It has been about fifteen years since the Age of Apocalypse crossover event occurred in the Marvel universe. Sadly, I’m only just getting around to reading this monumental tale. It was quite enjoyable to see many of my favorite mutants (and other Marvel characters) follow a path without Charles Xavier’s direction. It was also neat to see characters like Dark Beast and Blink from this reality, after having read about these characters in more recent X books. After the read-through, I wanted to lay out a few thoughts that occurred to me while reading these books.

I think the most prevalent thought I had while reading this saga was, “Holy crap, this is kind of depressing.” This story certainly wasn’t a lighthearted tale. One thing after another seemed to go horribly wrong for the various mutant teams that took part in this epic. From the death of Scarlet Witch, to Rogue breaking Gambit’s heart, and the departure of Wolverine and Jean from Magneto’s X-Men (and these are just from the prequel books!), things rarely felt like they were looking up.

I think a lot of that feeling stemmed from the way this story was presented. With eight different mini-series going at one time, they each start off detailing things going wrong. The X-Men weren’t without some victories throughout the course of this event. Wolverine and Jean helped to get the humans on board Sentinels and sent them to Europe before the High Council could drop a few nukes on Apocalypse’s version of America. These victories tended to be short lived though. Jean left Logan shortly after that to rescue the helpless people still under the oppressive thumb of Apocalypse. It wasn’t until the very end, upon the resolution of the various story-lines, that I really felt like the story was worthwhile. I felt that the final book did a great job tying up all the story threads that had led to that point. I was skeptical at first whether a double-sized issue could actually wrap up the plot of eight different stories, but I was not disappointed. Upon closing that book, I felt that all the hardships the various teams went through over the course of their various books made the ending that much sweeter. It’s tough to have a story that dark run for that long and give the reader a proper pay-off at the end, but I really felt like these books did it.

Along with the story, I feel I must comment on the art. I really feel like this had a distinctly 90’s feel to it. Apocalypse must be dropping some steroids on the drinking water, because some of the characters were huge. Apocalypse himself seemed to have shoulders about three times wider than his waist. Magneto, Colossus, and Sabretooth were a few others that were hitting the steroid spiked juice. While that certainly didn’t take away from the story, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the ridiculous proportions from time to time. Aside from that though, the colors seemed to be more muted to me than many of the comics from those years. It really added to the oppressing feel of each of the books and I think it added a lot to the tone of the series as a whole.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting look at how the lives of the various X-Men, and the Marvel universe for that matter, could have played out if a single, albeit important, man had been killed. From the character cameos (It wasn’t until the second appearance of Dead Man Wade that I made the connection to his 616 counterpart.) to the bleak tone, I think this was an interesting experiment on Marvel’s part. I do wonder how the avid X-Men fan felt about this while it was going on. I believe I read that the normal X titles took a break while these were being issued. Was that enjoyable, or did you give up on X-books until this passed? With eight (EIGHT!) different minis going on at once, it had to be tough to keep up with the entire story on a month to month basis.