Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Kevin Somers & Digital Chameleon (colorists), Richard Starkings/Comicraft (lettering)
In Maine, Copycat spies on the humans heading towards a harbor town. She reports to the other members of Apocalypse’s Brotherhood that the humans are expecting to escape. Meanwhile, the remaining X-Men (Quicksilver, Storm, Banshee, Exodus, Dazzler, and Iceman) train against a Sentinel while the rest of the team faces Apocalypse’s men in Chicago. The team’s preparing to help the Sentinel evacuation of the humans in Maine. Quicksilver practices installing a virus disc that will prevent the Sentinels from targeting them. Magneto appears, warning the team to be ready to face Apocalypse’s forces in Maine. He anticipates that the Sentinels will focus only on Apocalypse’s men after the disc is loaded into the Sentinels’ neural network. Iceman prepares to use his powers to send the team to Maine, but Magneto asks Exodus to try teleporting for the first time. The team arrives in Maine, where Storm promptly uses her powers to obscure the Sentinels’ arrival on Apocalypse’s radar. The Sentinels land, and immediately detect nearby mutants. While Dazzler creates holograms to distract them, Quicksilver loads the virus disc. The Sentinels announce that the mutants aren’t targets, but still attack Iceman when they see him. Quicksilver theorizes that the program did work, but it’s now protecting the wrong mutants. The Brotherhood appears, bragging that they were the ones who scrambled the disc.
This is the strongest of the AoA issues so far. Andy Kubert’s pencils look remarkable, creating one of his best renditions of Magneto yet. He also does a great job with the redesigned Sentinels and Iceman. This is another issue that requires him to draw dozens of characters, but he keeps a consistent level of quality for most of the issue. Nicieza’s script is able to give the main characters firm personalities, while also presenting a villain like Copycat in a sympathetic light. The idea that the humans would be scared out of their minds of the Sentinels sent to rescue them is another nice touch that adds an additional layer of realism to the story. Rather than spending too much time on the setup, the story moves at a decent pace and concludes with a nice twist ending. The narration is excessively grim, but it suits the new world and doesn’t go overboard like some of Nicieza’s previous work.
Despite Marvel’s hard sell on this new world, there were always doubts that it would just turn out to be an extended What If? story. Nicieza at least tries to make the new world relevant by laying the groundwork for future stories that can be told in the original continuity. Showcasing several new powers for Iceman connects the AoA to the ongoing subplot about his true potential. Dazzler is given a power upgrade that also could’ve been carried over to the original reality. Exodus, a barely developed mystery man in the original continuity, at least has his first name (“Paris”) revealed here, which is more information than his original appearances gave. Unfortunately, Nicieza doesn’t last very long on the X-titles after the AoA and most of the hints dropped here don’t amount to anything. It’s still an admirable effort, though.