Thursday, March 8, 2012

Age of Apocalypse #1

Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Roberto De La Torre
Company: Marvel Comics

To those that never expected to see the Age of Apocalypse again...Well come on, this is comics. We all expected it. Rick Remender rocketed us back to that world of dark depression, a place where Xavier died and Magneto took up the charge of unifying Humans and Mutants. Not that it went well or anything, what with the nuclear explosions and most everyone killing each other. Still, Remender's continuation hit pretty hard on the throttle of fun, mainly because he continued to allow the world to evolve. That and he made Wolverine the new Apocalypse. It's the little things like that, people, that get the old heart pumping with adrenaline fueled anticipation. That said, writer David Lapham's career isn't filled with success after success.

So, mildly stated, I wasn't sure where this one was going to wind up. Was it going to be a book that spiraled into the ether of darkness and boring or would it rise like the Phoenix Force to be an ambassador of amazement? Given those two vastly different choices, I'd have to say that Age of Apocalypse falls somewhere in the middle, finding a sweet spot that is unXpected (come on, it had to be done). Lapham harnesses the inherent darkness that acts as this book's base but layers it with an interesting story about a human force hitting back at their mutant overlords. It's the traditional good versus evil from the playbook of superhero, but there are nuances here that deviate enough from what you expect.

The makeup of the team is the biggest. For the most part, I've always found the majority of the characters to be irritating. William Stryker, Graydon Creed, Bolivar Trask, Donald Pierce...All of them have that instantly recognizable tie to the X-Men, but it was a stretch to call them anything more than bland. In the course of the issue however, Lapham spends enough time on each of them that you get a good handle on their state of mind and why they are operating the way that they are. I particularly enjoyed his take on Donald Pierce, a member of the all encompassing and evil Hellfire Club. His attitude and persona has an instant appeal that along with Stryker, make for some great characters with a ton of potential.

Providing artistic ammunition for this endeavor is Roberto De La Torre, who's been a regular fixture with Marvel on books like Daredevil, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel. The style that he utilizes has a great scratchiness and heaviness in ink to it that punches up the action and harsh landscape that our "heroes" are traversing. The light and shadow quotient that he uses for specific characters to set the mood of a certain scene is done with precision and done in a way that allows for an easy flow for readers to understand. Going back a bit to the punching up of the action though, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a battle between Stryker and a certain character with horns attached to their head. This battle, which takes over a few pages, is smart in every facet. The writing and the ideas behind it are neat and the portrayal of the fight through De La Torre's art make it that much more exciting.

Despite a few corny sounding code-names, what lies beneath the cover of this book is much more than I could have every hoped for. I had never thought that a continued and much extended look at the Age of Apocalypse world would be as entertaining as this was. I was wrong and for that I am glad. Let's hope that Lapham and Co. can keep the fires burning, the ideas churning, and the action sizzling.

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