Ignore for a moment how time travel will never be on the same level as chocolate. Apocalypse Wars is a huge opportunity for one particular character, Kid Apocalypse, to finally show that he's not destined to be the genocidal asshole who tries to wipe out all life on Earth every other week. But that would mean he would never be played by Oscar Isaac so maybe he'll be conflicted. Kid Apocalypse has a chance to start kicking destiny in the balls in All-New X-men #9. I just have another excuse to review comics and get drunk. So I still win motherfucker.
What's one way of kicking destiny in the balls? How about a kick-ass party? That's how college frat guys do it, minus the hazing and lighting of farts. Why not try it with mutants destined to destroy the world?
As it just so happens, Kid Apocalypse is celebrating a birthday. Granted, the circumstances of his birth are fucked, but it's still an excuse to have a party and he's a teenager so the circumstances mean precisely dick. And despite being in a world where clouds of Inhuman farts are maiming and sterilizing mutants, there are still enough to meet up in the ruins of Utopia and have a kick-ass party. We even manage to see a few faces that were basically MIA even before Secret Wars, like Transonic, Shark Girl, and Broo. They even have Kid Gladiator being a DJ. That's as awesome and fucked up as it sounds.
So in terms of having a birthday party, this is as awesome as it can get without involving strippers. Even a kid destined to be a world-destroying menace can't help but have a good time.
Even O5 Cyclops, who is still on the mend after getting his ass kicked by Toad (not a joke by the way), shows up to celebrate. There are smiles all around. Everybody is supporting Kid Apocalypse. There's only one tiny reference to O5 Angel bitching and moaning about his relationship with X-23. So overall, the shit that made them whiny and annoying for much of this series is totally absent. It's more than refreshing. It's way fucking overdue.
And yet, Kid Apocalypse still can't help but brood. However, I give him somewhat of a pass. Sure, he'll later be associated with Oscar Isaac, but he's still kind of bothered by the idea that he grows up to be this genocidal maniac. There's some great inner monologue here, which Dennis Hopeless hasn't done enough of in this series. It offers great insight into what Kid Apocalypse is contemplating on his birthday as he gets one year closer to being that madman who will one day get his own X-men movie. I normally don't say this about characters destined to be assholes, but it's hard not to like him.
On the flip side, it's easy to hate O5 Beast. I still feel the urge to kick him in the dick every time I see him in a comic. At least this time, he's trying to do something productive. After a painfully bland filler story with him and Dr. Strange, he's decided to address one of those annoying plots that hasn't even been mentioned since Battle of the Atom. That's right. He's actually trying to figure out why the O5 X-men can't go back to their own time.
It's an important and meaningful shift for O5 Beast, who has spent too much time bitching and moaning on a level preparing him to be his douchier older self. Someone has to figure out this shit that kept the O5 X-men in the present. It might as well be a douche-bag like Hank McCoy, armed with the arrogance of youth and some lessons from Dr. Strange. Considering his older self stole time travel technology from Dr. Doom, I'd say he's in a slightly better place. Sure, he's failing so far, but he still has an adorable pet bamf. So I'll give him that.
After borrowing the pet bamf and leaving O5 Beast to start picking at this annoyingly lingering plot hole, Kid Apocalypse takes a quick trip to a simpler setting. He goes to a generic, small-time town in Kansas. It's basically the kind of town Ted Cruz loved to campaign in, exploiting the politics of those who are poorly educated and dumbed down by religious indoctrination. Sure, he gets some shit there from some redneck types who hate mutants. But these assholes probably do the same Mexicans, Asians, and anyone else Mel Gibson ever ranted about. So it's all relative.
To his credit, Kid Apocalypse doesn't use this as an excuse to go into his first genocidal rage. I'm sure he's saving that for his 21st birthday. But more internal monologue offers more insight. Hopeless really shines here, fleshing him out while referencing the events of Uncanny X-Force. I'm still reluctant to like Kid Apocalypse, but damn it if Hopeless isn't making that difficult.
What makes him so likable is that he knows that he's destined to be a genocidal psychopath with an annoying resemblance to Ivan Ooze. He also knows that the memories he has of most of his life are all implanted lies, courtesy of Fantomex. He knows all of this, but he still makes a genuine effort to not be a total asshole. He could easily use this as an excuse to be a total dick, but he doesn't. He still makes an effort to be better. Not a lot of characters do that and some go out of their way to just be assholes.
Looking at you, Hope fucking Summers!
Kid Apocalypse arrives back on Utopia just as the party is winding down. He has a nice moment with Idie. She says they're all about to watch a birthday movie, probably American Pie or the Hangover. He's 16, remember? But he opts to check in with O5 Beast again so he can return his pet bamf. That's when he demonstrates why teenagers shouldn't be in close proximity to obscenely destructive shit.
