Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Mark Waid (script), Roger Cruz w/Steve Epting (pencilers), Tim Townsend w/Dan Panosian (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors)
In Seattle, Bishop discovers a living girl amongst a sea of dead human bodies. Unus and a group of Apocalypse’s soldiers discover Bishop with the girl and attack. Unus is shocked to learn that Bishop is a mutant. Suddenly, Magneto and a group of X-Men (made up of Sabretooth, Wild Child, Blink, Morph, Rogue, Storm, Iceman, Quicksilver, and Nightcrawler) appear. The team stops Apocalypse’s men, as Iceman uses his powers to kill Unus. When Bishop sees Magneto, he speaks for the first time in twenty years, calling him a murderer. Magneto forces Bishop to go to sleep and orders the X-Men to return home.
Elsewhere, McCoy is experimenting on the Blob when he breaks free and attacks. Havok and Cyclops stop him before he can harm McCoy. Cyclops chastises McCoy for violating Apocalypse’s Kelly Pact, which halts genetic experimentation. Sinister enters and asks Cyclops to join him. He tells Cyclops that he has to leave to stop “the madness” that’s overtaken one of their own. Sinister soon meets up with two of his fellow Four Horsemen, Abyss and Holocaust. Apocalypse claims that their missing member, Mikhail, will be dealt with later. Apocalypse laughs at humans for falling for the Kelly Pact, claiming that the genetic war between humans and mutants is about to begin. Sinister expresses doubts, which angers Apocalypse. Meanwhile at the Angel’s nightclub, Gambit gets information on how to find Magneto.
In the ruins of London, Logan and Jean Grey hand over information provided to them by Sinister to the Human High Council. At the X-Men’s home in Westchester County, Magneto and Rogue combine their powers to access Bishop’s memories. When Rogue touches him, Magneto is exposed to Bishop’s knowledge of the original timeline that existed before Xavier was killed. Bishop’s power goes haywire, causing Gambit to emerge from hiding and push Rogue away from him. Magneto asks Nightcrawler to find his mother, hoping to learn more about Bishop’s visions. Meanwhile, Apocalypse is angered to discover that Sinister has disappeared, as a crystallization wave heads towards Earth.
Wild Child is a fairly obscure Alpha Flight character who was drafted into the X-Men for some reason during this storyline. Morph debuted on the X-Men animated series, albeit with a very different look. He was intended to be an alternate version of the Changeling, a minor character from the Silver Age.
Sinister says that he’s served Apocalypse for “a century and more”, which means that Sinister was with him in the original timeline before it diverged twenty years ago.
Magneto and Rogue have a young child named Charles. Magneto’s “biomagnetic shield” enables him to touch Rogue, even though she has no control over her powers and can’t touch their son. Gambit has no idea about the child, implying that he’s been away from the X-Men for years.
This issue has a wraparound chromium cover, and a forty-eight page story with no ads. The cover price is $3.95, around twice the price of a normal X-book at the time (considering the page count, that’s actually a decent price).
This is the launch of the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline, which will overtake every X-book for the next four months. It’s more interested in establishing the new world than in telling a specific story, so it can’t really be judged like a normal issue. In terms of advancing actual plotlines, all that happens is that Magneto learns about the original timeline while Sinister plots against Apocalypse. The rest of the issue consists of establishing the new X-Men team and re-introducing the alternate versions of the established cast. Even though it jumps around quite a bit, the story flows pretty smoothly (the fact that the little girl Bishop saves is just forgotten about is the only real exception). The dialogue establishes the new versions of the characters clearly, while dropping lots of cryptic hints about the new history. The hellish new reality is established very effectively, with only a minimum amount of awkward exposition. The art’s the only real drawback, as Roger Cruz debuts his Joe Madureira impression. The opening pages aren’t bad, but as the issue goes on, the anatomy and storytelling get sloppier and sloppier. That complaint aside, this still serves as a pretty strong opening for the ambitious storyline.