Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Klaus Janson (inker), Matt Webb (colorist), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering)
Inside Wundagore Mountain, Magneto trains his first group of X-Men, who consist of Quicksilver, Iceman, Storm, Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, and Colossus. He introduces the newest member, Weapon-X, to the team. Soon, Mystique arrives with another new recruit, Rogue. Meanwhile in America, Apocalypse sends his Horsemen (Gideon, Candra, War, Death, and Sabretooth) to attack Cape Citadel. The X-Men leave to fight the Horseman, while Magneto asks his daughter, Scarlet Witch, to stay behind with Rogue and the rest of the younger students. As soon as Magneto and the team leave, Wundagore Mountain is attacked by another one of Apocalypse’s soldiers, Nemesis. While at Cape Citadel, Sabretooth expresses doubt in the mission once he learns that Apocalypse is actually going to use the base’s nuclear missiles. Candra takes him outside to be executed when the X-Men arrive. Sabretooth talks her into freeing him so that he can join the fight. During the battle, Weapon-X uses his claws to sever Sabretooth’s spine while Magneto fights against Gideon in the control room. Magneto overloads Gideon’s powers, destroying the building and ending the nuclear launch sequence. Apocalypse arrives to take his Horseman away, except for the “unfit” Sabretooth. The X-Men return home, only to discover that Nemesis has destroyed their base and killed Scarlet Witch.
The X-Men in this reality call the Danger Room the “Killing Zone”. This issue also establishes that Rogue permanently absorbed a portion of Polaris’ magnetic powers during a previous abduction attempt. Caliban appears to be in the role of War, but I have no idea who the female Death is supposed to be.
There are quite a few added and altered balloons in this issue, all standing out because they’re hand-lettered while the rest of the book has computer fonts. Most of the alterations don’t seem that major, but you’d think that someone would’ve caught the missing word in “This is not training session, X-Men” on page thirty-one while revising the rest of the issue. Every time Nemesis’ name is used, it’s obviously been re-lettered.
This is the replacement series for X-Men Unlimited during the AoA event. The regular series is usually distinguished by its total lack of purpose, but the new reality, which gives all of the established characters a new backstory, at least opens up an opportunity for X-Men Chronicles to be more than filler. Using this series to plug in the new gaps in the X-Men’s history not only gives this book something useful to do, but it also helps it stay out of the way of the other titles that are following a specific storyline and reaching a clear ending. The basic plot of this issue is inoffensive enough, and the art is an attractive mix of Dodson’s smooth pencils and Janson’s rough inks.
Recalling the original X-Men’s first mission at Cape Citadel is a little obvious, but it suits the story and it’s something that would only stand out to hardcore fans anyway. Having Sabretooth react against Apocalypse’s plan is an obvious attempt to make this version of the character more sympathetic, setting up his future role as an X-Man. Considering what we know about Sabretooth’s past that precedes this reality branching off from ours, it’s too much of a stretch for me. And did he really think that Apocalypse wanted these missiles to “control”, but not “use”, in the first place? My major problem with the plotting is Nemesis’ off-panel attack on the X-Men’s home. I can understand saving the Scarlet Witch’s death as a last-minute shock ending, but totally dropping Nemesis from the story for such a long stretch doesn’t work. There’s also no explanation of how Rogue (presumably) fought him off. Did he just decide to leave? Why stop the attack if there were more of Magneto’s pupils to kill? The excessively bland dialogue also dampens any emotional impact the story might’ve had. Most of the characters don’t have anything approaching a personality, making it hard to honestly care about anything that happens. There also seem to be an excessive amount of pages spent on Magneto brooding to himself. This could’ve been a nice opportunity to see a more complex interpretation of the character while setting up his daughter’s upcoming death, but instead we just get page after page of Magneto reflecting on the importance of training the X-Men and how dangerous the world is. In terms of just presenting the X-Men’s new backstory in a straightforward way, this issue accomplishes that much, but it fails to make it actually engaging.