Xavier’s death caused a domino effect for the rest of the world. Magneto in his grief took on his friend’s dream of a world where mutants and humans coexisted peacefully. However, Xavier’s death also spurred long time X-Men nemesis Apocalypse to launch his attack on Earth, ten years earlier than he had in the previous timeline. The world wasn’t ready, and after brutal and violent war, Apocalypse had effectively taken over North America, setting himself up as a king. Ruling with an iron fist, he was aided by his Horsemen, four powerful mutants sworn to his service, along with a number of other powerful servants and slaves. To further his dominance, he makes mutants the ruling class in his new society, calling for cullings of the human survivors to wipe out the “lesser race”. Next, Apocalypse has every telepath and time powered mutants hunted down and killed to ensure no one can destroy his rule.
Bishop, now stuck in this alternate timeline, helps Magneto form the new X-Men. After years of conflict, the two devise a plan to restore the original timeline. To complete this plan, Magneto split his teams up, sending the various X-Men to complete a series of missions all working towards the same goal: sending Bishop back in time to stop Legion from killing Xavier.
The first of these teams was lead by Nightcrawler, called X-Calibre. Their mission was to find the mutant seer Destiny to verify Bishop’s story. Going to Avalon, they indeed find her, but had to fight Apocalypse’s Pale Riders in the process. Once the Pale Riders were dealt with, Nightcrawler and company brought Destiny back to Magneto’s base.
The next team, named the X-Ternals (lead by everyone’s favourite Cajun card player, Gambit) are sent into space to find a piece of the shattered M’kraan Crystal, essential to seeing into the past so Destiny could prove Bishop’s story, and be used to send Bishop back to stop Legion. Heading deep into Shi’ar space, they find a shard of the Crystal, and bring it back to Earth. However, team member Strong Guy betrays the team, taking the Crystal and kidnapping Magneto and Rogue’s son (yes, they married, Gambit/Rogue shippers stay calm), Joseph, delivering both to Apocalypse.
The third team, Generation Next, was lead by the husband and wife combination of Shadowcat and Colossus. The two move to rescue Colossus’s sister Illyana, one of the last trans-dimensional teleporters left in the world. They find her imprisoned by Apocalypse Prelate Sugar Man in Seattle. When the young team engages with Sugar Man, the evil mutant proves too powerful, and the fight quickly turns against them. Obsessed with saving his sister, Colossus abandons them, rescuing Illyana and barely escaping with her and Shadowcat, apparently leaving the rest of the team to die.
The fourth team was called the Astonishing X-Men, and under the command of Magneto’s wife, Rogue. While the other teams were sent to collect what was needed for Magneto’s plan, Rogue led her team to stop the cullings and aid in the human evacuations to Europe. When they arrive at their destination, Sabretooth learns that Holocaust, one of the Horsemen, has base at one of Apocalypse’s nearby factories. He asks his surrogate daughter Blink to teleport him there to fight the Horsemen. Reluctantly, she does so, and in the ensuing fight Sabretooth is apparently killed. The rest of the team arrives, and manages to defeat Holocaust’s Infinites and drive the Horsemen away before destroying the factory, allowing the humans to escape. They return back to base, only to discover that Joseph has been kidnapped.
The fifth and final team, the Amazing X-Men, are lead by Magneto’s son Quicksilver. Much like Rogue’s team, they are sent to aid in the human evacuations separate. They encounter the Horsemen Abyss, and manage to defeat him to give the humans time to complete their escape to the coast. However, while they were away, Bishop and Magneto are attacked by Apocalypse himself, and captured. When Quicksilver returns to base to discover what has happened, he splits up his team, sending Iceman to rendezvous with Rogue’s team, while Dazzler and Exodus are dispatched to find Joseph. Meanwhile, he leads the remaining members to rescue Bishop.
Elsewhere in the world, Wolverine, called Weapon X in this timeline, and Jean Grey become lovers while working as agents for the Human High Council. When they discover that the High Council intends to launch nuclear strikes against North America, Jean becomes appalled, driving a wedge between her and the cynical Logan. After Logan battles and defeats Donald Pierce, Jean elects to go to America to help in the evacuations. Logan meanwhile is ordered to find Gateway, the teleporter to be used to transport the evac ships to America. Once his mission is complete, Logan goes with the evacuation ships, hoping to find Jean before the bombs drop.
