Bolivar Trask. William Stryker. Matthew Risman. Graydon Creed. Donald Pierce. These are the names of some of the nastiest villains in the X-Men's pantheon – nasty humans who believe mutantkind is a stain which needs to be erased from the planet, be it through Sentinels or Reavers or Purifiers. However, in David Lapham's Age of Apocalypse #1, the tables are turned. The mutants are evil. Wolverine is the new Apocalypse, known as Weapon Omega. Samurai Sentinels stalk the lands. And these bigots are the last leaders left striving to save humankind from extinction.
Here, William Stryker is The Prophet, the leader of a group known as the X-Terminated. Bolivar Trask is allied with them, helping to organize a human resistance, while his daughter Francesca is a swordswoman who works directly with Stryker's team and goes by the name of Fiend. Zora Risman is the sister of latter-day Purifier Matthew Risman (who is nowhere to be found here as yet), and she's a sniper going by the name Deadeye. Graydon Creed, the human spawn of two mutants, now lives in the mutant world undercover and calls himself Horror Show when he dons the mask to serve with Stryker's squad. Then, there's Reavers leader Donald Pierce, who is plying his longstanding membership in the Hellfire Club as another method of infiltration, now using the codename Goodnight. Joining this team of mutant-haters are two former mutants – Jean Grey and Victor Creed. After the events of "The Dark Angel Saga" over in Uncanny X-Force, they've lost their powers and are throwing in with the humans. The fact that Jean's still technically married to the infected-and-evil Logan out to kill them all in the service of Celestials will definitely complicate things.
Lapham's first issue is heavy on exposition, as is necessary when setting up an alternate universe tale, and really grungy art from Roberto De La Torre, who sets the hopeless, shattered tone of this story well with his dark and dirty style. It's not the most pleasant thing to look at, but it fits. We meet the characters and we get a sense of the world they live in – a miserable one where mutantkind is victorious and they estimate that fewer than eight thousand humans left in the entire world. Bleak as bleak can be – fitting, since that's what Rick Remender's UXF tends to be, too.
While this isn't exactly the AoA you remember from the 90s – it's been about 10 years or so since those events happened in this world, methinks, and the timeline might be a little fuzzy here and there anyway thanks to the M'Kraan Shenans that ended that event – it still recalls part of the fun of that whole enterprise. Namely, finding out the different permutations of your favorite 616 characters in this nasty world. Case in point: Keeper Murdock, The Daredevil, Leader of the Overlord's Hounds, who crosses paths with the X-Terminated over the fate of one Harper Simmons, a reporter from the 616 who has found his way into the 295 (yes, that's the AoA designation and no, I don't know how it could possibly be a lower number than 616 since it only exists as a splinter timeline of the 616, but given how little I understand of the current Captain Britain madness happening in UXF, I'm not going to bother dwelling on it).
It seems Simmons is spreading some pamphlets around trying to advance the human agenda on a social level, and the Mutants won't stand for that and want him dead. But Stryker's team wants him kept alive to continue his work. Simmons serves as our narrator, and as a refugee from the main Marvel Universe, he'll make a good POV character going forward, as he's going to be riding with the XTs (yeah, I'm coining that, let's see if it sticks) for a while.
As I said, some stuff is different than you remember, and that's evidenced by the last page, when it's revealed who exactly Lapham looks to be making into a major antagonist – not a someone you'd really expect if you're familiar with the original books. It's not necessarily that this person has been reality-warped or anything, but they might not be the same person they were back then. It's a cool final page, with some neat dialog from Simmons to cement to the reader that there's more to Age of Apocalypse than nostalgia. Things are gonna be different.
So far, it's interesting enough to check into and see where it goes.