Who Is Apocalypse? A Primer to ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past‘ director Bryan Singer recently announced that the sequel to his ultimate mutant team-up will be ‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ coming on May 27, 2016. While no other information was revealed at the time, it is presumed to take its name from one of the most powerful beings in the X-Men universe and perhaps even one of his most famous comic-book arcs, ‘Age of Apocalypse.’
But who is this end-of-times mutant? For those unfamiliar, here’s a brief intro to this classic comic-book villain.
The Birth of Apocalypse
Apocalypse has many names in the comics — The Eternal One, The Immortal One, Child of Destiny, Master of Lies, and more — but his birth name was En Sabah Nur (“The First One”), and he’s one of the earliest documented mutants on Earth.
Born in ancient Egypt as a gray-skinned, blue-lipped child with natural skin markings, he was abandoned in the desert as an child but was eventually found by a band of nomads called the Sandstormers. Their leader, Baal, believing the child to be a foretold savior said to one day overthrow Pharaoh Rama-Tut, raised him as his own and instilled within the child his belief of “survival of the fittest.” After Baal died in the aftermath of an attack on the Sandstormers by Rama-Tut’s army, a vengeful Nur set out to kill the ruler, infiltrating his kingdom as a slave. Once there, he’d meet Nephri, the daughter of Rama-Tut’s general who led the attack on the Sandstormers, and fall in love with her. Her later rejection of him would help lead him to assume his ruthless personality.
As for Rama-Tut, the Pharaoh turned out to be a time traveler and an earlier incarnation of the character Kang the Conquerer in the comics, having acquired futuristic technology. He had actually been looking for Apocalypse, knowing his destiny to become the most powerful mutant on the planet, and wanted to mentor him. When Nur refused, Rama-Tut attacked him and left him for dead, not realizing the mutant’s powers would surface and revive him. With his powers fully realized, Nur renamed himself Apocalypse and returned and acquired Rama-Tut’s technology.
The Tyranny of Apocalypse
Apocalypse’s mutant powers manifested in the form of atomic restructuring, which affords him a variety of abilities, including super strength and the ability to recover from even the most severe injuries. In addition, he used the alien technology to prolong his life, going into regenerative slumbers to rewaken more powerful. Thanks to his adopted father’s life lessons, Apocalypse believes in a distorted sense of “survival of the fittest” — instead of “only the strong will survive,” it’s “only the strong should survive.”
He’s proven himself a constant adversary to the X-Men, appearing in multiple storylines in forcing people to worship him as a god, ruling with a tyrannical fist, and laying waste to the weak. One comic arc actually shows him bringing about the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” having genetically enhanced and brainwashed four mutants (including Angel, played by Ben Foster in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’). However, one of the most famous storylines is ‘Age of Apocalypse.’
From the official plot synopsis for this 1995 comic series by Scott Lobdell:
Charles Xavier is dead – killed 20 years in the past during a freak time-travel accident – and the world that has arisen in his absence is dark and dangerous indeed. The Darwinian conqueror Apocalypse rules with an iron fist, ruthlessly enforcing his dictum that only the strong shall survive – and in Apocalypse’s long shadow, hidden among a downtrodden humankind, are a group of ragtag freedom fighters led by Xavier’s oldest friend, Magneto: the Amazing X-Men! When Bishop, last survivor of the true Marvel Universe, locates the X-Men and explains how the world went wrong, these embittered mutants and their tenuous allies must risk everything – and undertake a dangerous and multi-pronged quest – to put things right!
‘Age of Apocalypse’ takes place in an alternate reality, Earth-295, and features some classic incarnations of Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Blink, Iceman, Quicksilver (all of who are featured in Singer’s latest, ‘Days of Future Past’) and more. Because the character of Apocalypse has grappled with most members of the X-Men team in one storyline or another, he and his vast library of diabolical plans are perfect for an onscreen rendering. Even Cable, a member of the X-Force (which is also becoming a future movie from director Jeff Wadlow), has dealt with him.
Again, the only information we know officially of ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is the title and release date. Though, an odd response from Bryan Singer during a past interview seemed to suggest the character’s appearance in one the X-Men films. When asked about Apocalypse, he said, “I can’t tell you … This is how it gets started, when somebody starts piecing the little bits together.”
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ hits theaters in wide release on May 27, 2016.