Comics
Published May 16, 2024

Meet Apocalypse, the X-Men's Ancient Nemesis

Who is En Sabah Nur? Learn about the origins of Apocalypse, the ancient mutant whose grand plans for mutantkind often put him in conflict with the X-Men.

Patience is a virtue, and no one understands that better than Apocalypse. As one of the first mutants on Earth, Apocalypse is a relic of an ancient past, but he also casts a looming shadow over the myriad futures he seems destined to rule. 

In the present, Apocalypse is one of the X-Men's most dangerous foes, but he has also been one of mutantkind's most unlikely champions. Through his immense power, arcane knowledge, and advanced alien technology, Apocalypse has turned dedicated X-Men into his loyal Horsemen, but he has also joined the X-Men for seismic battles and stood as an ally to Professor X and Magneto.

Now, let's take a closer look at Apocalypse and how his ruthless worldview made him a force to be reckoned with across every era of the Marvel Universe and beyond.

THE RISE OF APOCALYPSE

Long before he debuted as a modern day X-Men villain in Louise Simonson and Butch Guice's X-FACTOR (1986) #6, Apocalypse was born roughly 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Because of his gray skin and the blue lines on his face, the infant Apocalypse was abandoned, but he was taken in by the nomadic Baal of the Crimson Sands, as revealed in RISE OF APOCALYPSE (1996) #1 by Terry Kavanagh and Adam Pollina

The young mutant took the name En Sabah Nur and adopted Baal's "survival of the fittest" philosophy. Apocalypse discovered his mutant power to control his molecular structure while fighting the forces of a time-traveling Kang the Conqueror, who posed as the pharaoh Rama-Tut. He also helped turn back a Brood invasion in Egypt.

En Sabah Nur eventually ruled the island Okkara, where he had four children—the First Horsemen of Apocalypse—with his wife Genesis. Under the leadership of Annihilation, a legion of demons from the hellish Amenth dimension attacked Okkara, which was split into the islands Krakoa and Arakko, as revealed in X-MEN (2019) #12 by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu

To stop the demons from overwhelming Earth's mutants, Genesis, the First Horsemen, and the mutants of Arakko sealed themselves in Amenth. Apocalypse remained on Earth to prepare mutants for their eventual return.

THE CELESTIALS AND MISTER SINISTER

As the centuries went on, Apocalypse fostered conflict around the world. After he built an alien Sphinx ship, Apocalypse was approached by a race of godlike aliens called the Celestials, as detailed by a story in X-MEN (2004) #186 by Peter Milligan and Casey Jones. Apocalypse agreed to be a Celestial caretaker who fostered the continued evolution of mutantkind, and he received numerous cybernetic upgrades from the Celestials in return. Although Apocalypse had to hibernate to restore his power, these upgrades extended his life and significantly increased his powers.

As Apocalypse gathered followers like the reformed Clan Akkaba, he faced ancient heroes like Thor, played a crucial role in making Dracula a vampire, and dealt with his peers in the Externals, a group of effectively immortal mutants. Apocalypse also had his first battle with a time-traveling Cable, who defeated him but increased his power by exposing him to the Techno-Organic Virus. 

In Victorian England, Apocalypse turned scientist Nathaniel Essex into his servant, Mister Sinister, in FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CYCLOPS & PHOENIX (1996) #2 by Peter Milligan and John Paul Leon. Although Essex initially appeared to be Apocalypse's loyal servant, Sinister and the mutant-obsessed clones who replaced him developed a centuries-long feud with their ancient mutant creator.

APOCALYPSE VS. THE X-MEN

After decades of hibernation, Apocalypse awoke to a world with a growing mutant population. With his short-lived Alliance of Evil, Apocalypse confronted the original X-Men, who were operating as X-Factor at the time. 

While assembling his new team of Horsemen, Apocalypse recruited Angel, who had recently lost his wings. After going through Apocalypse's process, Warren Worthington III emerged with a new set of razor-sharp wings as Apocalypse's brainwashed Horseman of Death, Archangel, in X-FACTOR (1986) #23 by Louise Simonson and Walt Simonson. Archangel ultimately escaped his programming and rejoined the X-Men.

Eventually, Apocalypse realized Cyclops' son, Nathan Summers, would grow up to be his old foe, Cable. To weaken the powerful Cable, Apocalypse had the infant infected with the Techno-Organic Virus. Cyclops sent his son into the distant future, where he could be healed by members of the Clan Askani, in X-FACTOR (1986) #68 by Chris ClaremontJim Lee, and Whilce Portacio.

In an alternate reality future ruled by an aging Apocalypse, the Askani created a clone of Nathan as they attempted to save the infant. The future Apocalypse captured the clone and raised him as his cruel successor, Stryfe

After a young Cable killed his future's Apocalypse, Stryfe tried to take over his empire and traveled to the present, where he confronted a hibernating Apocalypse. When Stryfe and Mister Sinister teamed up to attack the X-Men in X-CUTIONER'S SONG, Apocalypse briefly worked with the X-Men and their allies to stop them before going back into hibernation.

