Hardcover, 2012. Collects 1995-96's UNCANNY X-MEN #320 - 321, X-MEN #40 - 41, CABLE #20, X-MEN ALPHA, AMAZING X-MEN #1 - 4, ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 - 4, FACTOR X #1 - 4, GAMBIT & THE X-TERNALS #1 - 4, GENERATION NEXT #1 - 4, WEAPON X #1 - 4, X-CALIBRE #1 - 4, X-MAN #1 - 4, X-MEN OMEGA, AGE OF APOCALYPSE: THE CHOSEN and X-MEN ASHCAN #2.
This is one of the few classic X-events collected as an Omnibus rather than a simple oversize hardcover. I'm not sure why Marvel bothers with one distinction over the other, but it seems worth noting. Other than the branding and trade dress, however, this volume is essentially done in the exact same style as any of the prior books I've covered here in recent months.
"But wait!" you say, your spider-sense tingling. "Didn't you skip the AGE OF APOCALYPSE PRELUDE trade paperback listed on your X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS page? The book that contains UNCANNY X-MEN 319 and X-MEN 38 and 39, bridging the gap between PHALANX COVENANT and this very Omnibus?" The answer is yes, I did. That book, which also includes X-FACTOR 108 and 109, UNCANNY 320 and 321, X-MEN 40 and 41, and CABLE 20, was released in 2011 but I've never bothered to pick it up for a couple reasons: One, some of the reprint contents are identical to this Omnibus, covering the "Legion Quest" crossover which kicks things off. But I've never been afraid of double-dipping -- within reason -- in the past, so the other reason is that the PRELUDE volume is notorious for having been printed on extremely cheap newsprint-style paper. So between those two issues, I just haven't been able to bring myself to purchase it without a really steep discount (like, say 75% off at minimum). Thus, for now, that small hole in my ongoing X-chronology remains regrettably unfilled.
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, our Omnibus opens up with the afore-mentioned "Legion Quest" storyline, running through UNCANNY X-MEN 320, X-MEN 40, UNCANNY 321, X-MEN 41, and CABLE 20. In this short crossover, Storm, Psylocke, Iceman, and Bishop travel back in time in an attempt to stop Professor X's son, Legion, from killing Magneto. They succeed, but Legion accidentally slays his own father instead, altering the timeline in numerous ways.
We then enter the "Age of Apocalypse" with the X-MEN ALPHA one-shot, a story by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Roger Cruz, and Steve Epting which sets up the "AoA" world; a place where the tyrannical Apocalypse rules Earth with an iron fist, resisted by the X-Men under the command of Magneto.
I've gotta say, though it's not really here nor there, that I've never quite been sure why Mark Waid is involved in this book; he scripts both the "AoA" bookends over Lobdell's plots but is involved nowhere else in the event, and his assignment as regular X-MEN scripter is still about a year away at this point. This seems an odd job for him.
From there it's on with the monthly series, organized in something resembling a decent reading order: GENERATION NEXT #1 by Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 by Lobdell and Joe Madureira, GAMBIT AND THE XTERNALS #1 by Fabian Nicieza and Tony Daniel, WEAPON X #1 by Larry Hama and Adam Kubert, FACTOR X #1 by John Francis Moore and Steve Epting, X-MAN #1 by Jeph Loeb and Steve Skroce, X-CALIBRE #1 by Warren Ellis and Ken Lashley, and AMAZING X-MEN #1 by Nicieza and Andy Kubert.
This same order then repeats again for the round of issue number 2s, save for X-CALIBRE moving up in the order ahead of FACTOR-X and X-MAN. Then we have X-CALIBRE 3, FACTOR X 3, ASTONISHING X-MEN 3, AMAZING X-MEN 3, X-MAN 3, WEAPON X 3, GENERATION NEXT 3, and GAMBIT AND THE X-TERNALS 3. Finally, the saga concludes with the fourth installment of each title: ASTONISHING X-MEN 4, GENERATION NEXT 4, X-MAN 4, X-CALIBRE 4, FACTOR X 4, WEAPON X 4, AMAZING X-MEN 4. After this, last up is X-MEN: OMEGA by Lobdell, Waid, and Cruz.