Remember that magic mask that Dr. Strange gave O5 Beast? Well if you do, you have my sympathy because it means you had to read that shitty filler story in the previous issue. You didn't, don't bother and don't worry. All you need to know is Kid Apocalypse tries it on, it magically gets O5 Beast's time travel shit to work, and they're transported back into the past. Why? It's magic. It doesn't need to make sense. Ask Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.
So where in the timeline do they end up? There are any number of shitty time periods they could've gone. Any that don't have indoor plumbing and bowls made out of lead are bad enough. But since O5 Beast has a fuckton of bad karma working against him, they land in Ancient Egypt. And not just the whip-cracking, Charlton Heston version of Egypt either. They arrive in the era of the Sandstormers, the brutally violent nomadic tribe that helped turn the first mutant into Apocalypse. They're basically a less polite version of a Mexican drug cartel. So yeah, this is what Apocalypse grew up around. Who wouldn't become a genocidal madman in that environment?
O5 Beast and Kid Apocalypse arrive just in time to see the Sandstormers executing some random guy who probably just looked at them cross-eyed. That or this is basically they're only form of entertainment since internet porn and video games are still a few thousand years off. The Sandstormers greet their arrival with the same warmth as I would greet anyone who tries to steal my beer and piss on my lawn. They might even see this as a bonus. They were just going to execute a guy and get drunk. Now they have two more people to execute. It's like the ancient equivalent of finding an extra slice of pizza.
We get some intense, well-designed action scenes, courtesy of Mark Bagley. These aren't killer robots. These aren't drunk Toads either. These are the fucking Sandstormers. It's chaotic, but intense. It's very much reflective of the world Apocalypse came from. In that chaos, Kid Apocalypse manages to slip away with one of the younger Sandstormers who seems to have a problem with just executing people for shits and giggles. I guess that's just an obligatory statement that not everyone from the past was a blood-thirsty savage. I'm sure the politically correct crowd demanded this kind disclaimer.
But the important outcome in this fight is that O5 Beast and Kid Apocalypse get separated in the chaos. They each do their part to get away. Kid Apocalypse used to hang out with Fantomex and Deadpool so naturally, he has the edge. O5 Beast, however, only has experience beating up Toad, Blob, and Unus the Untouchable. Not saying he's a pushover, but against the Sandstormers he might as well be kitten fighting a shark.
O5 Beast manages to get his ass captured. Kid Apocalypse and his new best friend manage to get to a nearby settlement. Here, Kid Apocalypse demonstrates that having horrible influences like Fantomex and Deadpool does have its perks. He's able to kick a little ass and escape the Sandstormers. Sure, he doesn't get to shoot or maim anyone, which I'm sure would disappoint Fantomex. But he's able to defend himself. That's something most teenagers not armed with baseball bats can't do. That puts Kid Apocalypse well above most kids in his age bracket. It also makes him more respectable than 95 percent of 16-year-old boys I know. Again, I'm trying not to get too attached to Kid Apocalypse, but Dennis Hopeless keeps making that difficult.
This is where the timeline might just gain a new torn asshole. Remember that new friend Kid Apocalypse made from the Sandstormers? Well, it turns out it's him. More accurately, it's a distant past version of him. Sure, he's still kind of creepy as fuck and nowhere near as handsome as Oscar Issac is on an average day, but his presence is a big fucking deal. He's now face-to-face with his past self. He has a chance to definitely change his future as a genocidal madman. I'm sure he's tempted, but I hope he takes into account how badly the O5 X-men have failed. He should know better than most the dangers of tearing the timeline a new asshole, but then again he's 16. His ability to be that responsible and think that far ahead is limited.
So...is it awesome?
Not going to lie. I've approached Apocalypse Wars the same way I approach my taxes. It's sort of unavoidable, this major event that Marvel is forcing itself to do so they can mask just how badly they're fucking every mutant-related character not named Deadpool. But if I'm going to still not lie, this is a damn good issue. And yeah, I say that with a straight face. This series, which is more hit-or-miss than the NFL draft at times, actually manages to have heart, sincerity, and character drama for all the right reasons. I don't get that kind of pleasant surprise while doing my taxes.
Sure, time travel bullshit is still confusing as fuck and X-men overdo it compulsively masturbating monkey/meth head. It's still somewhat refreshing to see this series finally address some of the unanswered questions from X-men: Battle of the Atom while giving Kid Apocalypse a bit more depth. It might be too late for Oscar Isaac make use of it, but explores elements of Apocalypse that the X-men haven't explored before. And they actually do it well so I can say with a semi-sober tone that this actually works. It's a time travel and Apocalypse story that works.
Take note, Bryan Singer! If the reviews for X-men: Apocalypse are any indication, you're going to need it.
Final Score: 9 out of 10