APOCALYPSE AND THE TWELVE

While Apocalypse slept in preparation for his next attack, the X-Men were briefly shunted into the Age of Apocalypse, an alternate reality where Apocalypse took over the world, in X-MEN: ALPHA (1995) #1 by Scott LobdellMark Waid, Roger Cruz, and Steve Epting. Although the proper timeline was eventually restored, several characters from that world found their way to the main Marvel Universe. 

When Apocalypse awoke, he gathered a group of powerful mutants called the Twelve to help him move his mind into the body of X-Man (Nate Grey), the Cable from the Age of Apocalypse timeline. Although he attempted to brainwash Wolverine into serving him as the Horseman of Death, Apocalypse failed when Cyclops interrupted the process and temporarily merged with him in X-MEN (1991) #97 by Alan Davis and Terry Kavanagh.

After the Scarlet Witch decimated the world's mutant population during HOUSE OF M (2005), Apocalypse returned and vowed to save mutants by wiping out most of humanity in X-MEN (2004) #182 by Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca. Apocalypse recruited Gambit, Sunfire, and Polaris as his new Horsemen, but he was ultimately defeated by the X-Men and the New Avengers.

THE SHADOW OF APOCALYPSE

In UNCANNY X-FORCE (2010) #1 by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña, Apocalypse returned in the body of a child after his last battle almost killed him. When Wolverine's X-Force team found him, Fantomex—an assassin created by the Weapon Plus Program—executed him. However, he secretly cloned the young Apocalypse and raised him in a wholesome artificial simulation. 

Taking the name Evan Sabahnur and the codename Genesis, this young mutant helped X-Force defeat Archangel, who tried to fill Apocalypse's role as the Celestial caretaker. Genesis went on to join the young mutants of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, where Deadpool mentored him. Although Evan became a valued member of the young X-Men, he was killed in an alternate reality created by Nate Grey.

During the APOCALYPSE WARS crossover, several X-Men teams faced threats related to Apocalypse. While investigating several potential new mutants, Colossus and a small team traveled to a future ruled by Apocalypse in EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN (2015) #8 by Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos. After turning Colossus into his Horseman, this Apocalypse was killed by Nightcrawler

When the modern day Apocalypse resurfaced, he devolved into a more primitive state before transferring his mind into a more durable body in a story in X-MEN: BLACK – JUGGERNAUT (2018) #1 by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, and Geraldo Borges.

APOCALYPSE JOINS THE X-MEN

When the world's mutants came together on the island Krakoa, Apocalypse joined them in HOUSE OF X (2019) #5 by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz. After accepting Krakoa's amnesty offer and agreeing to abide by the island's laws, Apocalypse helped oversee the new nation as a member of the Quiet Council, the island's governing body. Apocalypse even set up the Crucible, a violent ritual where depowered mutants were killed in battle in order to be resurrected with their powers. 

On Krakoa, Apocalypse extensively studied mutant magic in an effort to reunite with his long-lost family and save the mutants of Arakko. He worked closely with Captain Britain (Betsy Braddock) and her team of mutants in EXCALIBUR (2019) #1 by Tini Howard and Marcus To

With help from his mystical apprentice Rictor, Apocalypse eventually made a path to Amenth through the magical realm of Otherworld. However, Apocalypse's wife, Genesis, had been possessed by Annihilation and turned against him, along with the rest of his family and Arakko's battle-hardened mutants.

APOCALYPSE AND X OF SWORDS

After attacking Apocalypse, Annihilation and the Arakki mutants prepared to invade Krakoa in X OF SWORDS: CREATION (2020) #1 by Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, and Pepe Larraz. To save Otherworld from all-out war, Saturnyne, Otherworld's ruler, officiated a tournament between the champions of Arakko and Krakoa. 

When that tournament devolved into a battle, Apocalypse briefly took control over Annihilation and surrendered on Arakko's behalf. Once the battle was done, Apocalypse traveled to Amenth with his family while the other mutants of Arakko returned to Earth.  

After years on Amenth, Annihilation began influencing Genesis again and compelled her to invade Mars, which the mutants of Arakko had transformed into their new home. However, Apocalypse turned against his family once more in X-MEN: BEFORE THE FALL – HERALDS OF APOCALYPSE (2023) #1 by Al Ewing, Luca Pizzari, Stefano Landini, and Raphael Pimento

As Genesis and her allies attacked the planet, Apocalypse returned to the Marvel Universe and helped Storm and her forces defeat his wife. Once that conflict was settled and his family was exiled once more, Apocalypse returned to Earth and helped the X-Men take on the anti-mutant organization Orchis, reaffirming himself as the unlikely savior of mutantkind.

Want to read more about Apocalypse? Join Marvel Unlimited for instant access to 30,000+ comics on the Marvel Unlimited app or on the web, with digital issues spanning Marvel Comics classics to ongoing series!

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