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Comic Book / Age of Apocalypse

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What happens when The Chosen One dies? THIS!

In 1995, this crossover from Marvel Comics among the X-Titles began when Legion, son of Professor Xavier, traveled back in time to kill Magneto, but ended up killing his own father instead. This story, itself a minor crossover called Legion Quest, led to the main Age of Apocalypse crossover.

For four months the X-titles were replaced by miniseries that took place in the Alternate Universe that had come about for want of an Xavier. This Bad Future Villain World was a dystopian Crapsack ruled by the titular Apocalypse, where heroes were villains, villains were heroes, and Anyone Can Die. The non-mutant comics weren't part of the crossover, though the two-issue miniseries X-Universe did show what happened to the non-mutant Marvel heroes in the new history. Scott Lobdell directed the overall story arc and Chris Bachalo provided some of the art. The series were renamed as follows:

  • Uncanny X-Men - Astonishing X-Men
  • X-Men - Amazing X-Men
  • X-Men Unlimited - X-Men Chronicles
  • Wolverine - Weapon X
  • X-Force - Gambit & The X-Ternals
  • X-Factor - Factor X
  • Excalibur - X-Calibre
  • Generation X - Generation Next
  • Cable - X-Man

The Constant was Bishop. Hailing from an alternate future, he was already a chronal anomaly and thus unaffected by the change. He was the only one who remembered the world 'as it should be' and convinced the heroes to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, even though it would mean that their own timeline would cease to exist. It turned out that the world was doomed anyway, as both hemispheres would have been leveled by nuclear attacks. Some characters managed to escape the closing of the temporal singularity and entered normal Continuity. One who failed to make it back was the remarkably popular Blink, the second of her lamented deaths. Death may be cheap, but she did not return until five years later in a four-issue self-titled miniseries which segued into Exiles, a series about a team of characters who are all Unstuck in Time.

On the tenth anniversary a sequel miniseries was produced, which isn't very popular among fans; among other things, it shows little evidence of the devastation evident in the original series. There was also a "What If" story pitting the survivors of the original series against Galactus. An arc in Uncanny X-Force paved the way for a 2012 series for the survivors.

A shining example of the Darker and Edgier comics of The '90s: a literal post-Apocalyptic warzone.

