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In which it is probably not actually possible to be too nasty for Earth-295; Sinister is on nobody’s side but his own; Vulcan is still the worst Summers in the multiverse; the Bedlam Brothers are too delightful for the EMF; Heaven is just straight-up Rick’s Bar now; Polaris of Earth-295 is the saddest Polaris; Scott Summers and Jean Grey make a good team in most universes; and the metaphors of 1995 read very differently in 2020.
- Nathaniel Essex of Earth-1610
- A regrettable tattoo
- Scott Summers (Cyclops) of Earth-295
- Alex Summers (Havok) of Earth-295
- Factor X #1-4
- Working for the Man
- Costume design as narrative
- The EMF (Elite Mutant Force)
- Northstar and Aurora of Earth-295
- Sam and Elizabeth Guthrie (Cannonball and Amazon) of Earth-295
- Jesse and Terrence Aaronson (Bedlam Brothers) of Earth-295
- Heaven (the bar)
- Scarlett McKenzie of Earth-295
- Someone who is not Magneto
- The Brain Trust
- Lorna Dane (Polaris) of Earth-295
- An obscene monument
- Innuendo of several sorts
- That time Jean Grey got captured
- Resistance of various sorts
- Poetic almost-kinda justice
- One more fallen angel
- Villains of the Age of Apocalypse
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Back in time the start of AoA was where I was forced, by going to university, to stop collecting the books and so read them during lockdown in order to prepare myself for your podcast. As such I have strong feelings about Factor X. I hate Dark Beast, not so much in the concept but the execution. For pretty much the entire AoA it’s continually ‘let’s cut over and see what Dark Beast is doing, oh he’s vivisecting someone else, fantastic’. He doesn’t seem to achieve anything, and it’s much the same in what I’ve seen of his post AoA appearences though, to be fair, I may just not have seen the good stories. Why does he not give Scott a new eye after Logan cuts it out? Why do none of Sinister’s soldiers ever mention he’s upgraded their powers? You could remove him from this universe and no-one would notice.
Poor, dumb Havok. His character is so badly treated in AoA. Not only is he spiteful and evil, he’s also dumb. Again, a nice idea in concept but possibly the downside of only having the four issues and the two bookends to have the subplot he just comes across as too stupid to live. Again, why did Sinister keep him around? I could see him working better as another traitor, undermining his brother and quietly seething, so that his rebellion comes as a surprise to Scott, rather than something he’s been telegraphing for about twenty years.
I was super excited in the promo stuff I saw before my supply got cut off back in the day that Cyclops was going to be evil and not hanging around with Jean. It was so disappointing to finally read this and have a noble-ish Cyclops who ends up with Jean. I really hate DC Elseworlds that will take the core idea of one of the characters and really twist it off elsewhere but then put in the regular characters, that no matter how different their Superman is, there will always be a Lois, a Jimmy and a Lex. For me Factor X makes the AoA an Elseworlds and a not very thrilling one either. We know Cyclops should be a monster but, because on page he’s always brooding and conflicted so that’s okay? Hell no!
On a slightly different note, something I’d like to see you discuss is whether you think Apocalypse is sincere with his survival of the fittest shtick. Back in the Claremont/Simonson days that very much was the case but post their era other writers seem to forget about it. The Apocalypse of the future of ‘The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix’ is a straight out tyrant, and he’s much the same here, though one of the titles does have him mention about how it would be okay if anyone was strong enough to overthrow him. In the current HoxPox era he’s scheming about some sort of power grab but it’s not entirely clear what his end goals are. A dystopia under his iron boot doesn’t really have much chance to evolve, even though technically he is overthrown in both. What do you think? Is it a fig leaf or just inconsistent writing?
Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix was also written by Scott Lobdell (one of the chief authors of AoA) and that series also seems to retcon a bunch of core assumptions about Apocalypse himself. (Most notably, it introduces the whole body-swapping idea, which flies in the face of his I’m-a-survivor ethos). So I think it was Lobdell either never got a handle on the core character of Apoc or just didn’t like it.
I agree that this whole dystopia doesn’t fit well with survival of the fittest — it should be hard to survive, but not impossible, and courting nuclear armageddon isn’t something that survival-focused people do. I much prefer the Apocalypse from the Executioner’s Song storyline, for example.
A better written Apocalypse in this universe would have been akin to Leto II from the Dune series: Mostly a monster, but one who is still somewhat paternal about the lives he’s crushing, and one willing to embrace his own demise as part of the Greater Plan.
With Lobdell, I think part of it – very visible in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, and also here – is a conviction that Charles Xavier is at the absolute center of the X-Men. (It may be more Harras than Lobdell – I’m not sure where the balance lies there.) Apocalypse is *his* antagonist, and has to be, because that’s what makes you a major X-villain in this era. So Apocalypse has to be the opposed to “Xavier’s dream.”
What Apocalypse has been turned into in Age of Apocalypse is an updated ‘90s version of Xavier’s original antagonist, Silver Age Magneto (who was not any kind of metaphor for a marginalized minority – he was a thinly disguised Nazi). He’s all about mutants as a superior kind who deserve to rule, and that’s what he implements.
This actually sort of works for me, for once (I don’t like it in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix), for a couple of reasons.
