By Ben Morse & Marc Strom
This summer in the pages of UNCANNY X-FORCE, when an angel falls, the apocalypse beckons.
Since his transformation by Apocalypse from the high-flying Angel to ominous Archangel, Warren Worthington III has skirted the line between darkness and light. Of late, this charter member of the X-Men has put his best face forward with that group, but his off-the-book activities with X-Force have pushed his identity crisis into overdrive, moving towards an explosion in the upcoming Dark Angel Saga.
“It’s sort of an examination of the idea of X-Force itself, of a band of people who take it upon themselves to preemptively assassinate threats,” says writer Rick Remender of Warren’s plight. “When [one] member of X-Force goes off and does it on their own, that leads to some conflict with Archangel and Angel, and we start to see a meltdown.”
While Remender could not get into the particulars of Warren’s fate as a result of this turmoil, he could reveal that the fallout would force Wolverine and company into an uneasy alliance and a deadly journey to territory familiar to fans, but uncharted for the X-Men.
“[X-Force] has to trust Dark Beast and he has to trust them,” he reveals, unveiling the Darwinian doppelganger of our world’s Hank McCoy to be perhaps Archangel’s only hope for redemption. “The reason they end up in the Age of Apocalypse has quite a bit to do with seeking Dark Beast out. It was very organic. ‘Where would Dark Beast need to go? Oh, Age of Apocalypse.’”
In 1995, Legion accidentally murdered Professor Xavier in the past, before the X-Men ever existed, kicking off an epic alternate reality odyssey into a world where mutants inherited the Earth and one stood tall above all others in an Age of Apocalypse. A few brief glimpses back and a full-fledged sequel in 2005 aside, this will mark the most extended return to the home of Dark Beast and many others since its initial run as well as the inaugural journey there by characters from the core Marvel Universe.
“The last time we saw the Age of Apocalypse, the world was on an upswing,” reminds Remender, alluding to the limited series by Akira Yoshida and Chris Bachalo six years ago. “Mister Sinister had tried to rise up and fill [Apocalypse’s] shoes and failed. The last we saw the world it was a sunny day and the X-Men were putting their lives back together. It’s not so sunny anymore.
“When we arrive in the Age of Apocalypse, a new villain has ascended and this will tie in to what’s happening on our Earth during this time, [a sort of] reflection of what could happen if our heroes fail. This new master of Earth and the Age of Apocalypse is connected to Apocalypse but he’s kept himself a secret. Nobody knows where he is or how to strike at him. Humanity has been enslaved and mutants flourish.”
While X-Force may be in unfamiliar surroundings, they will recognize many of the faces they encounter, with at least one “reunion” stirring up drastically different reactions for two team members.
“Wolverine’s going to stumble into the [Age of Apocalypse] version of his [deceased] arch-nemesis Sabretooth, but this guy is a hero,” explains Remender. “Coincidentally, Psylocke used to be romantically entangled with this Sabretooth [when they were both in EXILES], so you’ve got interesting things happening there.
“We’ve [also] got Wolverine’s deceased best friend, Nightcrawler, who’s alive in the Age of Apocalypse, and the woman of his dreams, Jean Grey, who is still alive and imbued with the Phoenix Force. Beyond that, the staples: Magneto, Rogue, Gambit, Silver Samurai, Sunfire—got some pretty fun stuff coming up with Sunfire.”
X-Force won’t be the only ones encountering a different landscape than they’re used to, as Remender promises an Age of Apocalypse like it has never been seen before, noting that “one of the big, fun things about Age of Apocalypse was the re-imagining of familiar characters and how things could have gone.
“The joy of this was that it’s 10 years later and things have changed quite a bit,” he continues. “There [are] only maybe 12 X-Men left alive, the rest have been killed. You’ve got a small, desperate band of X-Men in a world ruled by a mysterious, nefarious superpower who has fairly well gotten the under control the mutant population, so being able to drop your characters in a world so vastly different than our own, so ripe with possibility and big exciting action, that’s sort of what grabs me about it.”
Current plans call for the Dark Angel Saga and subsequent sojourn to the Age of Apocalypse to run at least eight issues from UNCANNY X-FORCE #11 through issue #18. Esad Ribic will illustrate a special prelude in issue #10 before passing the artistic baton to Mark Brooks for three issues who then hands off back to regular series artist Jerome Opena.
Working with such an incredible array of talents excites the fan in Remender, as does the opportunity to play on such beloved ground as the Age of Apocalypse and to indeed make lasting changes he believes will thrill more than a few devotees.
“This is going to have a real, real dramatic effect moving forward on the Marvel Universe,” he vows. “It’s an X-Men fan’s dream, I think, on some level. Without giving it away, it’s something that I personally, as an X-Men fan, am very, very happy to be able to do, and I think that there will be a lot of fans who respond positively to the end result. There are five big moments coming up that I’m very eager to hear people’s reaction to.”For more news, live reports, photos, videos and more from the 2011 Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, stay tuned to Marvel.com all weekend! And to really keep up, get the Marvel Live Event App!