Sins of the Father
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Mark Farmer & Robin Riggs (inkers), Comicraft (lettering), Tom Vincent & Malibu (colors)
Summary: X-Man discovers a flickering reality warp and traces the source to Genosha. There, the Sugar Man is using the remaining energies of the M’Kraan Crystal within him to create a “fargate” that will transport him into the past of the Age of Apocalypse. The Genoshan Mutates he’s using to power the device aren’t enough, but when X-Men enters and attacks, he generates enough energy to charge the fargate. Sugar Man jumps through to the Age of Apocalypse, and X-Man follows. X-Man drops into Niagara Falls, and is rescued by a younger Magneto. He meets Forge, who already knows X-Man, even though they hadn’t met by this time. Forge explains that X-Man has already passed through time and spoken to him in the past. Elsewhere, Sugar Man is experimenting on Mastermind. One of Sugar Man’s scientists reveals himself as Morph and rescues Mastermind, shortly before X-Man, Forge, and Magneto enter. After defeating him, Forge recreates Sugar Man’s fargate. Mastermind uses his illusions to trick X-Man into energizing the fargate. The fargate drags X-Man back into our reality. Forge reveals that the last time X-Man traveled through time, he told him to do this because X-Man knew that he wouldn’t want to leave. X-Man returns to New York, knowing that he will find this reality’s Forge one day.
Continuity Notes: Sugar Man traveled to this world by jumping through the M’Kraan Crystal in X-Men Omega, which explains why he has the Crystal’s energies within him (assuming you buy the comic book pseudo-science). Forge returns him to this reality at the end of the story because he needs the M’Kraan Crystal energy within Sugar Man to power the fargate. The last remnants of the Crystal’s energies are used to send X-Man back to this reality, which conveniently prevents Sugar Man from creating any more portals to the AoA. Forge is adamant about returning X-Man to this world because he knows the Age of Apocalypse shouldn’t exist, and wants X-Man to ensure that Apocalypse never rules in the mainstream reality.
Sugar Man’s goal is to develop a waterborne strain of the plague Apocalypse used to decimate the human race (he also wants an antidote, presumably to provide to his followers). When he returns to this reality, he’ll use the plague to conquer Earth. At the story’s end, X-Man isolates the virus’ microbes from the water supply, and Magneto encases them in metal and takes them to a cold environment.
In the course of the fight, Forge loses his left eye to Sugar Man, which is used as the explanation for the cybernetic eye he wore during the AoA storyline. He tells X-Man that he never told him about his past conversations with the time-traveling X-Man because he wasn’t ready to learn about them.
Review: We all remembered that Alan Davis drew an X-Man annual in the ‘90s, right? Aside from having Davis on art, this issue is also significant for featuring the first return to the Age of Apocalypse timeline. It’s not an easy thing for the story to pull off, as the plot reiterates that the AoA wasn’t just an alternate timeline, but a reality that actually replaced the “real” world. The solution makes about as much sense as you could expect it to make, as Sugar Man duplicates the means of his arrival here and has to go to the past, since the AoA doesn’t coexist with our world. This doesn’t exactly fit with the idea that the entire AoA had to be erased in order for the mainstream reality to return, but I’m willing to live with “M’Kraan Crystal energies” as a plot cheat, since the M’Kraan Crystal affects reality itself.
After the plot goes out of its way to justify the AoA’s return, we’re left with an average story about stopping a plague and sending the hero back to where he was when the story started. It’s actually successful in making X-Man more sympathetic, which is something his monthly series rarely pulls off. Magneto and Forge are also given a decent conflict, as Magneto wants to use X-Man to fix their world, but Forge senses that their world shouldn’t exist in the first place and that X-Man is better off elsewhere. This is all fine, but it’s not enough to justify the gimmicky nature of the story. The real appeal of the issue is Davis’ art, and assuming you were a fan of the original storyline, seeing the Age of Apocalypse again. This actually could’ve been a much larger story, with the same premise being used as a proper setup for an AoA sequel, so it seems odd that it was tossed out as an X-Man annual.
Credits: Ralph Macchio (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Rachel Pinnock (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Joe Andreani & Malibu (colors)
Summary: Tessa, suspicious of Selene’s offer to reform the Hellfire Club with Sebastian Shaw, decides to investigate her protégé, Madelyne Pryor. Tessa enters Madelyne’s mind while she sleeps, and sees visions of the X-Men and the child Madelyne had with Cyclops. Madelyne awakes and attacks Tessa for invading her privacy. Tessa loses the psychic duel, but Madelyne refuses to kill her because she doesn’t want to anger Sebastian Shaw. Madelyne realizes that Tessa’s psi-probe has unlocked her memories, which revives her hatred of Mr. Sinister.
Review: I assume this was done to set up future issues of X-Man, although I have no idea if any part of the story was paid off. It’s actually the best Madelyne Pryor story I’ve read since her resurrection, even though I realize that’s very faint praise. Madelyne could work as a jilted friend with a legitimate beef with the X-Men, which is one of the reasons why I’ve always thought “Inferno” was better than the overwhelming majority of comic crossovers. Without that backstory, though, the character served no purpose, so I’m glad this story revived her memories. Madelyne decides at the very end that she’s finally going to get revenge on Sinister (the man who created and used her in the first place), which is a story you should do with Madelyne if you’ve already gone through the effort to resurrect her. I have a feeling that nothing came of this, but it is a legitimate direction to go with the character. The art is by Terry Dodson, and even if it isn’t his best work, it’s still light years ahead of what you’d expect to find in an annual back-up.