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Age of Apocalypse

by yo go re

Alternate realities have long been a staple of comicbook stories, but they were mainly limited to one-offs and short visits. In 1995, however, Marvel threw caution to the wind and dunked all their X-Men books into a parallel timeline for five whole months, with the big Age of Apocalypse crossover.

Legion, a powerful psionic mutant on Earth and son of Professor Charles Xavier, travels back in time with the intention of killing Magneto. He believes Magneto's death will allow Xavier to achieve his dream of human/mutant equality. However, Legion traveled to a time when Magneto and Xavier were still friends, Xavier dies trying to protect Magneto, Legion vanishes, and a new timeline is created.

Last year at SDCC, Art Asylum released two exclusive four-packs allowing you to build Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers. Apparently the idea proved successful, because now they're doing it again with the AoA figures. At this year's New York Comic Con, Action Figure Xpress and Previews each offered an exclusive four-pack. Just as with the Dark Avengers, we'll be reviewing them all in one shot.

Because of Xavier's sacrifice Magneto comes to believe in his late friend's dream of a peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. Apocalypse chooses this moment as the perfect time to begin his world conquest. Magneto assembles this timeline's version of the X-Men just as Apocalypse begins his war.

As you may be able to gather, Xavier didn't just die "trying" to protect Magneto, he succeeded. Since X was killed by a mutant, Mags saw that mutants weren't as superior as he'd been begining to think, and instead dedicated himself to fostering understanding, like his friend would have wanted. So you see, in order for evil to be redeemed, all that's required is for someone very good to die brutally in front of them.

Magneto's costume is mostly unchanged from the normal timeline. It's still red and purple, but there's a lot more heavy armor on it, reflecting the more martial world in which he lives. There are thick boots, heavy gloves, and even little pieces of armor on his shoulders. The biggest change is his admittedly quite ridiculous hairdo, with three separate ponytails.

Remove the hair and you can finish armoring him up. The set includes a separate helmet for him, a new mold - not the one we've been seeing for years. He also has a separate, all-black head (with white eyes and teeth, to suggest heavy shadow) and a small piece that slips onto the neck to maintain the hair that falls over his shoulders beneath that big helmet.

The Astonishing X-Men are led by Magneto's wife, Rogue. They were sent by Magneto to stop the cullings, which are being undertaken by Nemesis, Apocalypse's son and one of his Horsemen. Nemesis manages to escape, however, and the team returns to Xavier's mansion where Rogue learns that both her son and her husband have been captured.

Remember, that's actually Holocaust, not Nemesis. He stopped being Nemesis before Rogue and Magneto hooked up (he can use his magnetic powers to prevent her from absorbing his energy, somehow). Her costume is still yellow and green, but the design is much more modern/anime-influenced than the usual. She has a band around her right thigh, cuffs for her gloves, and new upper arms with big poofy sleeves.

Rogue has the same billowing cape that Magneto did, just in new colors. If you want to remove it, the set includes a secondary collar without the cape to complete her look. Her hair is a new piece, but it looks a lot more "1980s night time soap opera" on the toy than it did in the comics. That plus the angry face makes her look like she should be slapping Joan Collins.

Factor X consists of the Elite Mutant Force (EMF), who serve Apocalypse. They are split into four sibling pairs, one of which is Cyclops and Havok. The EMF is tasked with maintaining control of Apocalypse's breeding pens, where people are imprisoned and experimented on. Havok later discovers that Cyclops is a traitor who has been helping people escape the pens.

The EMF (actually called the Mutant Elite Force in the comics) is overseen by Mr. Sinister, so no surprise Cyclops is the favored son. But despite being raised by Sinister his whole life, he's still a decent guy deep inside. That's why he may wear the military uniform, but has made his own adjustments to set it apart. His gloves have heavy gold details, and the golden sleeve that covers his left arm joins the sash/belt combo that goes across his chest.

Cyke gets a new hair piece, because there was no way to reuse anyone else's. He wears his hair long, another small rebellion against his military station. His visor and microphone are a molded piece of the hair, as well, but if you remove it, you can enjoy his stubble and the three scars that his hair covers: in the AoA world, a fight with Wolverine made the codename "Cyclops" much more appropriate.

Sunspot was a member of Gambit's team of X-Ternals, a group of mutants that stole from the rich to give to those in most need of help. Unfortunately, Magneto saw a much greater purpose for Sunspot and the rest of the team. He asked them to retrieve a shard of the M'Krann Crystal located in the Shi'ar Galaxy.

Wow, that is a huge mistake! I mean, seriously: big time. Yes, the bio accurately reports what Sunspot was up to in the AoA timeline. Ah, but this toy is Sunfire, so not a single word of it is right. Sunfire is Shiro Yashida, Japanese mutant. In fact, the only Japanese mutant. Only Japanese anything: Apocalypse and Holocaust culled the island, and Sunfire is the only survivor. Harsh!

