Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.

In 1994, Marvel did nothing short of the unthinkable. They killed Professor Charles Xavier, the founder of the X-men. They didn’t stop there. They destroyed the X-men as we knew them, throwing the Marvel Universe head first into a universe where one of the X-men’s greatest adversaries was in control. Everything that we thought we had known was wrong, and now, over 15 years later, the effects are still being felt throughout the Marvel Universe. Welcome poweteers, to the Age of Apocalypse.

It all began when Xavier’s illegitimate son Legion, awakes from a coma he has been in for several months after being possessed by the Shadow King. He’s a schizophrenic, and even worse, each of his multiple personalities has it’s own power. However, his mind is whole for once, but that isn’t a good thing, as the first idea he comes up with is to travel back in time to kill Xavier’s frenemy Magneto before he can become a threat to Xavier’s dream of mutant/human coexistence. Of course, you know what they say about the road paved with good intentions, more specifically its end destination. The X-men are warned about the impending end of all that exists, and a group of X-men go back in time to try to stop Legion. Unfortunately, they arrive too late to stop Legion from attempting to make the kill shot. However, things don’t go as planned, and Xavier jumps in front of Legion’s psionic blast that was meant for Magneto, and is killed by it. Uh oh…..

Legion disappears, as he killed his own father before being conceived, and the X-men who were sent to stop him disappear as well, as it was Legion who had been anchoring them in the past. Making matters worse the intense release of mutant energies awakens Apocalypse from his slumber years before he is scheduled to do so. Moving right along with his long term goals, he conquers North America and basically proceeds to remake reality in his own image.

Perhaps we should take some time to briefly discuss who Apocalypse is, his background, and just how he is able to accomplish something like this. Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, the infant who wold come to be known as Apocalypse was found abandoned by a passing tribe of Sandstormers. Their leader, Baal, having been foretold or a great destiny connected to the infant, adopted him and gave him the name En Saba Nur. Ball couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate nickname for his young charge, as En Sabah Nur in the sandstormer’s tongue is roughly translated to The Firs One, and En Sabah Nur was the first of what would be called mutants. After being forced into slavery by pharaoh Rama Tut (Kang the conqueror in one of his many disguises) and his right hand man Ozymandias, Apocalypse then rises up against the pharaoh, only to be rejected by a love interest due to his freakish appearance. He then hijacks the technology in Rama Tut’s ship, and uses it to amass power over the next several thousand years.

Back to our story. The fun begins in X-men Alpha. Out of the X-men who were sent to stop Legion, only Bishop remains, as he was already a time anomaly (being from an alternate future and all) and didn’t disappears like the other X-men did. So he is left roaming the world as it goes to pieces around him. Apocalypse slowly takes control of North America, and the Marvel Universe is changing form. The X-men are now led by Magneto, who wishes to fight for the dream he witnessed his friend die for. People who would be X-men or their closest allies are now among their fiercest enemies, and people who we know as some of the X-men’s most dangerous adversaries now count themselves as allies, or even X-men themselves. Cast in point, Magneto’s X-men contains Sabertooth and Exodus among their ranks, while Havok, Beast, and Domino are among Apocalypse’s most loyal henchmen. Eventually, Bishop encounters Magneto, and spazzes out calling him a murderer before coming around and realizing what has happened. It is then that the X-men realize that this isn’t how reality isn’t supposed to be, and they embark on a three-tiered mission to set things right. First, they’ll need a precognitive to validate Bishop’s story, a time traveler to help them choose the right path, and a shard of the M’Kraan crystal to help them move through time.

For the next 4 months, all of Marvel’s X-books were replaced with 4-issue limited series depicting various aspects of the Age of Apocalypse, and were retitled to reflect them. Uncanny and adjective-less X-men were renamed Astonishing and Amazing X-men, and they dealt with the X-men as they battled against Apocalypse’s forces and attempted to assist human refugees who were escaping his rule. After all, even if this wasn’t the ‘real’ world, it was still the one they knew, so it was up to them to protect it. X-Factor was renamed Factor X, and it dealt with the power struggle among Apocalypse’s inner circle, which included Havok, Cyclops, and Beast, who was studying genetics under Mr. Sinister and mutated himself into a gray furred version of himself.

