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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Comics Explained: Apocalypse

Earlier this week the trailer for X-Men: Age of Apocalypse was released depicting the struggle between the X-Men in their early days and the new villain Apocalypse. Although Apocalypse was made last minute as a new villain for X-Factor #5 in 1986 (he only was seen in shadow in this issue but he would make his full appearance next issue) he quickly became one of Marvel's signature villains. Holding a vast array of powers including flight, superstrength, bio-molecular alteration and basically immortality he has plagued not only the X-Men but all of human life. Today we'll look at the life of Apocalypse.


Like many of Marvel's villains much of Apocalypse's backstory occurs years before his first appearance fighting the X-Force in X-Force #5. A child was born 5000 years ago in what is now Aqaba, Jordan but due to his grey skin and blue lines running across his face he was abandoned by his tribe. Soon after the leader of a band of nomadic raiders, the Sandstormers, called Baal of the Crimson Sands found the child and seeing potential adopted him. He named him En Sabah Nur meaning 'The First One' (his name actually means 'Good Morning' through an unintentional grammar error). Over the years En Sabah Nur grew to be stronger, smarter and more agile than the rest of the Sandstormers and was universally despised thanks to his skin by all except Baal. The ideology of the Sandstormers of survival of the fittest would leave a huge lasting impact on En Sabah Nur. The new pharaoh named Rama-Tut (who was actually the time travelling villain Kang the Conqueror) wiped out the Sandstormers except for Nur and Baal as he knew who Nur would become. Baal escapes with Nur to a cave where they find the remains of Tut's ship but Baal dies. However, before he does he tells Nur that he believes Nur is the one in a prophecy who would overthrow Tut. Nur became a slave in Tut's court vowing revenge against Tut and his vizier Ozymandias for their role in Baal's death. While a slave he hid his face and fell in love with Ozymandias's sister, Nephri. When she rejects him after seeing his face he loses control over his powers and goes to take his revenge. Tut tried to reason with Nur (hoping that Nur would become his protege) but he instead fled to the future and Nur threw Ozymandias into the remains of Tut's ship which altered the molecular structure of his body. Ozymandias turned into a sand like being who could see glimpses of the future after that and was enslaved by Nur, now calling himself Apocalypse. Apocalypse and his offspring created Clan Akkaba creating a new age for Egypt. After centuries he left, following endless war against Alexander the Great and later Rome, where he formulated plans for world conquest.

Early History
 Apocalypse would travel the world using his infamy to become a god in various cultures spaning the entire globe.
In 1150 A.D. he would travel to Mongolia hearing that an alien ship had crashed. After defeating the ruler who had claimed the ship he claimed it for himself. The ship was a Celestial ship and he infused himself with the technology of the Celestials. During the 15th Century he created his Four Horsemen, beings who he had given great power to who would be his most loyal servants. The ferocity of their warfare earned them a place in folklore. In 1459 Apocalypse and his Horsemen defeated Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) in single combat which forces Vlad the Impaler to become a vampire. In Victorian England, 1859 he would meet Dr Nathaniel Essex who would give Apocalypse a reason for his immortality and other powers. He was possibly the first member of the new stage in human evolution: a Mutant. Seeing potential in Essex he offered him a choice, a chance to expand his research and gain powers using Celestial technology in return for a life of servitude. Essex agreed and was transformed into the villain Mr Sinister. After a battle with Dracula he would go into hibernation to recover until the modern age...

Apocalypse in the Modern Age
Apocalypse would wake from his hibernation following the birth of Nathaniel Summers to Madelyn Pryor (explained later). Seeing that the mutant population had skyrocketed and that the Mutant Registration Act had been passed he decided to capitalize on it. Forming the Alliance of Evil out of angry or blackmailed mutants with their powers increased by his technology he decided to take on the X-Force. However, the X-Force defeated the Alliance and Apocalypse abandoned them assuming them weak. He would reform his Four Horsemen, including making Angel of the X-Men into Death by augmenting him with Celestial technology, and became a new threat for the X-Men. After several events this brings us onto the Sins of the Future arc in Cable vol. 2. It transpired that Mr Sinister created a clone of telepath and X-Men member Jean Grey called Madelyn Pryor so that she would have a child powerful enough to defeat Apocalypse. This son turned out to be Nathaniel Summers, the time-travelling Cable, and Apocalypse realized infant would later be partially responsible for his existence. He kidnapped the infant, injected him with the Techno-Organic Virus (thus creating the paradox which would create Apocalypse's need to hibernate) and tried to eject it over New York. This failed. Following this he would become a recurrent enemy for not only the X-Men, mainly Angel who tries to break ties with his former master.

Age of Apocalypse
The title of the new movie X-Men: Age of Apocalypse derives from an alternate reality story (which may feature as a part of the film's plot). Professor X's son Legion decides that to end the human-mutant fighting is to kill Magneto, who he saw as causing the animosity, before he could come to any form of power. However, when he travels back in time he arrives at the time when Magneto and Professor X were still friends. As Legion tries to kill Magneto Professor X stops him resulting in his death and Legion being wiped from time. This shift in time allows Apocalypse to wake years earlier than he did in the normal timeline and begin his campaign for dominance. Without the existence of the X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four or Spider-Man he is met with little successful resistance and manages to conquer North America and start his genocide of humanity. Canada and the United States became divided by Apocalypse and his supporters, Central America has disappeared, South America is referred to as 'The Atrocity Zone' and Brazil is known to have been destroyed by nuclear bombs and Japan and the Middle East was destroyed also by nuclear bombs. Europe and Africa have become the last surviving refuges for humanity and anti-Apocalypse mutants. Magneto now leads the resistance against Apocalypse using the X-Men to fight him and liberating humans from concentration camps.

I hope you enjoyed this post and look out next week for the start of a new series!

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