It's new garbage? Yeesh. I asked the proprietor of my comic shop (in tears, I might add, due to my highly distraught mood after I saw the ad for AOA) what possessed them to continue that tripe, and he said it was just reprints. I guess he was trying to keep me from losing all faith in humanity and simply running out into traffic. Now, you have destroyed all my hopes for the future of mankind, JJB. Thanks a lot.
Sales numbers do not translate into quality. AOA sucked. Nothing good came of it. Period.
X-Force #1 (the original) is still one of the largest sellers in comic history. And one of the worst. I can probably get you about a hundred copies at a nickel apiece if you're interested.
Other large sellers that sucked in new and unique ways include Youngblood #1 (the highest selling independent comic of all time, unless the next contender beat it), Dreamwave's Transformers Generation One #1, and the Onslaught and Spider-Clone fiascos. Any of those can turn the stomachs of even the most rabid comic book fan.
The variant covers (which are still going on, sadly enough), chase versions (again, still going on), and other gimmicks were symptomatic of the real problem, though I agree they certainly didn't help things. A certain group of people (who moved on to Beanie Babies and now seem infatuated with Hot Wheels) learned that comics could be worth money, and the emphasis went from telling good stories with compelling art to throwing as many bones to investors as possible. We (as readers) went from stories like Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn and David Michelinie's early Venom stories in Amazing Spider-Man, two of the greatest comic stories of all time, to guest-star laden gimmick/fluff garbage without any real point like X-Cutioner's Song and Age of Apocalypse in less than five years. That's what chased the bulk of readers away, and once they were gone, the investors had no possible windfalls to look forward to. And that's what killed the industry.