Apocalypse Wars is a classic style X-Men crossover, in that each title tells its own story but they thematically tie into each other. All-New X-Men explores what Apocalypse means to Evan, a teenaged boy cloned from one of the X-Men’s most powerful villains. What better way to explore that than to send Evan back to ancient Egypt, when Apocalypse himself was just a kid.
Written by Dennis Hopeless, this comic kicks off with Evan’s 16th birthday party. The first half of the comic is the better half. The first few pages give us a lot of cameos from various teenaged X-Men characters, some of which we haven’t seen in a while. All the other members of the All-New X-Men team have at least a few lines of dialogue, and for the most part, they all feel in character. Even Laura, who’s characterization has been dreadful in this series, sounds like herself even if she speaks a total of 14 words. Evan later sneaks out of the party to wander around Kansas with Pickles, where he reminisces on how most of his early life took place in a virtual reality world that he can never return to, and how the village he visits is much less hospitable toward blue-skinned mutants than his fake home. His internal monologue explores his emotional struggles very well.
The second half of the comic isn’t as good, but it’s intense in the right ways. Somehow both Beast and Evan are warped to Ancient Egypt, where they’re chased by a bunch of sand warriors. They stumble upon young Apocalypse just as he’s being forced to murder someone. It’s an intense scene and gives us a great cliffhanger ending. At the same time, with this being such a major storyline, one can’t help but think that at least a few other members of the All-New X-Men should be there. That doesn’t mean they won’t be, but there’s no indication that they will be just yet. That’s really my only complaint with this issue, because otherwise the writing is great.
Mark Bagley’s art is great. The opening pages at Evan’s birthday party give us a number of cameos, and each character is easily recognizable. There’s the girl with deer horns (no idea what she’s called), Transonic, Rockslide, Shark Girl, Broo – a lot of characters show up. The environmental detail is impressive, whether it’s Beast’s lab with the variety of experimental time travel devices scattered around and his tool box, or the Kansas village complete with labelled small businesses or the bigot civilians. Of course if they knew who he was, they would look a lot more terrified and less angry. Facial expressions perfectly capture characters’ emotions, especially Evan while he’s trying to figure everything out. The action scene in Ancient Egypt is appropriately intense and it flows well. The colouring by Nolan Woodard is also great. Everything in the party is bright and colourful, contrasted by the dark, reddened scenes in Egypt to emphasize the brutality.
As good as this comic is, how much you’ll enjoy it depends on how much you like Evan as a character. After two issues that pretty much exclusively focused on one team member, it’s a bit frustrating that only Evan and Beast travelled to the past, as far as we know. Despite those complaints, this is a worthy entry into the Apocalypse Wars story arc and so far, it feels a lot more personal than Extraordinary X-Men’s AW issues. If this issue sounds interesting, be sure to pick it up.