Tropes featured in the series

  • Adaptational Jerkass: Oh man! It would take a lot less time to list who hasn’t been hit by this (Magneto, Mystique and Exodus being notable inversions). Most normally heroic characters are jerks or straight up villains and most villains are much much worse than they are on Earth 616.
    • A few examples: Nightcrawler and Colossus are both rude and merciless assholes and Beast is a sadistic right hand man for Mister Sinister while Blob is a cannibal.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: As it turns out, the crystalizing wave that transformed the timeline into the AoA timeline was still going. The M'Kraan Crystal just hates temporal anomalies.
  • Age of Titles: The title of the crossover.
  • Alternate Universe: Arguably the most famous in comics, at least where Marvel is concerned.
  • And Then What?: This is discussed by the Big Bad himself. After accomplishing his plan to Take Over the World (or at least conquer much of it and turning the rest into a Crapsack World), Apocalypse realizes that governing his brutal new dog-eat-dog empire is actually pretty tiresome.
  • And This Is for...:
    Apocalypse: So be it, whelp. Any last words?
    X-Man: Four, in fact. THIS ONE'S FOR FORGE! *kick to the face*
  • Anyone Can Die: It's an Alternate Universe, and a particularly Grimdark one at that, so this trope is in full effect. Longtime but not actually iconic characters in main continuity are Red Shirts here.
  • Apocalypse Not: The ten-year revival series makes the world look much less nasty in comparison to the original run. The later Uncanny X-Force arc, on the other hand, restores the nastiness and adds more.
  • Badass Boast: Fittingly enough, Magneto gets probably the best one of the series when he rips Apocalypse in half in their final fight.
    For twenty years you've gone on and on about how only the strong survive. Tell me again, Apocalypse...just how strong you are.
  • Badass Normal: Gwen Stacy stands out the most, compared to her counterpart in the normal continuity, but many other other non-mutant Marvel heroes (who managed to escape Apocalypse's human cullings...Peter Parker and half of the Fantastic Four did not) qualify as well.
    • William Stryker is revealed as one in the Uncanny X-Force arc, singlehandedly taking down a Sentinel without breaking a sweat.
  • Bed Trick: During Legion Quest, the story that'd lead to this, an amnesiac Legion used his powers to pose as his own father and then sexually assault his own mother, Gabrielle Haller.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Did anyone not see Magneto getting at least a little upset about people being hoarded into concentration camps by a supposedly "Superior Race"?
    • If Holocaust had thought about where his name came from for just a minute, it would be obvious why he's on Magneto's hit list. Though this is likely intentional, since he only took the name Holocaust after Magneto destroyed his flesh-and-blood body, forcing him to rely on a containment suit.
    • Holocaust himself is distinctly not happy about the way Nate utterly dismisses him.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Forget about Magneto. In a setting where the mutant Nazis have already conquered or wiped out half the world and the remaining humans are willing to nuke them in self-defense, Sabretooth and the Sentinels are good guys.
    • A Lighter Shade of Grey: That said, some of the "former" villains are vastly more sympathetic in this setting - Magneto is utterly haunted by Charles' death and thus tries his absolute damnedest to live up to the dream in a world that is far more actively hostile to the concept, and AoA Sabertooth was famously more jovial, likeable and friendly than his 616 counterpart had been up to that point. Both of these turns were so liked (in addition to the Mags-Rogue relationship) that elements of the AoA characters were adapted into the primary versions of the characters after AoA came to a close.
  • Blessed with Suck: Averted, in normal continuity, Chamber's power causes most of his chest and face to melt off, but in this reality, he simply had a hole drilled in his chest to let the energy escape.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Mikhail.
  • Breakout Character: Blink, easily the most popular character to come out of the event, who started as an Ensemble Dark Horse. This eventually resulted in her leading a team in Exiles due to fan demand to bring her back, and, again, she is easily the most popular character in that series.
  • Burn Scars, Burning Powers: In this universe, Pyro was experimented on by Beast and gained the ability to generate fire by himself. However, he wasn't immune to the flames he produced, resulting in extensive burn scarring.
  • Canon Foreigner: Among others, Charles Lehnsherr, Dead-Eye, and Switchback. The only thing the AoA Arclight, Bastion, and Wolverine share with their classic Marvel Universe namesakes are the names. The classic Arclight is a woman (AoA Arclight's a man), the normal MU Bastion appeared as a mutant-hater after AoA, and the AoA version of the classic Wolverine goes by the name Weapon X. Sugar Man had no known counterpart in the classic Marvel Universe, but as noted below he, plus Dark Beast, X-Man, and Holocaust (whose respective counterparts are Beast, Cable, and Genocide), did literally immigrate from the AoA reality to the classic universe in the finale.
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • A version of Abyss—one of Apocalypse's horsemen—later appeared in the normal Marvel Universe, but due to Apocalypse not ruling the world, he was a hero and Damask's 616 counterpart is Excalibur villain Emma Steed. Oh, and thanks to events in Uncanny X-Force, there's now a 616 version of Holocaust, calling himself Genocide.
    • Holocaust, Sugar Man, Dark Beast, X-Man, AoA Sabretooth and AoA Blink are literal examples of this; the former four found their way into the classic MU during the finale (X-Man interacted with his counterpart, Cable, a few times and Dark Beast once impersonated his counterpart, the classic Beast in the lead-up to Onslaught) and the latter two, via Exiles. Given Holocaust died, he's unlikely to meet his newly-revealed 616 counterpart, Genocide, unless he's resurrected.
