Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Sellers/Smith/LaRosa/Conrad (inkers), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas (colorist)
Nate Grey, X-Man, has a vision of Cyclops helping him escape a cell. He mentally travels to the X-Men’s mansion where he overhears an argument between Bishop and Magneto. Forge calls Nate back to reality, waking him up. His fellow outcasts Forge, Toad, Soaron, Brute, and Mastermind are all gathered around him. Nate learns that while he was experimenting with his mental powers, he accidentally destroyed a large portion of the forest. Forge tells him to stop his unsupervised training and to get ready for the show. That night, they perform Shakespeare for the surviving humans of the cullings in the Midwest. When suspicious human authorities question the mutants, Nate uses his mental powers to make them go away. Forge warns Nate that every time he uses his powers, he could be drawing Apocalypse’s attention. Elsewhere, Cyclops tells Apocalypse that Sinister has fled and left his lab in shambles. Apocalypse brags that no one could match his power, which leads the Shadow King to warn him about X-Man. Domino is sent to the Midwest to find X-Man, with orders to either recruit him or kill him. In Kansas, a group of Apocalypse’s Infinite soldiers has begun rounding humans into trains. Forge’s group of mutants fights them off, along with the latent mutant Siryn. After the fight’s over, Nate demands that Siryn join them. As the group leaves town, a man named Essex stops them in the road.
According to the narrative captions, humans “still enjoy their freedom” in Europe. The few humans left in the Midwest were unwilling or unable to go there.
The human authorities harassing Forge’s group are called “Prelates”, even though that’s one of the terms used for Apocalypse’s mutant soldiers in this reality. Since it’s actually a term for clergy, intended to show Apocalypse’s rule over all aspects of this society, it seems odd to apply it to a pair of backwoods deputies.
Due to the character’s muddled origins, Cable’s series was put in an awkward position during the “Age of Apocalypse” event. His existence is based on the premise that Jean Grey was believed dead for years while he was birthed from her clone. Not only that, but he was sent into the future as an infant and didn’t return to this timeline until he was an adult. If you’re starting a new reality where Xavier died twenty years ago and never formed the X-Men, where would Cable fit into this? Jeph Loeb answers this question by reinventing Cable as a teenager, while keeping his origin a mystery for the opening issue. I guess he split the difference between infant and adult and decided on teenage Cable. Loeb continues the plot thread introduced in the Cyclops & Phoenix miniseries that Cable is potentially the most powerful mutant alive by contrasting Nate’s infinite abilities with his immature attitude. This does have potential, but it leaves you saddled with a main character who’s supposed to be bratty and juvenile, which gets old very quickly. If he was surrounded by an interesting supporting cast, it could work, but it looks like X-Man has the leftovers from the rest of the X-line. Did anyone really care about how Toad and Sauron ended up in the Age of Apocalypse? And why exactly is mutant inventor Forge working as head of a theatre troupe in the Midwest? He couldn’t find a better use for his talents? The premise is rather lame, but I’ll at least give this issue credit for moving at a decent pace and not dwelling too long on some of the more absurd elements. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, Marvel allowed this series to continue after the AoA event was over, and it survived for seventy-five issues. It became one of the most ridiculed series of the ‘90s, although Warren Ellis’ revamp did bring some respectability to the title shortly before it was cancelled.