The Surprise Big Bad of MARVEL'S A.O.A. After APOCALYPSE's Death

"Age of Apocalypse #5" preview
Credit: Iban Coello (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Marvel Comics

Apocalypse is dead, but that doesn't mean "happily ever after" for the heroes in the current Age of Apocalypse.

In October 21's Age of Apocalypse #5, Wolverine, Cyclops, Havok and the mysterious new (or old?) character Burner are facing off against a surprise foe behind it all - Doctor Nemesis. Series writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Iban Coello are turning the screws to the surviving mutants in this last issue, pitting them against a villain possessing all their powers, in addition to the re-emerging threat of the Legacy Virus.

Nicieza talked with Newsarama about the finale, writing the death of Apocalypse, the mysterious identity of Burner, and where he'd like to go next in the Marvel U.

Newsarama: Fabian, the finale of Age of Apocalypse comes out in a few weeks -- what can people expect?

Fabian Nicieza: A rip-roaring, teeth-gnashing, rootin'-tootin' adventure!  Plus some brain surgery, too. You can never have enough "the clock is ticking" brain surgery in a series finale.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: The real big bad of all of this was revealed last issue as Doctor Nemesis. Can you tell us how you came to find him as the perfect villain for this piece?

Nicieza: I really wanted to show how the insanity of Apocalypse would affect a culture raised in it. "Survival of the fittest" is fine when talking about millions of years of evolution, but downright crazy when talking about a breathing, current society. 

Nemesis seemed like the perfect character to presume he could take the teachings of Apocalypse to a higher level.

Nrama: Correct me if I'm wrong, but you've never written Doctor Nemesis before this, as he was only brought into X-Men lore a couple years ago. What do you think of him as a character?

Nicieza: I discovered him in some of the X-trades I'd read over the last couple years. I had no idea when he'd been introduced, but he stood out as a very enjoyable character that was "up my alley." I like hyper-intelligent arrogant characters, because aside from the hyper-intelligence aspect of it, that's a lot like me!

Nrama: Spoilers for some fans here, but Apocalypse died in the last issue. The way you handled his death was pretty poignant, in his final actions as well as what it means with him being gone from the series. How important was that to you when crafting this series as a whole?

Nicieza: When I was originally developing the outline, I knew it would make for an unexpected twist, but also be very logical by the standards of the character. He tries to kill everyone to see who would prove fit to survive and he ends up killing himself.

I thought it would be very appropriate for him to have a "whisper" death rather than a scream, plus liquefying him was a natural degradation of his shape-shifting powers, which is how the Legacy Virus worked. Iban really nailed the visual. 

Credit: Iban Coello (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: As you said, he died from the Legacy Virus, something you reintroduced in earlier issues. You were there for the original Legacy Virus in the 1990s -- how big a part of X-Men lore is it the long-run, now two decades later, to you?

Nicieza: Not a really big part at all, honestly. When we developed the idea, it was obviously meant to be an A.I.D.S. analogy, and we wanted it to be something that increased the prejudice and pressure on mutants, but I think we learned that disease is a difficult thing to dramatize in long-form publishing. I honestly don't remember how or if aspects of the Legacy Virus were ever resolved in the main titles, but that didn't matter for how it could be used in the Age of Apocalypse limited series.

Credit: Iban Coello (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: Another big part of this series is the introduction of Burner, whom some people suspect is Adam-X. How did this idea and evolution come about?

Nicieza: I don't think Burner has been revealed to be anyone yet. I don't know that the words will actually come out of his mouth until Age of Apocalypse #5. As for why introduce the mystery of Burner into the limited series? For fun and to keep with the tradition of the original Age of Apocalypse to take a character or two and give them a major visual revamp.

Nrama: Big picture, what do you think of what you and the artists Gerardo Sandoval and Iban Coello have accomplished in this series?

Nicieza: I think Gerardo Sandoval did a great job providing the series with a tone and style that was very much in keeping with how various artists worked on the original Age of Apocalypse. Unfortunately, Gerardo couldn't finish the series and Iban Coello came in under tight deadlines and even tougher story choreography to handle and did a super job in finishing off the last two issues.

Nrama: Some Secret Wars tie-in series have found another life in "All-New All-Different Marvel." Would you be up to a return with Age of Apocalypse or some other X-Men title after this series ends?

Nicieza: I would love opportunities to continue working on X-characters down the road, but I really approached this as a "one and done" series. I know the original brought some aspects of its story into mainstream continuity, but I think when people read the finale of this series, they'll realize that might not work as well this time around.

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