    • Also, AoA Blob, who joined Daken's Brotherhood of Mutants and AoA Nightcrawler, who has joined X-Force.
  • Catchphrase: Apocalypse's constant referrals to the "chosen" and the "forgotten".
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: As one would expect from a dystopian alternate timeline, numerous Marvel characters were killed off as part of the backstory, and many more die over the course of the main story. And then, in the finale, the human resistance sends a massive airship fleet to Apocalypse's domain to Nuke 'em All. Even though Apocalypse has already been killed. Later, a What If? story shows the handful of survivors, human and mutant, trying to rebuild...and then Galactus shows up.
  • Co-Dragons: The Horsemen of Apocalypse (Sinister, Holocaust, Abyss and Prelate Rasputin). Former Horsemen (Candra, Gideon, War, Death, Maximus/Death II, Bastion, Sabretooth) also served in this role before either dying or (in Sabretooth's case) defecting to the X-Men.
    • The Elite Mutant Force serve as Co-Dragons for Sinister (Cyclops, Havok, Cannonball, Amazon, Northstar, Aurora, the Bedlam Brothers, Marrow, the M Twins)
  • Cloning Blues:
    • The Infinites are genetically engineered Mooks.
    • The Madri also count. They are also a Religion of Evil that worships Apocalypse, created by extensive genetic modification on Jamie Madrox which increased his ability to duplicate himself into at least the hundreds, and possibly the thousands. The strain of mental contact with so many different versions of himself has also left him a near-catatonic shell.
    • Maximus killed his entire family and cloned twisted versions of them to serve him as his Elite Mooks.
  • Les Collaborateurs:
    • The Marauders, human terrorists serving Apocalypse: Dirigible (Wilson Fisk), Red (Norman Osborn), Arcade and Owl.
    • The Reavers, cyborgs enhanced with Apocalypse's technoorganic virus.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Nate Grey demonstrates his credentials in the final battle with Apocalypse by swatting the powerful Holocaust like a bug. While Holocaust later gets up for a Round 2 with Nate, as in their later encounters, Holocaust is hideously outclassed.
  • Death World: Several continents have been wiped out by nuclear weapons, most of the rest of the planet is an irradiated wasteland, genocidal death squads hunt down and wage war on the surviving human race and "race-traitors", dissenters and opponents of the tyrannical regime can expect to be thrown into concentration camps to try and survive sadistic experiments, and North America is divided between the Evil Overlord and his most trusted and dangerous lieutenants, who rule their territories as personal kingdoms. The world is intentionally crapsack as Apocalypse believes everyone has to earn the right to live and will come out stronger for it by surviving and prospering on this nightmare planet.
  • De-power: Happened to Magneto before the series proper began. He was able to damage Apocalypse's Celestial spaceship to the point that it could never fly again, but in doing so he nearly burned out his abilities, and in the present was said to only be about half as powerful as he was previously.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Fans were convinced that Rogue and Magneto hooked up in a previous storyline (despite Word of God), perhaps the reason why they were a genuine couple in this series.
  • The Disembodied: The villain Holocaust, once flesh-and-blood, was turned into a roiling mass of psionic energy inside a crystalline suit of armor.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Quicksilver learned that his father had been kidnapped by his worst enemy, his half brother had vanished, and a virtual stranger had also been captured. He had to decide to rescue the stranger. When his girlfriend Storm tried to sympathize, he refused to talk with her because if he thought of what he was doing, he would not be able to do it.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Sinister, Holocaust and Prelate Rasputin have their own plans.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • The Mutant Elite Force, who serve Sinister
    • The Brotherhood of Chaos, associated with Abyss
    • The Pale Riders
    • Domino's Bounty Hunters
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Seems to be in the process of happening as the series ends. Apocalypse's sea wall weapons platform is laying waste to what remains of Europe, while the European military has launched all their surviving nuclear warheads at America.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: This is the entire reason Sinister betrays Apocalypse; his devotion to 'survival of the fittest' means that he wouldn't even mind if humanity wiped out mutantkind (because then they would have proven themselves stronger), but Sinister is obsessed with perfecting mutants through selective breeding and needs a stable genepool to draw from, which this conflict would eliminate.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: This is the nature of the report Colossus gives about Generation Next to Blink and the rest of the X-Men—his entire class of students (for those keeping score, that's Chamber, Vicente, Mondo, Husk, and Skin) was sacrificed to save Ilyana and repair the timeline.
  • Evil Overlord:
    • Apocalypse himself is one of these in this story. Holocaust and Mikhail have similar plans of their own.
    • Logan (Weapon X) in the Dark Angel Saga.
  • Face–Heel Turn and Heel–Face Turn:
    • Numerous characters are on different sides in this reality, including Sabretooth, Exodus, Domino, Mystique, Sinister, Cyclops, Havok, and Dark Beast, who even crossed over to the main Marvel Universe and became a recurring X-Villain.
    • In-universe examples include Cyclops and Strong Guy among others.
