Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers & Digital Chameleon (colors)
Outside of Xavier’s estate, Magneto and Bishop are attacked by Vanisher and an army of Infinite soldiers. After fighting them off, Apocalypse appears. Magneto reconfigures Bishop’s plasma-rifle so that its blast will be strong enough to kill both him and Apocalypse. Apocalypse tells him that if he dies, he won’t be able to save his son Charles. Apocalypse boasts that Vanisher is currently kidnapping him in the secret tunnels beneath the grounds. Magneto drops the weapon, and is knocked unconscious by Apocalypse. Underneath the mansion, Vanisher confronts the robotic Nanny, who is keeping Charles safe inside her body. She draws her various weapons against him. Later, Quicksilver’s team of X-Men return home and find that Bishop and Magneto are gone. Iceman discovers Vanisher’s body underneath the mansion, and the team discerns that Nanny had to be his killer. Exodus and Dazzler search for Charles, while Quicksilver sends Iceman to tell Rogue that Magneto is missing. Soon, inside Angel’s nightclub, Quicksilver learns that Apocalypse is keeping Magneto captive in his Manhattan fortress, while Bishop is being interrogated by the Madri priests in Quebec. Quicksilver must choose between saving his father and Bishop, the man who might be the key to a better world. In Quebec, the Shadow King tries to mentally interrogate Bishop, but Bishop forces him out of his mind. Abyss arrives, promising to finish the job. Quicksilver returns to the mansion, and makes the decision that the X-Men must leave his father behind and go to Quebec to rescue Bishop.
According to Apocalypse, Magneto once forced his Celestial ship to crash into Earth. Their subsequent fight nearly killed Magneto, costing him the use of half of his powers. I haven’t been under the impression that Magneto’s been depowered in this reality, although he hasn’t had a lot of fight scenes yet. I assume that explicitly cutting his powers in half was an attempt to justify why the super-powerful Magneto of the “Fatal Attractions” crossover hadn’t stopped Apocalypse yet.
This is an improvement over the previous issue, which was a disappointing action-heavy issue that didn’t exactly move things along. This issue opens with a rather large fight scene, but Nicieza’s still able to structure the story so that the events of the overall plotline aren’t stalling. The characters also feel more real here, as Angel is finally given a scene that shows that this version of the character at least has some depth. Quicksilver’s choice between saving Bishop or Magneto is also handled well, depicting Quicksilver’s anguish over the decision without giving in to too much melodrama. The story takes advantage of the volatile nature of the AoA reality by putting Magneto and his infant son in a situation that they might not survive, and by saddling Quicksilver with a dilemma without an easy solution. In the mainstream reality, it would be hard to actually sell the same drama with major characters (or babies), since most of the audience knows that they won’t die. And any time a hero is faced with a tough decision, he almost always ignores his own feelings and makes the most reasonable choice. Since this reality was coming to an end and most of the characters weren’t going to be needed soon, there’s really no sense of stability, making the story more effective. The darker portrayal of the X-Men also casts doubt on what Quicksilver might decide, giving his final decision to sacrifice his father more impact than it might’ve had in the mainstream reality. Of course, devoting so many issues to an extended “What If?” runs the risk of alienating the readers who view the whole thing as pointless, but I think the characterizations are strong enough here to make it work.