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Apocalypse is a character from various comic books and graphic novels published by Marvel Comics. The character made his debut in the mid-1980s X-Men spin-off series, X-Factor (vol. 1, 1986-1991), and was created by writer Louise Simonson and artist Jackson Guice. Apocalypse was introduced in X-Factor as a centuries-old mutant obsessed with the Social Darwinist philosophy of survival of the fittest. The character employs highly advanced technology in his schemes, such as transforming Angel into one of his Four Horsemen and infecting Cyclops' son with a "techno-organic virus". Although the character first appeared in X-Factor, the unnamed benefactor of the Living Monolith in Marvel Graphic Novel #17 (1985), has been identified as Apocalypse in disguise. The supervillain Moses Magnum who fought the X-Men during the late 1970s, was retconned into being a minion of Apocalypse in Classic X-Men #25 (vol. 1, September 1988). Apocalypse's real name, En Sabah Nur, including his birthplace (Egypt), and the alien origin of his technology, was revealed in a flashback in X-Force #37 (vol. 1, August 1994). The origin story of Apocalypse relates that he is the first mutant, born 5,000 years ago. In 1995, the popular storyline known as the Age of Apocalypse was created, an alternate timeline in which Apocalypse has conquered much of the world, which temporarily replaced the main Marvel universe.
In 2008, Apocalypse was ranked #3 at Marvel.com on their list of Top 10 X-Men villains over the past four decades.
The writer of the first five issues of X-Factor, Bob Layton, intended to use the Daredevil villain Owl as the "the master" of the Alliance of Evil, mentioned in X-Factor #4 (vol. 1, May 1986). When Layton however was removed from the book and replaced with Louise Simonson, she requested that the last page of X-Factor #5 be changed to a shadowy character named Apocalypse, as Simonson wanted a new character to be the main villain for the book. Apocalypse was the principal adversary of X-Factor, until being apparently killed at the climax of issue #68 (July 1991). The character returns in X-Men #14 (vol. 2, November 1992), part of the X-Cutioner's Song crossover; though, the character is again, apparently killed off at the end of this crossover, in X-Force #18 (vol. 1, January 1992).
During the Onslaught crossover, Apocalypse is resurrected in Uncanny X-Men #335 (vol. 1, August 1996). The origin story of Apocalypse is detailed the following year, in the character's own four-issue miniseries, titled Rise of Apocalypse, written by Terry Kavanagh and penciled by Adam Pollina. The same year, Apocalypse plays a part in the origin of Exodus in Black Knight: Exodus, and Mister Sinister in The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix.
In January 2000, the mysterious storyline of The Twelve finally unfolded, in which Apocalypse plays a major part. The story arc is followed by a series of sub-chapters, Ages of Apocalypse, and a four-issue limited miniseries, The Search for Cyclops. After six years, Apocalypse returned in X-Men vol. 2, #181 (2006), for the Blood of Apocalypse storyline, which was followed by two prologues: Cable & Deadpool #26 & 27 and the X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula miniseries.
Rise of Apocalypse
The story of Apocalypse begins 3000 BC Egypt during the First Dynasty. Born gray-skinned (although Apocalypse's skin color is sometimes depicted with different human pigment variations) and blue-lipped with natural facial markings, in the settlement of Akkaba, he is abandoned as an infant, but found by a band of desert nomads, the Sandstormers, whose leader, Baal, sees the child's potential power, and raises him as his own, naming him En Sabah Nur. He is taught in the philosophy that the tribe lives and dies by: survival of the fittest. Nur and Baal are the only Sandstormers to survive on the day that General Ozymandias with his army, destroys the Sandstormers tribe, as they find refuge in a sacred cave before it collapsed. Baal eventually dies from lack of nourishment after weeks of deprivation, but before he does, he admits to Nur that he had believed him to be a savior foretold in ancient prophecies who is destined to overthrow the pharaoh Rama-Tut. The young Nur vows to take revenge on the pharaoh and claim his destiny. He hides himself as a slave in Tut's city, where he has visions of Egyptian gods who reveal his great destiny.
