All-New X-Men (2nd series) #9

Issue Date: 
July 2016
Story Title: 

Dennis Hopeless (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Andrew Hennessy (inker) Nolan Woodard (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Bagley, Hennessy, Woodard (cover artists), Chris Robinson (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor), Mark Paniccia (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

In the ruins of Utopia, the young X-Men and friends are celebrating Genesis’ 16th birthday. Evan himself is in a pensive mood though. He borrows Pickles from Beast, who is busy with his time travel experiments, and teleports to Kansas. There, he reminisces about his perfect childhood there, all the while painfully aware that his memories are of a virtual reality. Soon after he returns back home and hands Pickles over to Hank, he becomes interested in the Mask of Horus. He touches it, accidentally activating it just as Hank begins another time travel test. As a result, Hank and Genesis are sent to the past. They awake in ancient Egypt and find themselves under attack by the Sandstormers, a deadly desert clan. One of them, their prince, whom they tried to force to kill a prisoner, uses the distraction to get away on a horse and grabs Evan. Once they are safe, the reason becomes clearer as the young prince is the spitting image of Evan – he is the original En Sabah Nur, the boy destined to become Apocalypse.

Full Summary: 

The ruins of Utopia in San Francisco Bay:
The young X-Men are having a party, along with their friends of the Jean Grey School, to celebrate Genesis’ birthday. Outside, Iceman has created iceslides, while down below Kid Gladiator is playing DJ.

Angel tries to have Cyclops take part in the dancing by moving his wheelchair rhythmically. Scott assures him his aversion to dancing has nothing to do with his cast and suggests Warren wiggle with his girlfriend. Warren looks at Laura and sighs, as does she.

Kid Gladiator interrupts the music to congratulate Evan on surviving yet another Earth year. The other kids congratulate Evan on his 16th. Evan smiles and thanks them for coming but then excuses himself.

In his lab, Hank McCoy has developed 13 functioning time machines and is now entering the testing phase. After having sent an apple to different points in time, he now wants to move on, to find a way for him and his friends to become unstuck. He grabs several weapons from different time periods.

That moment, Evan enters the lab and asks if he can borrow Pickles. Hank disinterestedly points him to a drawer where Pickles sits, munching on some cake. Ready for a birthday trip? Evan asks. They disappear as Hank belatedly wishes him a happy birthday.

Evan has Pickles teleport him to Tolmen’s Fields, a small town in Kansas. Birthdays are hard for him, he muses while he is being stared at by the townspeople. He didn’t want a big party. He wanted hard, flat dirt and a summer breeze that smells too much like cow. He wanted greasy onion rings on the tailgate of Pop’s pickup. He passes the high school musing. He wanted to sit on the bleachers, listening to Jim and Josh telling their favorite poop stories from freshman cross-country. He wanted an ugly cake from Kuhlman’s bakery, an uglier haircut from Mrs. Riggs and one of the impossibly dusty candy bars from the bottom shelf at Consumers.

He buys a candy bar and, when the clerk refuses to talk with him, tells her to keep the change.

His birthday wish was the same as every year. He wished he could go home.

From a passing truck, some boys throw an empty cup at him and shout at him to go home. Nobody wants him here. He walks outside town, where the fields begin. He used to think he was one of the lucky ones growing up here. A warm, old-fashioned place where nothing changes, because it’s perfect the way it is.

But that’s the problem. His mind is full of perfect memories. Perfect parents. Perfect neighbors. Perfect friends. All living in this tiny perfect Kansas town.

He waves at the memory of his home, before the ruin of what really stands there is revealed.

That’s why his birthday wish won’t come true. Perfect doesn’t exist. He grew up in a cloning tube. His memories of this perfect Rockwell existence were just a computer-generated fairy tale that pumped him full of happy memories from the day he was born on the off chance that love and integrity might stave off his destiny – megalomaniac, world-ending, steroid Hitler.

Why does he smile all the time? Why doesn’t he have any bad days? Because what happens if his friends see the clone of Apocalypse looking sad or depressed or angry? Do they start to wonder? Worry? Fear? Who could blame them? Worst case scenario with him has always been Armageddon. He’s not saying it’s all an act. He’s a pretty happy guy and he likes his life. He really does. Because he has to.