Generation Next (Generation X), X-Calibre (Excalibur), and Gambit and the Externals (X – Force) dealt with the mission to restore reality to what it was supposed to be. Generation Next saw Shadowcat and Colossus lead the next generation of mutants (as opposed to Banshee and Emma Frost in the mainstream universe) as they embark on a mission to rescue the presumed-dead Illyana Rasputin from Apocalypse’s breeding pens. X-Calibre revolves around Nightcrawler’s attempt to retrieve the mutant seer Destiny from Avalon, a safe haven for survivors. While the Nightcrawler we knew was a devout man of God, this Nightcrawler shunned the church due to some bad experiences as a youth. The X-Calibre the title refers to is the X that’s etched into Mystique’s bullets. Gambit and the X-Ternals dealt with Gambit’s attempt to grab a shard of the M’Kraan crystal. We learn about the fate of the Shi’ar empire as well as the nature of the crystal itself.

In this reality, the mutant known as Logan is known as Weapon X. Beside the fact he’s missing one hand (lost during a battle with Cyclops) and him and Jean Grey are officially an item (rather than a one-sided flirt like in the mainstream Marvel Universe), he is still being the best there is at what he does. He does missions for the Human High Council, battling against the Reavers (humans mutated by a techno organic virus) and locating the mutant Gateway as the HHC decide to bomb the AOA controlled America with a nuclear strike. By the way, there was a character named Wolverine, but he was a completely unrelated character.

As you know, Cable is the son of Cyclops and Madeline Pryor, who is a clone of Jean Grey. Obviously, the chain of events leading to her creation (and Cable’s birth) didn’t happen. So to that end, Cable’s title was replaced by X-man. X-man is a creation of Mr. Sinister, who combined the DNA of Cyclops and Jean Grey in hopes of creating an ultimate weapon capable of destroying Apocalypse. X-man, a.k.a Nate Grey fled the labs and was found by Forge and his group of mutants. Together, they travel and destroy Apocalypse’s factories under the guise of a traveling theatrical group. Eventually, he learns the secret behind his creation.

X-men Chronicles (X-men Unlimited) told tales based on the past of the AOA, such as the X-men’s first battle against Apocalypse’s horsemen and the death of the Scarlet Witch. In addition to this, two graphic novels called Tales from the Age of Apocalypse were released after the crossover, showing more backstories, such as the fate of Corsair Summers and the Inhumans. Oh, and in case you were wondering what happened with Marvel’s would-be heroes during the AOA, Universe X showed the exploits of many of Marvel’s non-mutant superheroes.

Anyway, the X-men complete their missions, and in X-men Omega, the big brouhaha against Apocalypse goes down. Casualties are suffered on both sides, but Bishop manages to make it back in time to absorb Legion’s fatal blast, saving Xavier and Magneto. Thus, the timeline is spared, everything is back to what it should be, and the AOA ceases to exist.

Or Does it? (Part One)
During the big final against Apocalypse, several people manage to make it into the Marvel Universe proper, unbeknown to everyone present. Nate Grey the X-man jabs the M’Kraan crystal shard into the chest of the villain Holocaust, transporting them both into the modern day Marvel Universe. Holocaust is found and bought aboard Magneto’s floating space station Avalon, where he brings the entire station down and kills several of the Acolytes. After becoming one of Onslaught’s lackeys during 1996’s Onslaught crossover, he makes trouble for Nate Grey until he is forced to join the Exiles, where he meets his death at the hands of an alternate reality version of Hyperion (more on this later). X-man winds up in the Swiss Alps, where he resurrects Madeline Pryor. He is sought after by several powerful individuals, including Onslaught, who learns about the Age of Apocalypse through his memories. He also meets his half-brother (for lack of a better term) Cable and his ‘parents’ Cyclops and Jean Grey. His series is allowed to continue for a whole 75 issues, until a 2001 X-men line reboot, where he sacrifices his life to stop a villain from harvesting humanity. He was bought back in last year’s Dark X-men miniseries, where he is captured and tortured by villain Norman Osborn. Of course with him disposed, Nate Grey is due to return in the new X-men series, like, any day now.

Even more damaging to the Marvel Universe, the villains Sugarman and Dark Beast manage to make their way into the proper timeline 20 years before the present. As such, they were retconned to be behind some of the most dubious events in the history of human-mutant relations. Sugarman helped Genosha’s Geneingeer develop the mutate bonding process which allowed the human majority to take control of the mutant populace and use them as the backbone of the island’s growth and economy. Dark Beast meanwhile, performed experiments on the subterranean mutant community known as the Morlocks. Mr. Sinister then discovered that the work being done on them was based on his own research (as the Dark beast learned about genetics from the AOA Sinister). Not approving of the unauthorized use of his research, he then ordered the slaughter of the mutants at the hands of his marauders. Dark Beast has continued to be a thorn in the side of the X-men, even replacing the real Beast at one point and most recently being involved with Norman Osborn’s Dark X-men.

