Apocalypse looms. We’ve seen it. It’s awesome. And as with previous X-Men flicks, aspects of its plot should be familiar to fans who remember certain story arcs from the comics. Some of those arcs are even being re-printed in time for the movie’s release. This suggested reading list should be helpful to veteran readers needing a guided refresher, and also new viewers curious about this malevolent manipulator’s storied origins.
En Sabah Nur, otherwise known as Apocalypse, is the world’s first mutant. He’s lived for millennia, and has been involved in enough nefarious plots to fill not just one, but multiple time-lines. If you’d like to get to know him better–before or after seeing his movie–here’s where you can start.
The Fall of the Mutants
Angel is a founding member of the X-Men in the comics and, as such, plays a much bigger part in their mythos. In the late 80s, he was thought dead, so his old teammates (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, and Iceman) are understandably shocked to find him resurrected as the razor-winged “Death.” In one of his earliest appearances, Apocalypse demonstrates how his mutant power basically boils down to an ability to re-make things. Not only can he shapeshift, ol’ Poc can also transform other mutants into far more powerful versions of themselves. And more often, he also enlists them into his Four Horsemen, as he does with Angel here.
Since Apocalypse rules a possible future (where Deadpool’s Cable pal comes from, no less), a number of his storylines intertwine with Days of Future Past. In this case, his machinations with the original X-Men happen during a larger storyline where Senator Kelly proposes a Mutant Registration Act which could easily lead to the Sentinel-ruled dystopia. Matching that, the Days of Future Past movie also took some elements from the next arc on our list…
Age of Apocalypse
A botched time-travel mission results in Xavier being killed before the X-Men are founded, so a repentant Magneto assembles the team instead–and right when Apocalypse awakens ahead of schedule. The “butterfly effect” makes everything else go topsy-turvy in this arc’s alternate timeline. Apocalypse conquers Earth, good guys like Cyclops and Beast become his villainous agents, bad guys like Sabretooth and Toad become heroes, mutants like Scarlet Witch are killed before their heroic careers begin, and characters who died in the main timeline, like Blink, survive for earlier starts at kicking ass.
There’s no retroactive assassination, but the events of the Days of Future Past have similarly turned the movies’ alternate chronology upside-down. Apocalypse re-awakens early (he never woke in the original timeline, remember), the ex-villainess Mystique leads the X-Men in desperate times, and characters who died in the first timeline–like Cyclops and Jean Grey–get earlier shots to kick more ass.
Rise of Apocalypse
Even evil overlords can be heroes when they’re young, and En Sabah Nur basically gets to be the Scorpion King here. After this hideous, forsaken baby is discovered by a band of nomads in the sands of ancient Egypt, the young overlord is raised to live by “survival of the fittest.” And when his whole clan is murdered, Nur becomes a slave to lead an uprising against the tyrannical pharaoh who called the hit.
The Clan Akkaba who worship Apocalypse through the ages as a cult are more-or-less introduced here. And interestingly, the pharaoh ‘Poc usurps is Rama-Tut, a time-traveler who similarly assumes different guises in different eras. Rama-Tut is part of the Fantastic Four’s rogues gallery, so if the talk of a FF/X-Men cinematic crossover ever comes to fruition, it actually could’ve happened in Apocalypse.
One of the most winding sub-plots in X-Men history concerned the prophecy of “the Twelve,” a pantheon of powerful mutants who’d be involved in the end times. Somehow. It was quite vague, as prophecies go. Eventually, we learn it’s all a scheme for an old, withered Apocalypse to transfer his mind into the body of a younger mutant (it ends up being Cyclops) and also steal the rest of the Twelve’s powers. He pulls off the latter with the aid of the Living Monolith, a self-styled pharaoh who can absorb other mutants’ energy.
Apocalypse’s body-swapping, power-stealing schemes come largely from this arc, and he’s been combined with Living Monolith, an even-older X-Men villain, for the sake of plot simplicity. The Big A’s Herald also factors into this arc, and in the new movie, he’s angling to forcibly enlist a new one.
What story arcs involving the ‘Poc would you want to see in a major motion picture? Does “the First One” still seem mysterious after this? Hit the talkback with your thoughts.
Image Credits: Marvel