Review by Ian Keogh
Opinion about the 1995 X-Men crossover Age of Apocalypse was split. For some it was a thrilling few months completely inverting the X-Men’s world, while for others it was a cynical marketing-led exercise aimed at selling extra comics to hardcore fans. As the title suggests, it featured an alternate universe where the immortal mutant Apocalypse controlled the world. Circumstances dictated radically different line-ups and agendas for Marvel’s mutant teams, and it was also the story that introduced Exiles mainstay, the teleporting Blink.
That reason alone was enough to revisit the Age of Apocalypse on its tenth anniversary, but before then Tony Bedard ties up the mystery of Blink’s disappearance for a few missions as they revisit a world last seen in Out of Time. Blink’s mentor Sabretooth chose to remain on the world, and because of the unusual dynamics of the Exiles transporting from world to world, twenty years have passed since their previous visit and a lot has changed. Bedard increases the feeling that the Timekeeper has an agenda and hasn’t been entirely truthful with the Exiles, and puts Blink through the emotional mill. She’s been evasive about her time away from the team, and Bedard concocts something suitably horrible to explain why.
The Age of Apocalypse sequence is interesting. It’s set almost at the end of the story as previously published, with Apocalypse, only seen in flashback, on the verge of defeat, but tied into the bigger picture of what the Exiles are doing, and who they’re doing it for. Apocalypse had many artefacts at his disposal, and one of them may prove very useful to the Exiles.
Mizuki Sakakibara and Jim Calafiore share the art, with Calafiore’s layouts fine, but Sakakibara the better artist. Interestingly, though, the way Calafiore is now drawing the Timebroker, he’s not too far removed from a grumpy Danny DiVito.
Bedard’s maguffin for propelling the plot is a nice idea, and these are three decent Exiles chapters, but the overall ranking is pulled right down due to editorial packaging. The following Timebreakers is seven chapters, and what’s here would have been better included alongside them. Instead, Marvel went for the fast buck, and a third of this content is what was originally published as Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Age of Apocalypse, page after page of pin-ups, head shots and explanations of what happened in the original 1990s story. Oh, Sasquatch and Beak on the cover? They’re not seen inside.