The pharaoh Rama-Tut, in actuality an earlier incarnation of Kang the Conqueror who had come back in time to locate the young Apocalypse and take him under his wing, tries to convince Nur to join him, but the young mutant savagely attacks the pharaoh only to be taken down by the conqueror's futuristic weapon. Nur survives, and tries to rescue Nephri, Ozymandias' sister, who had become attracted to the mysterious slave, but Nur is ultimately rejected by Nephri for his inhuman appearance, and she turns to her brother for protection in her panic. Heartbroken by this final rejection, En Sabah Nur's prodigious mutant abilities fully emerge in his enraged state, and he renames himself Apocalypse. Rama-Tut flees the former slave's rampage, while Nur uses his advanced technology to enslave and transform his former tormentor, Ozymandias, into a blind seer made of living stone, who would forever chronicle Apocalypse's future destinies. Fifty years later, Nur revisits Nephri, now an elderly Egyptian Queen on her deathbed, and mocks the loss of her beauty and vitality, in contrast to his own unchanged appearance, despite the passage of time.
As the millenia pass, Apocalypse travels around the world to determine if his time of testing had come. He appears throughout history, encouraging civilizations to worship him as a god from several ancient mythologies and testing their strength by manipulating them into fighting wars of conquest, and claiming to have brought "growth, judgment, and destruction." Apocalypse begins to beget progeny, who faithfully followed him as the Clan Akkaba. At some point, Apocalypse discovers advanced alien technology, which he uses to transform and enhance himself. Apocalypse now enters states of suspended animation, while he waits for mutants to become more common, leaving Clan Akkaba and Ozymandias to act in his stead while he sleeps. Apocalypse has some history of having fought the race of godlike immortals known as Eternals, primarily the members Ikaris and Sersi, having been referred to as their "Ancient Nemesis". In the 12th century, Apocalypse would re-encounter the Eternal Sersi, when he came across the crusader Bennet du Paris and awakens his latent mutant powers, transforming him into Exodus.
In Victorian London, 1859, Apocalypse encounters Nathaniel Essex, a British scientist, and through him, learns the scientific term for beings like himself – mutant. Coercing Essex and members of the Hellfire Club into working for him, Apocalypse plots the first steps in his quest for global conflict on an unprecedented scale. He uses his advanced technology to transform Nathaniel into Mister Sinister, and commands him to create a plague to ravage and transmute the population of the world. At the same time, the mutant heroes Cyclops and Phoenix had been sent back through time to stop Apocalypse. Close to slaying the British Royal Family, Apocalypse is suddenly greatly weakened, and Cyclops and Phoenix manage to defeat him. It is revealed that Sinister had betrayed Apocalypse, seeing his vision of the future as madness, and had instead created a plague that attacked only Apocalypse, forcing the ancient mutant into his hibernation sanctuary. In 1897, Apocalypse is awakened by his followers, in order to deal with Dracula, who is turning members of Clan Akkaba into vampires to battle Apocalypse, as revenge for his earlier defeat centuries ago as Vlad Tepes. Apocalypse, with some assistance from Abraham Van Helsing, kills Dracula. The continuation of the Akkaba line is secured by Ozymandias through a disabled but powerful teleporter named Frederick Slade mating with a woman.
Apocalypse spends many years hidden, but awakes from his slumber by the arrival of the mysterious time-traveling mutant Cable (ironically, Cable had come to the present to prevent the ancient mutant's awakening). Awakened almost a century earlier than he had planned, Apocalypse decides to examine the world and determine its conditions for testing. He grants superhuman powers to the terrorist known as Moses Magnum, who does his bidding by testing the strong and winnowing the weak, battling the X-Men and the Avengers. Apocalypse first crosses paths with the original X-Men team (then organized as the mutant hunting group, X-Factor) when he briefly employs the Alliance of Evil, and orders them to capture the mutant Michael Nowlan. Apocalypse plans to use Nowlan's power-boosting mutation to provide mutantkind with unlimited power. This plan was foiled by the interference of the X-Factor team.
