Top critical review
Three different villain origins, not all of them winners
Reviewed in the United States on October 5, 2020
Considering the price, this is actually a fairly thick volume. Definitely a good value though these are not exactly classic X-Men stories.
The marquee Rise of Apocalypse miniseries from '96 has very inaccessible art from Adam Pollina, with distorted faces and forms as others have noted. The story, though it nails the Egyptian setting, is also a bit meh. It's just very straightforward and lacking in any real surprise. Strong pre-destined hero man fights bad guy, beats bad guy, the end. The fact that this is all running parallel to a classic Fantastic Four issue actually hurts it - the main villain just disappears at the end rather than getting a true showdown with Apocalypse.
The Exodus issue really lacks context from whatever was going on in Avengers at the time, and so ends up falling pretty flat.
The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix is much more enjoyable. Though the art may also seem inaccessible to some, I enjoyed the high contrast inks and sharp angles reminiscent of Mignola. It works well for the Victorian setting but is sometimes hard to follow. The story provides a solid origin for Sinister, who had been in an awkward place ever since Claremont introduced him and then was pulled from Uncanny before he could pay it off. While his idea for the character sounds crazy - that he was actually a little kid using his mutant power to pretend to be an adult villain - this is the next best thing. Victorian science man driven mad by the death of his family.
All in all though, as someone who is currently making my way through all of X-Men continuity, I don't know how I feel about all this retconning of Apocalypse into EVERYTHING. The central premise of the book should really be about the whole team of X-Men vs. the hatred and bigotry of the present. Not how Cyclops and Jean have to fight this time travel war so that their son can be the messiah in a dystopian future.
That leads me to feel a little mixed about the Dracula miniseries as well, though it has solid art and a fun, fast pace. The Clan Akkaba just feels like further unnecessary retconning. All in all, I have yet to be convinced that Apocalypse is actually all that great of a character. "Survival of the Fittest" gets one note pretty fast.