REVIEW: Age of Apocalypse #7

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Age of Apocalypse #7 takes the action to Latveria, introducing this reality’s version of Victor Von Doom. Major Spoilers reviews the latest action from Marvel’s most visited alternate reality.

AGE OF APOCALYPSE #7
Writer: David Lapham
Aritst: Renato Arlem
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Corey Petit
Cover Artists: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

Previously, in Age of Apocalypse: The mid-90s Age of Apocalypse event introduced one of the X-Books most enduring alternate realities, taking the idea of a post-apocalypse literally by depicting a world where Apocalypse was successful in taking over the United States. Rick Remender recently authored a reintroduction to the setting in Uncanny X-Force which establishes Wolverine (now Weapon Omega) as the heir to Apocalypse’s legacy. David Lapham then picked up the ball and focused on the opposition, in the form of the X-Terminated, a band of human freedom fighters which includes alternate reality versions of some of the X-Men’s greatest foes (such as William Stryker, Graydon Greed and Donald Pierce). As humanity dies out under Weapon Omega’s genocidal rule, the X-Terminated team up with two depowered mutants: his ex-wife (Jean Grey) and one-time rival (Sabertooth). That… that is a lot of continuity to know, to just understand the concept of this book.

IF THAT SOUNDED CONFUSING, JUST WAIT

This issue turns the series focus on Europe, with the X-Terminators traveling to Latveria to enlist the aid of Doctor Doom and find some of Reed Richard’s old notebooks concerning the Celestials. Seven issues in, I still don’t grasp certain truths about this world. When introduced to this version of Age of Apocalypse, it seemed like the X-Terminated were the world’s last humans, on the run from the destruction of the world’s last human city. But in these pages, we find out that while England is under Weapon Omega’s sway, Europe still has free humans. Except somehow Latveria is a country-wide extermination camp for crappy mutants run by Weapon Omega lackeys. Except that these camps are really full of humans (which our protagonists can tell just by looking with binoculars). And there is a bar next to the death camp, because why not? None of this feels mysterious, if that’s what it’s meant to be. It just feels like the plot and setting hasn’t been fully thought out.

There’s also a continuation of a strange subplot wherein Jean Grey tries to lure an alcoholic Graydon Creed into a reconciliation with his father, Sabertooth. She does this by promising… a date, ’cause that’s what people have time for at the end of the world. What she sees in an alcoholic, near-psychopathic killer is anyone’s guess, but to be fair, this world’s Jean Grey was married to Wolverine so what do I know? At any rate, the relationship between the jaded but still chipper Grey and the stumblingly drunk Creed reads false, and is the book’s only attempt at levity or any sort of human connection. There’s precious little sympathetic for a reader to latch onto with these characters (the theoretical viewpoint character unnecessarily shoehorned in from mainstream Marvel continuity barely appears), but even if Lapham’s aim is to craft a story of unsympathetic but engaging protagonists, it fails. All the protagonists are sadly one-note.

BLACK ON BLACK

Renato Arlem’s style is very dark, suitable for the post-apocalyptic setting. The gloom can be quite oppressive at times; the sun never seems to shine in this series, but Arlem makes the most out of it, with a gritty, shadowy-heavy style. Arlen has a sketchy, rough style that usually appeals to me. Unfortunately, Arlem’s work combined with Loughbridge’s coloring can be a little too dark, obscuring the action sequences. He also has issues with facial expressions, with the characters often look stiff and grimacing, their features unchanging from panel to panel. The art really suffers from a lack of contrast – it’s almost so oppressive that the eye becomes numb, losing any intended effect.

I WANTED TO LOVE THIS SERIES

The original Age of Apocalypse was a ballsy move by Marvel. It was a formative event in my younger comic reading days and is still one of my favorite settings ever. But with each return to the well, the AOA world has gotten muddier, more ill-defined, unfocused. This most recent foray suffers for it. David Lapham is no stranger to dark topics, writing boundary-pushing titles like Crossed and DeadpoolMAX. But Age of Apocalypse lacks the spirit of those other works. No doubt Lapham has had to rein in his more excessive urges on this more mainstream book, but that has seemingly robbed the story and characters of any spark. These are miserable people in a miserable world, which is something Lapham has wrung drama from before. But this setting feels half-baked, I still have no connection with the characters seven issues in, and I am dangerously close to dropping it from my pull list. I have been reading this series from the start, but it does not seem to be going anywhere. This issue did little to alter that feeling. Age of Apocalypse #7 gets one and a half out of five stars.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