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What If..? Age of Apocalypse #1 [Review]

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Quick Rating: Above Average
Story Title: What If…Legion had Killed Xavier and Magneto?

Summary: Here we’re shown what might have happened had neither Xavier nor Magneto lived to oppose the rise of an age in which the evil mutant Apocalypse rose to rule the world…

whatifageofapocalypse001 Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Dave Wilkins
Colorist: Anthony Washington
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Production: Brad Johansen
Asst. Editor: Nathan Cosby
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor-In-Chief: Joe Quesada
Cover Art: Marko Djurdievic
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This holds a lot of potential–the original Age of Apocalypse remains one of my absolute favorite X-sagas, period. And seeing that world played with could be quite cool, taking the concept and pushing in another direction while remaining in the spirit of the original.

Unfortunately, while ripe with potential, this issue lacks the space to truly execute a high-level story re-doing that saga in the space of a single regular-sized comic.

We open with the Watcher informing us that in this reality that we are shown, both Xavier AND Magneto were killed by Legion (the original story saw only Xavier killed, with Magneto’s X-men opposing Apocalypse). The absence of both characters ushers in a different age of Apocalypse; we get a re-imagining of re-imagined characters. When the story kicks off, we see a band of mutants AND other heroes (Captain America, Thing, the "current" Dr. Strange, and so on) mount a final attack to preserve their haven–though one of them has ambition to go beyond merely surviving and seeks to change the whole of reality, despite warnings against messing with such business.

The story’s heart is in the right place, showing this alternate version of an alternate universe. It’s jam-packed with a lot of characters that, for lack of space to truly flesh them out, seem rather contrived and present for the "coolness factor" of showing them; there’s no room to really flesh them out and show where they came from, what brought them to this point.

The art seems rather sketchy, and at points characters seem to be out-of-proportion…This is no standard, clean-lined interpretation of the characters. While this would normally be a complaint with me, something about the context makes it work. The story takes place in a mucked-up world with little to BE bright, sun-shiny/happy about, and the characters can’t afford to be clean-cut "super-heroes" or such, and the visual style lends a certain edge that just works for the tone, allowing a bit of abstractness to get things across.

As with the Onslaught Reborn issue, the quantity of ads managed to annoy me and take me out of the story, and makes me wish all the more that I’d simply waited for the inevitable TPB of all this year’s What If..? issues to read without ads.

Given that this particular story delves back to the core of the Age of Apocalypse, it seems almost out-of-place amidst the others in this batch, taking on stories from the last 3 or so years. In and of itself, it’s an enjoyable enough read, though it feels like a pilot missing a series: I think something like this would have made for an interesting mini-series, giving more detail to the changes brought into the concept and setting things up; all the moreso for the "twist" ending.

You could certainly do better than this issue…but there’s a lot you could find that’s worse. If you’ve followed most of the stories this batch of What Ifs spring from, you might enjoy a collected version more than the singles.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

What If..? Fallen Son #1 [Review]

What If? Fallen Son: What If… Iron Man Had Died?

Writers: Marc Sumerak
Artist: Trevor Goring
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Production: Joe Sabino
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Ed McGuinness
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This issue derives its story from the intent of answering the question “What if Iron Man had died [instead of Captain America]?” Opening with a recap of events we already know–the heroes’ Civil War, Captain America’s surrender, the bullets on the courthouse stairs–we see the outcome of the trial and where events could have gone had Cap not been assassinated. It is then that Tony Stark falls to events also tied back to the heroes’ war, and we see the world deal with Stark’s death, with snippets we get to check in on tied to the stages of grief. Without Stark to keep things moving as he’d tried, we see that certain more recent events are likely to have played out much differently.

While an interesting concept, I found this issue to be rather weak. I don’t know if that is the writing, or simply the amount of space to play with. We lose several pages to moving events forward without Cap’s death to get to Tony’s…and THEN cram in elements to tie to each of the grief stages, which makes things feel rather forced. Additionally, it seems that one ought to be up to date on subsequent Marvel events to fully appreciate certain moments here to fully appreciate the depth of this story’s events.

The art’s not bad, though not wonderful; it does the job and fits the story.

In addition to the main story, we’re treated to a brief story segment detailing the answer to the question “What if the Runaways became the Young Avengers?” (Written by C.B. Cebulski, Penciled by Patrick Spaziante, Inks by Victor Olazaba, Colors by John Rauch, Letters by Jeff Powell, Production by Joe Sabino, Assistant Editor Michael Horwitz, Associate Editor Chris Allo and Editor Justin Gabrie)

This is a four-page story segment; I don’t have the context nor the interest in it, and would have preferred the few extra pages to have been available to the main story. The art here is not bad, but the story seems a complete waste without having the earlier chapter and not having (nor intending to get) the later chapters. If this story is really worth telling, it should have gotten its own issue and not simply be broken across however many of the What If? issues we have this year.

For me, this issue was a real disappointment, only really redeemed by the fact that against general trend, it is a mere $2.99 cover price, so at least I didn’t waste my money on the new “in” price of $3.99.

Story: 5/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 5.5/10

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