Sunfire is molded from translucent yellow plastic, a color we haven't seen before on a Minimate. While Professor X was all about teaching students to control their power, Magneto was constantly pushing his students' limits, so Sunfire was eventually consumed by his flames. His costume details are painted on, and he has translucent orange flame effects.

So those are the four figures in Box Set #1. On to Set #2!

Weapon X was a loner and, initially, an unwilling recruit to the X-Men. He reconsidered after meeting the team's telepath, Jean Grey. The two had an instant connection and eventually became lovers. Logan trained Mageneto's newer recruits including Kitty Pryde.

As bleak as it was, the Age of Apocalypse world actually worked out pretty damn well for Logan. Not only did he finally end up with the girl he'd wanted since the day he met her (and he got to maim Cyclops in the process, something he'd wanted to do for years), but since he was a rebel fighter in a world of evil, he was pretty much free to let loose and kill whoever he wanted.

This is Wolverine #33, but he has the most ridiculous hair any of them have ever seen. It's true to Adam Kubert's wild art in the series, in that it's friggin' huge! It's not only wide, it's twice as deep as a Minimate torso. It's big enough that the figure wants to fall over due to the weight of the thing. Comical!

Weapon X comes with quite a few accessories. He has the usual clawed hands, as all Wolverines do, plus two hands with no claws. That's in case you want to show him in his earlier days. By the time of the stories in the comic, he'd lost his left hand. You can duplicate that by pulling the figure's hand out of its arm socket. Not enough for you? Fine, he also has a silver "bracelet" that acts as the cap he wore over his stump; and the set also includes a second stump-cap, this one with his claws extended. That's good attention to detail!

Jean Grey was the first mutant, other than Magneto's own children, recruited to be an X-Man. Jean's parents knew something was wrong with their daughter and, with no place else to turn, contacted Magneto. Magneto, who had recently announced his intentions to train mutants in the use of their powers, arrived and took Jean into his care.

Just as in the normal continuity, Jean had funny feelings in her special area whenever Wolverine was around. But in the Age of Apocalypse world, there was no Cyclops to get between them. When she was captured on a mission and had to be left behind, Logan disobeyed Magneto's orders to go rescue her. He succeeded, and the pair didn't bother going back to the team, instead striking out on their own.

Since Jean has been hanging out with Logan, she's much tougher than her normal counterpart. Whoever sculpted her new hair piece seems to have misinterpreted the short bob seen in the art, because she's got some kind of weird Flock of Seagulls thing going on. She has the same poofy sleeves as Rogue, and a collar that runs over both shoulders. The red on her legs is slightly misaligned, but it's not terrible.

Apocalypse, a strict believer in the survival of the fittest, launched an offensive against humankind. With Xavier dead, and Apocalypse beginning his offensive ten years earlier than he did in the Marvel Universe, there was no one to stand in his way.

Apocalypse had actually been hibernating, but the fight between Magneto, Legion and the small team of X-Men who'd followed him to the past unleashed a ton of mutant energy, so he got started on his master plan. He also apparently decided that he need to dress in a more theatrical manner, because instead of being dark blue and mechanical, he's powder blue with red and purple accents and a large purple cape spilling down from his huge, NFL-style shoulder pads.

His head is mostly the same, with those big blue fish-lips, and a widow's peak that comes down onto his forehead. He has technological gloves and large boots (which are just pieces that fit over the legs, not actually attached to the feet), and in order to provide a bit more height in the torso without having to make a new mold, they've cleverly turned the standard belt upside down.

Henry McCoy was one of Apocalypse's leading scientists. He worked on expanding genetic mutation with his mentor, Nathan Essex, AKA Sinister. McCoy was responsible for creating the process needed to build the gene spliced infinite army used to take over the world during the Age of Apocalypse.

In the normal universe, Beast becoming blue and furry was an accident. In the AoA universe, it was intentional - he was just bored and carrying out experiments on himself. He took a more concentrated version of his mutagenic serum, which is why he's still grey amd much more animalistic. Technically he should have some spikes on his back, but who's counting?

Dark Beast has a slight underbite, and blank white eyes. His shaggy hair is a new piece, but it's designed to fit perfectly around the included chest cap - it's not the old "powerhouse" sort, but the more organic one first seen on Hercules. He has clawed hands, but smooth feet, and he shows his allegiance to Sinister by wearing the same kind of metal pants. Metal pants!

All Minimates share the same body with different paint decos, and they all move at the same 14 points: neck, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. That's a lot of movement for a 2" figure!

It usually takes ages to get a respectable subgroup built in any toyline. Marvel Legends has been going since 2002, and we've only got four AoA figures, but in one shot the Minimates have doubled that number. It would be nice if we got a TRU two-pack to go along with them - maybe Blink and Morph, or Sabretooth and Holocaust - but these two box sets alone have given us a nice variety of new figures.

-- 11/13/10

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