Same As It Never Was
Credits: Erik Larsen (writer), Roger Cruz (penciler), Andy Owens & Scott Koblish (inks), Wilson Ramos (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: Annihilus and Blastaar attack the Fantastic Four, but are soon defeated and sent back to the Negative Zone. The team takes a break, but is recalled when President Kelly is assassinated by Dr. Doom. The FF investigate, and learn “Dr. Doom” is actually a clone under the command of Arnim Zola. When the Doom clone self-destructs, Zola is left in the blast zone as the team escapes. Outside the remains of the White House, Graydon Creed is sworn in. The heroes watch in dismay.
The Fantastic Four of this reality consists of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, and Hulk. You might remember them as the “New Fantastic Four” from Fantastic Four #347. According to Wolverine, the “new” team reformed after the original FF died battling “the High Lord.”
Wolverine is dating Stacey, Cable’s girlfriend at the time in our reality.
Spider-Man and MJ are married in this reality, and their daughter May lives with them in the FF’s headquarters.
Wolverine reminds the rest of the FF that Doom died along with several of this reality’s heroes fighting X-Man, “after he defeated Apocalypse and became the High Lord.” Just imagine if X-Man actually did have something worth doing in this crossover…
I Love the '90s: Wolverine remarks that President Kelly won’t be eyeing the interns any longer. Larsen also sneaks in a reference to “Advantageous!” -- readers of this site might catch the joke.
Review: You might recall the premise behind “Ages of Apocalypse” had Apocalypse warping reality within his chamber, in order to….do something. That’s why the previous chapters of the crossover only featured characters already present for the “Twelve” storyline in lead roles. Apparently, no one at Marvel realized that Wolverine wasn’t present for that section of the story at all, so his solo title ended up participating in the crossover anyway. It’s a boneheaded mistake, and yet, this issue is perhaps the most enjoyable of the “Ages of Apocalypse” crossover issues.
As I’ve said before, one reason why people responded so viscerally to the original “Age of Apocalypse” event was because it placed the reader inside a fully-formed world. Astonishing X-Men #1 could’ve easily been the Uncanny X-Men #322 of the AoA world, assuming Apocalypse allowed comics to be published and humans could gain access to them in their slave camps. This feels as if you’re walking into the middle of a New Fantastic Four comic (don’t ask me why it’s being published as Wolverine), and it’s actually a fun place to hang out. Annihilus and Blastaar want revenge on the new FF just based on their name, Bruce Banner’s wife has become the Harpy again, Graydon Creed is scheming for ways to replace President Kelly, and Arnim Zola has an evil cloning scheme in the works (which is a reference to a storyline Larsen has already been building in Wolverine). There are also the kind of character-driven subplots you’d expect to see in a long-running book, as Ghost Rider and Wolverine separately wonder if they fit in with their teammates, Bruce Banner remains unable to control which incarnation of the Hulk he transforms into, Wolverine mourns the X-Men, and Peter and MJ adjust to life as parents in an insane world. It’s honestly fun to read; utterly pointless, but very entertaining. The only true shortcoming of the issue is Roger Cruz’s art, which works fine as a Joe Mad pastiche for most of the story, until he has to draw normal civilian characters. I don’t know of any artist that’s managed to make Peter Parker and Bruce Banner look interchangeable, but apparently Cruz doesn’t seem to notice the difference.