Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Dan Panosian & Eric Nguyen (art), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Jim Charalampidis (colorist)
Summary: Various heroes appear in Manhattan and rescue civilians from the flood created by Arishem the Judge’s arrival. X-Factor returns to Ship and discovers Caliban and Apocalypse inside. Apocalypse reveals that Ship has sent a census of mutantkind to the Celestials and that their judgment is at hand. He grabs Christopher away from Cyclops and flies away.
- The various heroes that appear in the opening don’t exactly match their 1991 counterparts. Iron Man and Thor have the wrong looks, for example, and Hulk is in his childlike “Hulk smash!” persona. Medusa is also in Manhattan, for some reason.
- During his battle with X-Factor, Apocalypse explains that he’s encouraged the growth of mutants for centuries, in the hopes that all humanity will be deemed worthy by the Celestials. (“Humanity” defined as neither Eternal nor Deviant.)
- Apocalypse is now claiming that no mutant has ever reproduced. (Last issue, his theory was that no two mutants have created children together.) Apocalypse fears that mutants' inability to procreate will cause the Celestials to judge against them.
Review: It’s an all-action chapter, with a lengthy monologue by Apocalypse covering much of the fight scene. This kind of economical storytelling was common during Simonson’s days at Marvel, and it suits this particular chapter pretty well. The story doesn’t stop to dwell on the implications, but Simonson gives the reader enough information to begin to perceive Apocalypse’s previous actions in a different light. He’s megalomaniacal, yes, but if his ultimate goal all along was to spare humanity the Celestials’ judgment, then he’s not such a one-note villain after all. It’s hard to reconcile this idea with how the audience perceives Apocalypse today, but it’s worth remembering that Simonson’s Apocalypse didn’t have such a grandiose speech pattern (dramatized so well in the ‘90s animated series), and that she never portrayed him as the genocidal warlord seen in the “Age of Apocalypse.” Her Apocalypse was more cryptic, and arguably, more human than the later interpretations.
The action this issue is mainly handled by Eric Nguyen, who seems to have improved since the previous chapter. His art is reminiscent of Whilce Portacio’s more recent work, and while it’s occasionally stiff, there’s some personality here. (Colorist Jim Charalampidis also deserves a lot of credit for the moody atmosphere he creates during the team’s fight in the dark against Caliban and Apocalypse.) Most of Dan Panosian’s pages are in the opening, which gives him an opportunity to draw a variety of Marvel superheroes. It’s like browsing through a really nice DeviantArt gallery for a few pages, which is fine by me.
The Apocalypse Journal III
Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Aluir Almancino (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist)
Summary: Apocalypse continues to foster war, hoping that it will force humanity to grow stronger. Growing lonely, he takes in the surviving ancestor of a family he admired in Atlantis. Apocalypse experiments on the young man, Nathaniel Essex, slowing his aging and giving him the ability to change his form.
Review: For reasons I don’t quite understand, the origin of Apocalypse is interrupted so that Mr. Sinister can waltz onstage. Why exactly Simonson felt the need to incorporate Sinister into the story is a mystery to me. The centuries-long connection between Apocalypse and Sinister is an invention of the Bob Harras-driven '90s, isn’t it? I’ve never imagined her original plans for Apocalypse involved Sinister at all. Regardless, Sinister is here to receive his third published origin in a Marvel comic. And that’s only counting the ones I’m aware of. Didn’t Earth X establish that Sinister was actually Colossus?
Simonson’s origin leans a bit closer to the “official” origin revealed by Peter Milligan in the Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix miniseries. Sinister is Nathaniel Essex, a human from Victorian England taken in by Apocalypse, as opposed to Claremont’s interpretation of a (presumably American) mutant scientist who cannot age. Simonson tries to leave room for the hints dropped during “Inferno” to work, regarding Nathan as Cyclops’ childhood friend/bully, but the art botches the job. Aluir Almancino’s interpretation of Nathan looks around twenty when we meet him in Victorian England, so it’s hard to imagine him passing for an eleven-year-old in an American orphanage decades later. (In my ideal fanboy world, Almancino would’ve been given reference on Nathan’s appearance in those Classic X-Men back-ups before penciling the story.) Ultimately, it’s hard to justify this diversion, unless you happen to think Sinister is essential to Apocalypse’s backstory.