X-MEN: AGE OF APOCALYPSE PRELUDE (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Cable No. 20, Uncanny X-Men Nos. 319-321, X-Factor Nos. 108, 109, X-Men Nos. 38-41, and X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Ashcan Edition
Writers: Fabien Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Todd Dezago, Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, and Jeph Loeb
Artists: Andy Kubert, Jan Duursema, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger Cruz, Ron Garney, Ian Churchill, Al Milgrom, Dan Green, Josef Rubinstein, and others
The gist (with S P O I L E R S): Professor X (Charles Xavier)'s son, David Haller (known as Legion), wakes from his coma with all three of his personalities mended and his reality warping mutant power fully realized. Legion decides to kill Magneto out of some warped sense of love for his father's dream of humans and mutant living together in harmony. To accomplish this, he travels into the past to kill Magneto back when Magneto and Professor X first formed their friendship, before Magneto became a mutant terrorist. Four X-Men, including the time-displaced Bishop, follow him as he makes the jump to try and stop him. Legion and the four X-Men (Storm, Iceman, Bishop, and Psylocke) all suffer from temporary amnesia as a result of the time travel. They slowly begin to piece together who they are and what is going on when Cable, Professor X, and Phoenix (Jean Grey) somehow telepathically contact Bishop in the past and tell them to stop Legion. Legion attacks Magneto, and during the battle Professor X gets killed, creating a divergent timeline where the X-Men were never formed. Apocalypse, sensing this mutant battle, awakes and sets his plans into motion a full decade earlier than he did in “our” timeline. (End S P O I L E R S)
This is an expanded version of the old X-Men: Legionquest trade paperback which was released in the '90s with the original series of gold foil-covered Age of Apocalypse trades. All of those were re-released and expanded in four chunky books several years ago. There is also an Omnibus hardcover that collects the core of the crossover and a proposed companion Omnibus that will collect the rest. I dumped my old out of print Legionquest trade on eBay prior to the official solicitation for this book (cha-ching!) in anticipation of this upgrade. (See the OCD zone for more on that.)
I normally despise '90s X-Men, but this is a really good read. While the artwork ranges from laughably bad to palatable, I try to chalk it up to it being the '90s. Garish costumes, long hair past the ass swimming in the air like it was underwater, and everyone having pouches on their belts were the order of the day. The writing is generally good with occasionally clunky dialogue or narrative. This holds up pretty well for the most part here in 2013. Many of today's superstar creators got some of their early breaks in this era. This is before they became great.
Gambit, Bishop, and Cable have got to be the worst X-Men ever. Bishop's jerry curl mullet and huge M tattoo over his eye, Gambit's ugly costume and cringe inducing dialect, and Cable's Paul Stanley eye star...who thought that these were good character designs and ideas? It set comic books back and lost an entire generation of kids to Manga and video games.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I like these chunky trades. The paper ruined this book for me, though. Stranger still, these comics were originally printed on slick paper and are printed here on “lo-fi” paper. It's like recording a DVD onto a VHS tape and watching it on a hi-def television.
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5. There's not much in the way of “restoration” here either, but there also aren't any noticeable dropouts, so it gets a 5. This material would look a lot better if it were printed on the same paper as the rest of The Complete Age of Apocalypse trade paperbacks.
Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. There isn't much in the way of “restoration” on these '90s comics, but the paper makes the early computer color separations look murky.
Paper rating: 3 out of 5. Oh come on. The printer substituted the paper with an uncoated stock paper not much thicker than the toilet paper DC uses on their book of vintage material. This was a one-time substitution that Marvel had nothing to do with. My conspiracy theory is that Marvel did this on purpose to force us OCD sufferers to double dip on the Omnibus. I imagine the Collected Editions department sitting around, conspiring ways to get us to buy this material ad infinitum.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. This has a nice thick band of glue and should hold up well over the long haul.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. I heart Marvel's thick wax coating on their cardstock covers.