It's been brought up before, but retcons are often the worst thing that can happen to an ongoing title or character. They smack of desperation and lack of creativity, an inability to write the story as-is and a need for the universe to be JUST SO before the creation comes to fruition. Except for the times when they’re the best thing to happen to a title in decades, and that’s when they’re not used as a crutch to write a story, but they’re fully integrated into the narrative that already exists. They don’t change what we already know, they add to it. In that way, I think having Thor and Apocalypse share a past encounter makes absolute, perfect sense and is an example of a fantastic retcon.
This issue is told entirely in flashback where we see a younger, party-hard Thor (that we've seen many shades of in Thor: God of Thunder) at a massive celebration that is interrupted by En Sabah Nur, who has designs on the Odinson’s life. The two clash, but Thor is, for once, hopelessly outclassed and flees to Asgard to seek a way to destroy the coward Apocalypse’s armor. What he doesn't realize is that both Apocalypse and he are being manipulated into doing battle with one another from behind the scenes from an unlikely source: Kang the Conqueror.
Remender’s Uncanny Avengers started out very rocky, especially with expectations so high from his previous runs. By issue 5 of Uncanny Avengers, it felt like he was getting his legs properly under himself and this issue certainly feels like he knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. Thor and Apocalypse having a shared past is so very apropos I can’t believe no one’s thought of it before apart from there never really being a driving need for it. But if ever there was a villain that could menace both the Avengers and the X-Men, it is the world's biggest proponent of Survival of the Fittest.
Daniel Acuña seems to be one of those artists who is either loved or hated, and I fall FIRMLY into the LOVE category, so seeing him take over the book from John Cassaday felt like a lateral move in terms of quality, and so far that feeling is being supported. His art is perfectly suited to the muddy, but brutally vivid, visuals of Thor’s past and I’ve rarely seen Apocalypse or his Horsemen look more grandiose, threatening, and most of all powerful, as they do in this tale.
There’s not much to dislike, honestly. The battle between Thor and the Horsemen is a little indistinct, especially in one very interesting detail revealed at the end of their skirmish that I won’t spoil here, but that comes off as a little murky. There’s also the minor revelation that apparently the Asgardians and the Celestials had a treaty to never interfere in the others’ machinations, which is a bit out of left field and feels just SLIGHTLY contrived. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, though. Some people may be slightly off-put by this not picking up the current storyline at all, being completely told through flashback, but I feel it was completely necessary to establish these two characters’ relationship ahead of time.
I honestly have no idea where Remender is going with this storyline, but I’m on-board with whatever it is if it means more of what I’ve read here. The story is, again, completely believable in terms of an “untold tale of Thor” and does a great job of bringing together two characters that often interact with completely disparate teams in a way that feels not only genuine, but even a little bit fresh.