First, he’s played off against Magneto as the other central character of AoA, and there are some fun additional dimensions to be derived from seeing this Magneto confront a discarded previous version of himself as a character.
Secondly, AoA is a very ‘90s story in that it’s about Bosnia and Rwanda: it’s that whole ‘90s recurrent motif of “After Nazi Germany, we said, ‘Never again,’ and now look what’s happening.” So Silver Age Magneto is an interesting character to update in the guise of Apocalypse in the context of this particular story.
But it is very different from Simonson’s original concept of Apocalypse, who was designed for a comic in which Charles Xavier was not part of the picture, at a time when Xavier was not an important character even in UXM. Simonson’s Apocalypse is all about doing a new Kirbyesque character rooted in the Eternals, and injecting themes drawn from Kirby’s *70s* work into the X-books. Simonson’s Apocalypse is a much too large and mythic character to be the opposite number of anyone as tiny as Charles Xavier.
Now that I’ve listened to the podcast:-
The thing that I find striking about Dark Beast in AoA is that, as you say, he doesn’t achieve much. He’s so inconsequential in terms of the plot — I’m not even sure that he rises to the level of “secondary character.” His role is basically color. I think his only actual reason to be in the story at all might be that by being a one-note (and so, not that interesting) monster, he’s one of the ways in which the story is prompting the reader to be more sympathetic to Scott.
Functionally, that’s reasonable enough, and the only problem in that respect is that this Beast maybe gets more panel time than he needs – I think we get the point. But I think he needed a little more thoroughness in the approach to be worth keeping around after this story, and I don’t think he’s ever gotten it.
And it’s an area where I’m a little queasy about doing it so cartoonishly to begin with: this Beast is so obviously modeled on Josef Mengele, and that’s a topic that I am not entirely comfortable seeing handled as unseriously as this.
I’m a little surprised at Sinsiter being excited about a Scott/Jean pairing in AoA given that Jean hasn’t got the track record that she has in the 616.
616 Jean had been one of Charle’s first picks for the X-Men so he knew she HAD to be special early on, and she had also been host to the Phoenix Force itself, so his obsession there makes sense but, not to sell AoA Jean short, she hasn’t got that track record here, she’s another psionic, and a powerful one, but she’s not COSMIC level special.
I do think making Scott the “better” brother and Alex the worse is a little cliche when you’ve got a chance to go somewhere else with them.
Scott being the favourite son, who is groomed for leadership, with all the paternal attention he could ever want, just in a way that leads him into seeing horrible acts as the norm, whilst Alex as the rebellious “lesser” son, being the one to rebel (not even FOR humans, but just because it was AGAINST Sinister) might have made more sense dramatically (though probably just as cliche, now I write it down)
Scott’s “You’re cold, Alex” just makes me think that, given his upbringing, that’s not a surprise, the more interesting question is “Why aren’t YOU cold too, Scott?” and I’m not sure I felt I got a good enough answer to that beyond the autorial “We want Cyclops to be the hero here”
I do like Sinister collecting siblings for his team, that seems like the freaky sort fo thing he’d do, as an ecercise in playing them off against each other. (And agreed that “Evil Sam Guthrie” feels especially wrong)
Dark Beasts glam metal trousers always make me smile, I have no idea why.
I suppose that if Elizabeth was born after Charle’s death in this timeline, her not existing as such in the 616 makes sense, the circumstances which led to her birt
From memory, around the time of Inferno Scott had loads of Mr Sinister related trauma while Alex had none. Although the way Sinister brought up Scott in AoA would have been different it would have been more interesting to have him as the on-page irredemable scumbag and Alex as the turncoat who ends up saving Jean and the captives. AoA and the recent ‘Axis’ era did the dirty on my box Alex for no reason and no reward.
Since Alex was adopted very early on, I don’t think he spent any time under Sinister’s influence, so that makes sense.
Okay, but the REAL unforgivable problem with Ultimate Nathaniel Essex is that “Sinister” is a word meaning “related to the left hand.” So, pray tell, WHY IS IT WRITTEN ON HIS RIGHT ARM?!
They could have at least gone for some style points by writing “Dexter” on his right, “Sinister” on his left, and having some character who didn’t know his name but did see the left tattoo start referring to the guy by that word.
Or, you know, just take the worst option right off the bat. That’s a very Ultimate Universe thing to do.
Maybe Sinister is left-handed and gave himself the tattoo?
He didn’t spend six years in Sinister Medical School to rock a self-applied amateur tattoo.
Though that WOULD explain the font.
Great ep. Loved it! Thanks.
XFacter WAS the best of the AOA series’
Hi! I’m listener from Argentina and I’ve been listening to your podcast for the last few years but haven’t written before.
I’ve read AoA just recently and must admit that some of these mini series aren’t that great, to be gentle but at least Gen. Next or Factor X were worthy.
Also, would you say that AoA just proves that social Darwinism is bullshit and any society based around it will collapse by its own contradictions? Because I would
I think Scott’s redemption would have worked better for me if they omitted the final absolution from Jean and the only thing that approaches forgiveness Scott gets is his conversation with Val Cooper. In large part because Scott rejects it all he says is he hadn’t saved enough