    • Wolverine as of the Dark Angel Saga in Uncanny having become the heir to Apocalypse, with a Brainwashed and Crazy Storm, and Bobby Drake.
    • Jean later briefly became the heir of Apocalypse as well.
  • Future Badass: Almost everyone in the series is a future badass version of themselves; the one glaring exception is Illyana Rasputin, who never went to hell in this continuity and is therefore a little girl rather than a teenaged demon-sorceress.
  • Go Through Me: During a massive battle, Colossus sees that his little sister is in trouble and rushes to save her, with gusto. Iceman steps up and says something along the lines of "No can do pal, if you want to get out of here you'll have to go through m-"... and the next panel shows Colossus smashing Iceman into a million pieces. Though that wouldn't actually kill him now after some power Retcons.
  • Guard Stations Terminally Unattended: Nightcrawler (of all characters!) onboard the boat in X-Calibre #3.
  • Implied Rape: As noted under Bed Trick, in the prologue arc Legion Quest, Legion, amnesiac at the time, tried to use his own psychic powers to pull pose as Xavier and seduce Gabrielle Haller (his own mother) and by the time Charles and Erik got to her, her clothes are ripped up and she's crying.
  • Irony: Magneto has always been concerned about a human genocide against mutants. Instead, there ends up being a mutant genocide against humans.
    • The Holocaust almost killed Magneto. Magneto almost-kills Holocaust.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Soaron is the volatile asshole in Forge’s group, often belittling Nate, but even after being injured, he still grabs a huge gun and blasts the hell out of attackers trying to harm Nate, and when the latter departs, Soaron sends him off with abrasive fondness.
  • Marked Bullet: Mystique, also the source of the title 'X-Calibre'.
  • Mad Scientist: Sinister. And his apprentice turned Number Two, Beast, who not only performs gruesome experiments to create more powerful mutants, but just for fun. Even Sinister finds the latter habit utterly deplorable.
  • Master Swordsman: It was to be expected that Nightcrawler is one. Less so for Toad and Caliban, of all people, who have a full duel ending with Toad killing his opponent.
  • May–December Romance: Magneto with Rogue; remember that, in this timeline, his backstory was intact until the moment Legion accidentally killed Charles, so he was still a WWII survivor.
  • Messianic Archetype: Nate a.k.a. X-Man. As per usual, he's gunning for devil figure Apocalypse.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Bishop is able to fix the timeline by getting Legion to stab the two of them, Legion bemoans that all he wanted to do is to make Xavier's dream come true, not realizing the damage he would do.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Quite a few, including Sinister, Abyss, and Holocaust. And of course the titular Apocalypse.
    • In a wonderful case of Irony Holocaust was almost killed by Magneto.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Cyclops-Wolverine fight in which Wolverine lost a hand, and Cyclops lost an eye, was much-discussed, but not shown in the original comics. This incident's noodliness is actually invoked when Logan uses the claws in his handless arm to kill in his series, with The Reveal that his claws were not extended when his hand was lost.
    • Whatever Magneto did to Nemesis after the latter killed the Scarlet Witch. The event apparently damaged Nemesis so much, he had to exist within a containment suit from then on, renaming himself Holocaust.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Holocaust. While Apocalypse wants the fittest to survive, Holocaust wants to kill everyone in the world.
  • Physical God: Apocalypse and his destined arch nemesis, Nate Grey.
  • Psychic Nosebleed:
    • X-Man gets this when he overstresses himself using his power; it's one symptom of his eventual Super-Power Meltdown (see below).
    • Jean Grey gets one too, when she overloads the Brain Trust with psychic energy.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Bedlam Brothers
  • The Quisling:
    • Keeper Murdock, who serves as The Consigliere and The Dragon to Mikhail Rasputin.
    • The Marauders on this universe are nothing but this, including the Owl, Arcade, Dirigible (this universe's version of the Kingpin), and Red (this universe's version of the Green Goblin).
    • Dr. Bruce Banner, who serves as The Mole to Mikhail, who provided him mutant test subjects, allowing Banner to become "The Thing", the Hulk's Age of Apocalypse counterpart.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Some members of the Pale Riders (Dead Man Wade) and the bounty hunters (Caliban) are quirky, but the squads are rather efficient.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • As noted under "Bed Trick", it's implied during Legion Quest that an amnesiac David used his powers to pose as Charles and then sexually assault his own mother.
    • As revealed in the Blink mini-series which is a prequel to the main storyline Sugar Man is actually a pedophile who sexually abuses the young female prisoners in the slave camps he supervises, including both Illyana Rasputin and Clarice Ferguson. The consolation is that at least Sugar Man apparently doesn't kill the girls he rapes, as both Illyana and Clarice still survived to later get rescued by the X-Men when they got PTSD, even though Sugar Man was implied (later confirmed on Earth-616) to also be a cannibal who eats his enemies alive.
  • Regional Redecoration: The Earth has certainly seen better days. Most of the planet is now a toxic Death World, Central and South America have been shattered into islands floating in a radioactive sea, a large chunk of France is underwater, etc.
  • Religion of Evil: The Madri, and the Brotherhood of Chaos. The regime itself promotes the idea of Apocalypse as a God-Emperor and Physical God.
  • La Résistance: The X-Men and the Human Resistance
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Colossus expects the younger mutants to kill one another during training to ensure survival of the fittest.