Cyclops and Havok unfortunately fell into the surface of Dark Beast, Hank McCoy, who without Xavier’s guidance had become a sick scientist under Apocalypse’s employ. The Summers brothers lead the Elite Mutant Force, and are charged with hunting down humans for Beast’s experiments. During one of these missions, Cyclops is revealed as a traitor helping humans escape from Dark Beast’s slave pens. Havok tries to kill him, but Jean Grey intervenes. The EMF split between the brothers, and when Havok’s side is defeated, Cyclops and Jean escape. Havok recovers soon thereafter, and swears to kill his brother.
While Jean and Scott had never married, nor had Scott had a child with Madelyne Pryor, Mr Sinister had still succeeded in combining their DNA to create a single child, named Nate Grey. Nate, the more powerful telekentic in the world, grows up under the guidance of Forge, who leads a covert team of mutants travelling under the guise of as a theatre troupe, attacking Apocalypse’s factories and trains wherever they could find them. Eventually, they meet a man named Essex, who encourages Nate to use his telekentic abilities to their fullest potential despite Forge’s protests. Eventually, they are attacked by mutant bounty hunters, and Forge realizes that Essex is a traitor. Essex kills Forge, and then reveals himself as Mr Sinister. Nate unleashes his power, nearly killing Sinister and stopping the Bounty Hunters. Afterwards, he leaves his surviving team members and heads to New York alone to find Apocalypse.
In Europe, a group of humans, lead by Tony Stark and working for the Human High Council, are sent to stop the fourth Horseman, Mikhail Rasputin. Rasputin had been using Empath to hypnotize humans in Europe, forcing them to stop fighting and obey Apocalypse. Stark has the team purposely captured, only to be reawakened later within Rasputin’s complex, a massive tower blocking all transport out of Britain. Once awake, they steal weapons and destroy the tower. They are soon set upon by The Thing, this timeline’s Hulk. However, during the fight The Thing reverts to Bruce Banner, allowing him to help the team complete their mission, allow more humans to escape. In the final battle atop Big Ben, Donald Blake tackles Rasputin off the top of the clock tower, sacrificing himself to kill the Horsemen. Victor von Doom rescues the survivors just as Apocalypse launches an attack on Britain.
All these stories lead to the final battle between Magneto’s X-Men and Apocalypse’s forces. What X-Men remain use Blink to teleport into Apocalypse’s base and capture Dark Beast. Angel, once a servant to Apocalypse that is no longer trusted, switches sides, and sacrifices himself by flying into Apocalypse’s force field generators, allowing Nate Grey to enter the capital unhindered. The Human High Council meanwhile launches their nuclear strikes, wiping out the western half of Apocalypse’s Kingdom. Once the X-Men free Magneto and Bishop, Magnus orders Destiny to enter the M’Kraan Crystal with Illyana (despite Colossus’s protests) in order to send Bishop to the past. As they continue with their plan, Magneto goes to continue his fight with Apocalypse, and is soon joined by Nate Grey.
As the X-Men fight Apocalype’s forces, Jean and Cyclops continue to free prisoners from the breeding pens. Jean uses her powers to hold off the Human High Council’s nuclear bombs, wanting to make sure everyone single person gets out before they drop. Havok soon arrives, killing Jean before shooting Cyclops. As Havok moves in to finish his brother off, Weapons X parachutes in kills the younger Summers brother. Jean dies in Logan’s arms as Cyclops watches, the scene seeming all too familiar to X-Fans.
Bishop arrives in the past, and successfully kills Legion before he can kill Xavier. However, Colossus thinks that Illyana has been gone too long, and goes on rampage, destroying everything in his path. Shadowcat steps in his path, trusting that her husband would never harm her. The trust was misplaced, and Colossus mows her down, killing her. Finally, Gambit charges his staff and injures the mad Russian from behind, forcing him to revert to his human form just as Illyana returns to report her mission was successful. Realizing what he had done, Colossus allows himself to die.
As the battle concludes, Nate uses the M’Kraan Crystal shard to stab Holocaust to death, while Magneto rips Apocalypse in half. Without Jean to stop them, the bombs continue their journey, destroying everything sight. As they drop around them Magneto thanks Xavier for being in his life, and waits for it to end...
Despite all the death, Bishop’s mission had been a success, and the timeline was restored. He returns to his own time, and rejoins the X-Men, no one knowing about what had happened except for him.
That was a trip right? Age of Apocalypse was a landmark event, for the first time in Marvel’s history titles were pre-empted to make room for the event’s titles. This is a technique that has been used many times since, most recently with the currently ongoing Secret Wars. The story itself is held in high regard by X-Fans, and is considered the height of Scott Lobdell’s career. The event changed the comic book scene forever, and with a movie adaption coming out, I have a feeling that the Age of Apocalypse will live on for many years to come.