He sneaks into the kitchen to get more cake for Pickles, only to find Idie waiting. She chides him for missing half of everything. She was about to start the movies without him. He apologizes. She tells him to come watch and have some popcorn. He tells her he has to drop off Pickles first. She looks after him worried.

In his lab, Hank angrily stares at a burned-through device. Time trial 22-b: fail.

Evan brings in Pickles, who is in a happy, post-cake, sugar coma. Hank sighs about his failure but is still optimistic. He asks how Evan’s birthdays is going and Evan invites him to the movies. Hank thanks him but he has one more trial going for today. After that, he’s free.

Evan notices the Mask of Horus and asks Hank about it. He tells him it was a gift from Dr. Strange. Evan points out it glows. Hank realizes it is opening the third mystical eye. But unless you enjoy bedwetting nightmares, he should not put it on. Now he pretty much has to, Evan replies and does so while Hank pulls a lever to begin his last time trial. Unfortunately, the two actions interact and, in a blinding flash, the two of them disappear.

Outside Avaris, Lower Egypt:
Long long ago:
Outside the city, a group of masked raiders – the Sandstormers - dressed in red massacre a group of merchants. One of them, a woman, mocks a veiled young man, who is keeping back from the slaughter. Getting an eyeful, pretty prince? Looking down, he replies he’s seen it all before. Sounds like his father was right then, she decides and drags him off his horse. He told her he is too old for watching… time to start doing! She orders another Sandstormer to keep his victim alive. He is going to be the prince’s first blood! The Sandstormer scoffs the little freak doesn’t have it in him.

She orders the boy to draw his blade and cut the prisoner’s throat. When he hesitates, she continues that, if he doesn’t, they will let the other man kill him and tell his father a made up story about how he was attacked before they could do anything.

The boy raises his blade and the prisoner begs him not to do it.

Then, a dazzling white light flashes in the sky and Beast and Genesis come falling down. The Mask of Horus falls some distance away.

A confused Genesis asks Beast what’s going on, while the masked prince goes wide-eyed at their sight. Beast deadpans he can say with certainty they are not in early 60ies New York. Why would they be? Evan asks confused. They wouldn’t, never mind, is the reply. Even as they are beset by attacking Sandstormers, Beast figures Lower Egypt Nile Delta, 18th century BC.

The young man runs toward them.

Evan asks why those guys are swearing at them in English if they aren’t in ancient Egypt. Unlike Beast, he understands them.

The young prince steals a horse and grabs Genesis, who protests about his friend but the young man points out he only stole one horse. The leader orders the Sandstormers after them and to kill the newcomer. Beast manages to hold them up, to be beset by the Sandstormers’ leader.

The boys are heading toward the city. The prince is sure they will outrace their pursuers, though Evan nervously asks if they had archers in ancient Egypt. There answer to the question becomes clear when a well-aimed arrow hits the horse and the two boys fall.

Grimly, the kidnapper apologizes to Evan for dooming them both. At least Evan will get the release of a swift death. Nevertheless, he tries to cover Evan from the next arrow. Evan suggests they fight and uses his extendable limbs to hit the archer. Evan grabs the other boy and uses his stretchy limbs to climb the city wall.

Not far away the Sandstormers’ leader plays with Hank who is suffering from a gut wound.

Evan and the other boy watch the pursuers arguing and finally giving up, having to return to the boy’s father. The prince wants to ask Evan a few questions. Is one of them how he speaks fluent Egyptian? Evan asks, because he can’t help him there. No, the other boy replies and takes off his veil to reveal a face that is the mirror image of Evan’s. He wants to know where he comes from, young En Sabah Nur asks, and if he will take him there with him.

Characters Involved: 

Angel (from the past), Beast (from the past), Cyclops (from the past), Iceman (from the past), Wolverine III (all X-Men)
Bling, Broo, Eye-Boy, Kid Gladiator, Nature Girl, Shark-Girl, Trance, Transonic (X-Men students)

In the past:
En Sabah Nur


Story Notes: 

The cover is a homage to X-Factor (1st series) #6, the first full appearance of Apocalypse.

Norman Rockwell was a 20th century American artist famous for depicting idyllic rural and small-town life.

Beast’s joke about the 60ies is somewhat meta, as thanks to Marvel’s sliding timescale the original time-displaced X-Men are no longer from the 60ies.

More about Apocalypse’s youth with the Sandstormers is told in the Rise of Apocalypse limited series.

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