The AOA versions of Blink and Sabertooth meanwhile, were snatched out the timestream before it was supposed to be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust, and recruited to join teams of trans-dimensional travelers who travel through alternate universes to set things right. Blink was a member of the Exiles (whose ranks included a version of Morph who was NOT from the AOA but had his personality) while Sabertooth was a member of a rival team Weapon X, who had a similar mission to the Exiles, but did so using harsher methods. The two eventually met, with Sabertooth joining the Exiles. The series lasted several issues before being canceled, relaunched under a new title (New Exiles), canceled, relaunched under a new writer, and canceled again after 7 issues or so. Given the books popularity, and the fact that there were still many dangling plot threads, I doubt it would be very long before we see it again. It should be noted that the AOA version of Blink was more popular than her mainstream counterpart, who was killed during the Phalanx Covenant crossover (well actually, she was trapped in an alternate dimension until being freed by Selene during last year’s Necrosha crossover but you get the idea).

Or Was It? (Part 2)
For the longest, the AOA was considered a dead timeline which shouldn’t exist, since it overwritten what the Marvel Universe was supposed to be, and Bishop’s actions prevented it from happening. However, Marvel realized that the 10th anniversary of the AOA was coming up, and had to cash in off of it. So to that end, a miniseries was published back in 2005 which was the ‘sequel’ to the AOA. It depicted Magento’s X-men as they attempted to repair human-mutant relations by mopping up the remnants of Apocalypse’s rule after America was saved from the nuclear bombing at the end of the original crossover. It featured the AOA versions of characters who either weren’t included in the original AOA crossover or just weren’t part of comicdom when the original crossover was published such as Psylocke (mysteriously in her Asian body), Jay Guthrie (who is mysteriously a black guy), and X-23 (who is NOT Wolverine’s clone, but instead his daughter with Mariko). The series was inconsistent with much of what had been established during the original AOA, but at least the story contained a glimmer of hope and positivity which was not present during the original AOA, and there was a tie-in with the Exiles. The series was preceded with a special one-shot that gave even more backstory to the AOA. We learn about Wolverine’s meeting with the AOA Silver Samurai as well as how Sabertooth met Wild Child.

What if Things Were…Even More Different?
There were several what ifs and alternate universes which depicted other versions of the AOA, or what would have happened if things had turned out differently. What if Volume 2 #81 showed what would have happened had the AOA never ended (and in my opinion, did a much better job of it than the 2005 miniseries), and saw the X-men team up with Tony Stark’s resistance to fend off the coming of Galactus. What If Volume 2 #77 explored what would have happened had Legion’s plan been successful. He kills Magento, and while mutants are accepted by the public, Xavier’s mutants have been left untested, and this leads to disaster when Apocalypse makes his move.

In 2007’s confusing What If AOA one shot, Legion’s bolt kills both Professor X and Magneto, leaving no one to form the X-men. Instead, a band of heroes led by Captain America (who inexplicably has Thor’s hammer) decide to defeat Apocalypse in the present rather than change the past. This group includes Wolverine, Colossus (who inexplicably has the same costume he had in the original AOA) Captain Britain (who inexplicably has armor similar to Iron Man), Brother Voodoo, The Thing (who inexplicably has a cybernetic limb), and Nate Grey (who is the teenage son of Cyclops and Jean Grey, suggesting that the two are older than they are in the original AOA and for that matter the mainstream Marvel Universe). At the end of the story, X-man decides to use Apocalypse’s armor to change the past, whole Captain America/Thor fires a bolt which kills Nate. Unbeknown to him, this bolt goes through the portal, killing Xavier, Magneto, and Legion, thereby unleashing another AOA reality, and the Watcher warns that if left unchecked, reality after reality will turn into an Age of Apocalypse.

Jeez, for a timeline that didn’t happen, the AOA left one hell of an impact, and not just in comics either. Numerous X-men animated series depicted alternate timelines that were similar to the AOA, and X-men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse, had several parts of the game that were inspired by the AOA, such as the assault on the Core Power Plant, the battle against the Madri (who in the comics were all duplicates of Jamie Madrox but in the game were just members of a cult), and the battle with the Sentinels. Players can even unlock AOA costumes as alternate appearances for characters.

From Days of Future Past to House of M and even Earth X, Marvel’s alternate realities have consistently provided some of Marvel’s best stories, and the AOA is no different. For four months, it challenged readers to forget everything they knew about the X-men, and it’s repercussions are still being felt today.