to locate the woman named Destiny. Her talent of psychometric clairvoyance – literally, to touch someone and see their future – will validate the alternate man’s claims. To effect this, Darkholme has begun a dangerous journey along the refuge pipeline from America to Antarctica and the secret mutant refuge of Avalon … where his mother ferries the survivors to its shores …”
This collection compiled in chronological order from X-Calibre 2-3, Astonishing X-Men 2-4, Generation Next 2-3, X-Man 2-3, Factor X 3, Amazing X-Men 3, Weapon X 3, Gambit and the X-Ternals 3, and X-Universe 1.
This is easily the darkest of the Age of Apocalypse books. The book starts out with Nightcrawler’s journey to Avalon in search of his mother in Avalon. Like any covert transportation network, he has to proceed through a variety of checkpoints and trust his life to the good faith of those in control of the transportation through the various stages. He is one of hundreds of refugees willing to believe in hope and give up everything they have for even the dream of a better life. As with everything in this series, hope is not very often rewarded.
Every chapter in this book shows the atrocities of power and corruption. The younger generation works to infiltrate a nuclear powerplant core in a valiant attempt to rescue Colossus’s little sister, Illyana, who might have latent time travel powers. In order to do so, they face a situation where humans are slaves, barely fed and used for the amusement of the sick and powerful mutants in charge of the facility. Nathan Gray and his small group are betrayed and face the deaths of many of their friends by those they thought to be allies. The human high council is sabotaged from within and the countless masses who believed in an armistice and peace are shown death and mass murder. Heroes are captured and tortured while humans are culled and their bodies thrown into chemical vats to break them down into useable material to create mutant armies loyal to Apocalypse.
It is truly a world gone mad with darkness eating the souls of everyone left.
So why read something in a world so dark? Why read about the worst the world has to offer? I think our world right now is on the brink of exactly this type of world; a world where everything seems so broken and hopeless. Violence encompasses our schools, our religious institutions, and the places we go to feel more alive. Good people stand by while fundamental human decency is destroyed in the name of greed and selfishness.
I think this book is a mirror into a world that should never exist, but also one that shows even in the darkest of situations – even when the world is clearly so broken the average person feels heartbroken and filled with despair, heroes will sacrifice everything to make the world a better place. People from backgrounds destined for greatness and those from the most average beginnings can make a difference where every small act of goodness and generosity can repair even the most broken of worlds. Against all the considerable odds stacked against them, Nightcrawler, Sabretooth, Morph, Blink, Rogue, Cyclops, Jean Gray, Husk, Chamber, Mondo, Nathan Gray, Forge, and all the other X-Men in these books still work to free every human and captive in the genetic culling pens, the core, and the remnants of America.
The world in the Age of Apocalypse is even darker than our own world is now and yet these people fight to make things better; they fight to save each other and to believe in a better world. I just keep thinking about how when I originally read these comic books as they came out month-by-month, I didn’t have the luxury of knowing what was going to happen next or how long the story would take. For all my high school self knew, this was going to be the way things were for the rest of my comic book reading experience. I also keep thinking about how I was just a teenager in high school, reading about the worst atrocities imaginable. I didn’t have the knowledge and experience in my life that I have now when I was originally reading them and sometimes it really hits me that this kind of media shaped me into the person I am today.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that because of books like this, showing me how horrible the world could be, it made me want to work to make the world a better place. It made me want to be one of the heroes who sacrificed everything to save those who couldn’t save themselves. It made me want to stand up and fight for diversity, inclusion, representation, and justice. It made me want to save the world, no matter what world it is or how broken it gets.
Overall, I’d rate this book as a solid three on my rating scale. The story is good, though dark, and I’m definitely glad that I own the compilation and will very likely read this book again in the future.
The original comic books were published in 1995, 2006, and 2010, from X-Calibre 2-3, Astonishing X-Men 2-4, Generation Next 2-3, X-Man 2-3, Factor X 3, Amazing X-Men 3, Weapon X 3, Gambit and the X-Ternals 3, and X-Universe 1. Writers: Larry Hama, Scott Lobdell, Terry Kavanagh, Fabian Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Jeph Loeb, Warren Ellis. Pencilers: Chris Bachalo, Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Steve Skroce, Joe Madureira, Roger Cruz, Renato Arlem, Charles Mota, Eddie Wagner, Ken Lashley. Inkers: Dan Green, Mike Sellers, Mark Buckingham, Cam Smith, Al Milgrom, Matt Ryan, Bud Larsoa, Kevin Conrad, Scott Hanna, Tim Townsend, Phil Moy, Tom Wegrzyn, Harry Candelarioe. Colors: Joe Rosas, Steve Buccellato, Kevin Somers, Marie Javins, Matt Webb, Mike Thomas, Glynis Oliver. Separations: Digital Chameleon, Electric Crayon. Cover Art: John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson. Letters: Pat Brosseau, Chris Eliopolous, Richard Starkings of Comicraft. Cover Colors: Tom Smith. Editors: Rob Harras, Lisa Patrick, Suzanne Gaffney.