This issue was actually published toward the end of the Age of Apocalypse event, and seems to be designed to help answer some of the questions people may have had while reading the various series. The main one apparently being “How did Magneto and Rogue end up together?”
The issue begins as Weapon X is telling Magneto that he can take this job and shove it. Jean was sent into Apocalypse’s territory on a secret mission of some kind, and Weapon X had to go in and rescue her. In the process, he lost his hand. Tired of dealing with Magneto’s methods, the two of them are leaving. This basically sets them up to have their own series together, and we’ll read about their continuing adventures in Weapon X. I really wish this issue had actually showed us the preceding conflict rather than this aftermath. But apparently it was more important to show us Magneto brooding instead.
Through various exposition we learn that Gambit and Rogue are a couple at this point, as are Storm and Quicksilver. The former of course has history in the main timeline, but the latter is brand new. In the main timeline Quicksilver is quick tempered, as you would probably expect given his powers, but Storm is calm and collected. However a very brief exchange between Quicksilver and Iceman tells us she’s much more cold and distant here. I suppose they balance each other out somehow?
We follow the X-men on a mission to help out some normal humans who are being mistreated by bandits. In this post-apocalyptic world, humans are fighting for their survival and thugs are apparently making food and resources even scarcer. The X-men are their only hope. However this particular conflict doesn’t go so well, as one of the bandits is equipped with a non-metal knife and manages to get Magneto in the back. He insists that the X-men continue the battle, but Gambit, his good friend, says no and orders the X-men to return to their headquarters in New Mexico so Magneto can heal.
While everyone else agrees that this was the right decision, Magneto is pretty pissed. He insists that the X-men need to keep fighting regardless of his condition, but they are all apparently too devoted to him to do that. It’s a good acknowledgement that Magneto is a charismatic leader regardless of what side of the fight he is on. Though it’s a shame that the X-men basically left those humans to die just to save him…
The bandits run into a mutant named Wolverine. He has no connection to Logan, nor does he have a correlating character in the main timeline. It’s just that apparently there needs to be a Wolverine in every version of the universe, I guess. He’s very strong and can heal fast, but most importantly for this issue he can imbue others with strength with a touch. Unfortunately that added strength will eventually burn out and kill them, but since he’s doing it to humans, he couldn’t care less. He rallies the bandits to his side and leads them to attack the X-men at their home base.
Apparently it’s quite a journey, because we have plenty of time for angst and romantic drama in between. Rogue talks to Magneto:
Gambit talks to Iceman about Rogue:
Rogue talks to Quicksilver about Magneto:
Gambit tells Rogue he’s ready for commitment:
Rogue flies off to see Magneto. In the midst of their talk, Magneto reveals he can put a bio-magnetic shield around himself that will allow him to touch her, and as he touches her face she bursts into tears.
This should be a really sweet moment, but with all the push and pull I just witnessed, I’m afraid I’m not really feeling it. It’s made even worse when Gambit jumps in and gets accusatory with Rogue and I don’t know who to side with. Was all that stuff earlier just Gambit thinking there was something between them and being wrong? Or was he talking about commitment because she’s expressed romantic feelings previously and is only now changing her mind? Despite there being a lot of talking going on in this issue, there’s still so much I don’t know, particularly when it comes to how Rogue feels.
Finally Wolverine and his bandits show up and attack the X-men. Gambit and Magneto are cornered, and Rogue chooses to rescue Magneto while letting a bunch of bricks fall on Gambit. Ouch. What a horrible way to find out how the girl feels. Though apparently the bricks weren’t that heavy because he’s just fine a couple pages later.
This issue then commits a horrible sin when it comes to storytelling – we are told that an epic battle commences with Wolverine and the X-men, but we don’t see it. It is actually obscured behind a cloud of dust. I can understand needing to abbreviate things for length, but couldn’t you at least show us a little bit of the fight?
When the battle is over, Gambit apologizes to Rogue for overreacting and tells her that he saw the look in her eyes when Magneto touched her, and that’s all he needs to know. Once again, basically setting up for Gambit’s exit so that Gambit and the Externals can be its own series.
Gambit and Rogue were a very popular couple at this point. Partially because of some really touching stories told in the comics, and because of the popularity of the X-men cartoon. So I suppose they felt the need to create an issue that would explain why this popular pairing wasn’t together. But it’s really unnecessary. Cyclops and Jean Grey aren’t together in this timeline, and it makes perfect sense given the circumstances. We already saw Scarlet Witch ask Rogue to take care of her father, thereby drawing them together. They could have easily just made it so that the two of them were already together before Gambit even showed up. But instead we got this mess of an issue, with Rogue barely getting to say a word in her own defense and introducing a character with a confusing name that will never appear again in the entire series.
There’s also some art in the back of the issue that signifies some of the more important events of the Age of Apocalypse. One of them being that the man we saw as Nemesis in the previous issue is now Holocaust. I’m not sure how well that ever gets explained in future issues, so I figured it’s worth including here.
Here’s hoping that this is not a hint of things to come for this recap!