AGE OF APOCALYPSE: THE CHOSEN, a text-and-pin-up sourcebook, and the AGE OF APOCALYPSE ASHCAN preview book round things out as we enter the bonus section. Beyond those two issues, there are nineteen pages of special features, beginning with house ads, posters, and an introduction to a prior collection with nothing identifying who wrote it.
(And for the umpteenth time, if you have an introduction handy -- even if it's an old one -- why would you not put it at the beginning of the book??? They did this with X-CUTIONER'S SONG, using Fabian Nicieza's intro from the 1994 trade, but no X-collection, either published before or after that one, has followed suit with this painfully obvious concept. Every last book with a perfectly usable intro shuffles it to the end like some bonus artifact rather than a proper foreword. Introductions don't have expiration dates, Marvel. They're viable pretty much forever.)
There are also monthly "X-Facts" pages from the duration of the event (these were the X-books' specific versions of "Bullpen Bulletins" during the period where Marvel had broken apart into multiple "fiefdoms", each ruled by its own editor-in-chief). Lastly we have covers of prior trades, and the new cover for this edition by Billy Tan, free of logos and trade dress.
The AGE OF APOCALYPSE OMNIBUS is a nice, thick book, as are many of these X-centric hardcovers. Its binding is sewn, though in the four years since I bought it, some of the threads have come loose on my copy. Some of the reproduction is sloppy, which is unfortunate and seems to have happened more than once with these mid-nineties collections. Is it just that hard to restore early computer coloring? It should be noted, however, that my copy of the Omnibus is the first printing and the book received a second print earlier this year -- hopefully the shoddy reproduction has been fixed in the later edition.
I'm also not sure about the reading order presented here. Mind you, I'm certain it makes sense; Marvel is usually pretty good about these things, but there are a few cliffhangers left unresolved for many pages due to what appears to be an attempt to keep things as close to publication order as possible. Some of the issues are shuffled around in each "round", but none are printed completely out of order (i.e., we have all the number 1s in a row, all the number 2s in a row, etc.). Personally, I would've preferred the best possible reading order, even if it meant, say, three consecutive issues of one title lumped together or something.
But then I could be wrong there; it's been a very long time since I last read this crossover -- even longer than since the last time I re-read all my other nineties X-titles. This may come as a shock, given how much time I've spent in the past few months raving about the various X-Men events, but -- I'm not a big fan of "Age of Apocalypse".
Yes, the one nineties X-crossover which is generally liked and respected is the one in which I have the least interest. Am I an auto-contrarian? Well, maybe sometimes. But not in this case. For whatever reason, the crossover has never resonated with me, not even when it was first published. It's always felt like a waste of time; a diversion "stealing" four issues from all the regular ongoing X-titles. But then, I've never been a fan of parallel universes or alternate futures in general. Outside of Spock's goatee and Uhura's midriff, for example, STAR TREK's "Mirror Universe" has never impressed me. DEEP SPACE NINE's annual excursions there were often my least favorite episodes each season.
Looking at more familiar source material, I've never been wowed by "Days of Future Past", either. I like the present day stuff well enough -- the X-Men vs. Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants -- but the parts in the future do nothing for me, and every time the X-titles revisit that world, my interest level drops like a stone.
So when we're talking about a massive thirty-ish-part parallel universe event, my excitement isn't exactly piqued. I do recognize "Age of Apocalypse" as a fine idea and a very well-coordinated crossover (good work, Bob Harras!), and I like that Bishop, one of my favorite X-Men, is utilized in a creative way as the lynchpin for restoring the timeline to normal, but my overall opinion of the event is: "Meh."
Nonetheless, I'm glad Marvel gave it the Omnibus treatment. "AoA" is a seminal saga in X-history and, as noted above, it's pretty much the only X-crossover from the nineties regarded with any level of critical approval. Someday I'll give it another read, and perhaps it'll finally click into place for me. But for now, it remains the classic X-event for which I have the least amount of rose-tinted affection.
Available on Amazon: Original Printing (reviewed above; out of print) | 2016 printing