  • Ret-Canon: The classic Sunfire later sported his AoA counterpart's look, ironically as a horseman of Apocalypse while Shadowcat briefly employed a claw device similar to the one used by her AoA self.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Bishop, as usual.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the man comics, there's no evidence Bolivar Trask and Moira MacTaggert knew each other in person. Here, they're married.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Toad speaks like this, having somehow ended up an actor with a love of Shakespeare in this universe.
  • Shout-Out: Damask's real name, Emma Steed, is a reference to the protagonist duo of the British Spy Drama TV series The Avengers (1960s) (unrelated to Marvel's superteam), Emma Peel and John Steed.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Holocaust may be a monster, but he’s quite good with the zingers.
    Rogue: From where I’m standing, you’ve already lost!
    Holocaust punts her across the room.
    Holocaust: Then stand over there.
  • The Spartan Way: Colossus' method of training young mutants.
  • The Starscream:
    • Sinister (without the "Mister") betrays Apocalypse and seeks to destroy him because Sinister believes no lifeform will survive his plans.
    • Holocaust is also implied to have more extreme plans.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Gateway, a mute Australian Aborigine in the mainstream universe, is quite chatty and a hell of a lot hipper, thanks to his role as an information broker. A case of Shown Their Work, since mainstream Gateway is mute by choice, and has spoken before (albeit, approximately three words in total).
  • Suicidal Pacifism: Taken to a bizarre extreme with the Juggernaut. He has sworn never to use violence again, but when the Pale Riders attack Avalon, Nightcrawler yells at him that people he has the power to save are dying. The conflict in Cain is so wrenching, he has an aneurysm and drops dead on the spot.
  • Super-Power Meltdown: X-Man was engineered by Sinister to eventually (and literally) burn out from the strength of his psionic power. During his adventures bopping around the multiverse, he finally managed to get this fixed.
  • The Time Traveller's Dilemma: Fixing things to how they should be means the end of the line for everyone in this dimension, which gives Magneto pause when he considers the son he has with Rogue.
  • Truce Zone: Heaven, the nightclub run by Warren Worthington III. He himself attempts to play the True Neutral role, providing entertainment to the elite of Apocalypse's regime, but also information to "terrorists" like the X-Men or Gambit's X-Ternals.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Even though the usual "This is a 'What If' so let's kill everyone we can' rules apply, one character actually enjoyed a normal comic book resurrection, albeit as an after the fact Retcon brought about by editorial bungling. Cyclops was intended to die in the end, but as many fans pointed out, the depiction of his death makes no sense; Havok's power shouldn't be able to even hurt him, much less kill him. So in the epilogue miniseries, he was established to be alive again (though he never appears).
    • The Uncanny X-Force series that revisited the setting brought this about for the Blob, who is a cannibalistic enforcer for Weapon Omega there after having been last seen being operated on by Dark Beast, trying to attack him and being blasted to hell by the Summers brothers.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Legion has no idea what he has unleashed, and once Bishop manages to go back in time again and show him, Legion is horrified at what happened.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Not counting the ten-year revival (many fans don't), Psylocke is the most notable no-show, though Wild Mass Guessing suggests that she was lobotomized as part of Apocalypse's Brain Trust (a collection of disembodied telepathic brains that serve as Big Blue's primary psychic defense), thus explaining her brother Brian's almost manic dedication to bringing him down.
      • The Psylocke in the ten-year revival is most likely Kwannon, the Japanese female ninja telepathic assassin who body-switched with Betsy Braddock in the main universe, who remained in possession of her original body in this reality.
    • The lack of magic or magic users like Doctor Strange, Shaman, or Amanda Sefton has also been noted. Strange and Shaman possibly died during the culling when they were still normal humans, but Amanda is European and her whereabouts are completely unknown.
  • What If?: Three of them:
    • The first one showed asked what would happen if they had to deal with Galactus, which took place after the events of the saga.
    • The second asked what would happen if Legion was successful in killing Magneto and not accidentally killing Xavier.
    • The third asked what would happen if Legion managed to kill Magento and Xavier. The end result is even worse, as most mutants side with Apocalypse.
  • World of Badass/Took a Level in Badass: The AoA-verse is truly an awful place, dominated by the Darwinist decree of 'Survival of the Fittest.' And yet, this same philosophy creates a 'verse where nearly everyone is even more badass then they were in the original timeline, in one way or another. Thought that Sabretooth was already a tough mo-fo? Wait until you see his first fight with Holocaust. You don't think Iceman is living up to his full potential power-wise? Let AoA Iceman show 616 Iceman how it's done. And Wolverine manages to kick just as much ass, if not more, with just the one set of claws. The list goes on and on, which makes sense, considering just what it takes to survive in this hellhole.
    • The Uncanny X-Force arc reveals William Stryker as a Cool Old Guy, who through Awesomeness by Analysis and incredibly sharp weapons, singlehandedly takes down a freaking Sentinel.
  • Wolverine Claws: In addition to Logan, Shadowcat wears a gauntlet with three retractable claws.