Apocalypse later recruits mutants to serve as his Four Horsemen. Among them is Angel, whom Apocalypse saves from an exploding plane, granting him artificial wings (after he had lost his own natural wings) in exchange for his servitude. The X-Factor member is reborn as Death. Apocalypse summons the X-Factor team to his cloaked ship, which floats invisibly above the city. Apocalypse was interested in this group of mutants and had studied them, monitored their activities and researched their origins and motives after learning of Professor Xavier and the X-Men. Apocalypse explains his scheme to unleash his Horsemen and destroy New York, and offers X-Factor a place at his side. In the end, the Horsemen are defeated by X-Factor, thanks to the help of both the reformed Angel as well as Power Pack. Apocalypse leaves his Celestial Ship for them and in return, takes the willing Morlock Caliban. Afterwards, Apocalypse secretly takes some control over the ship, and it starts to fight X-Factor, but they regain control. Apocalypse escapes with Caliban to one of his bases at Mount Everest.
During the Evolutionary War, Apocalypse, confronts the High Evolutionary who had embarked on a quest to rid the world of a lesser species that he felt were preventing evolution from moving forward. Believing that the Evolutionary was disrupting the natural order of things, Apocalypse commenced battle with Wyndham. In the end, because of the High Evolutionary's actions, it helped the species evolve and grow stronger which ironically helped Apocalypse's plan of weeding out the weak and forcing the strong to rise. Following the genetic manipulation of Caliban, Apocalypse is confronted by the Norse god Loki, who wants him to join his "Acts of Vengeance", but Apocalypse refuses and the two briefly fight.
Sins of the Future
Apocalypse learns of Sinister's intention to create an adversary powerful enough to destroy him; Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, the son of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor. Apocalypse, viewing him as a threat and realizing that Nathan's energy is the very energy that awoke him all those months earlier, sends his newly formed group, the Riders of the Storm, to abduct the Summers child. Apocalypse at this time had conquered the city of Attilan, home of the Inhumans, and enslaved part of its population. X-Factor, alongside the Inhuman Royal Family, attacks Apocalypse's lunar stronghold. Although Apocalypse is severely defeated, the young Nathan is infected with a techno-organic virus, and is sent to the future with a woman named Askani to be cured.
In the future, Apocalypse has conquered the world and ruled until the 39th century. By this time, Apocalypse's body had grown feeble; he becomes aware of the young Nathan's presence in this time, but only succeeds in kidnapping a clone of the child which the Askani created. Apocalypse plans to transfer his consciousness and power into the clone's stronger body, but perishes in combat with the (real) teenage Nathan. Nathan grows up to become the warrior Cable (while his clone grows up to become the mutant terrorist known as Stryfe,) and travels back to the past to prevent Apocalypse's future domination of the planet.
In the present, Apocalypse is prematurely awoken from his regeneration chamber by his Riders (now calling themselves, The Dark Riders), who inform their master that his Horsemen has kidnapped Cyclops and Jean Grey, supposedly under his instructions (in actuality, Mister Sinister, who was posing as Apocalypse). When attempting to rejuvenate himself again, Apocalypse is nearly killed by Stryfe who had arrived in the past to take revenge on Apocalypse. At the end of this conflict, Apocalypse is presumed deceased due to his two recent attempts at regeneration having been interrupted, and after a brief battle on the Moon with his former servants, the Dark Riders (who had joined Stryfe), Apocalypse is left for dead by Archangel.
The Dark Rider's new leader, Genesis - the son of Cable, who had traveled to the present to ensure Apocalypse's rise and exact revenge on his father - plans to resurrect Apocalypse by sacrificing the lives of the people in villages neighboring Akkaba. During this time, Wolverine is held captive by Genesis, who attempts to restore Wolverine's lost adamantium skeleton and turn him into a Horseman as a gift for Apocalypse. However, Wolverine breaks free and mutates into a feral state, and then kills Genesis along with nearly all of the Dark Riders. (Ironically enough, Apocalypse himself would repeat Genesis's scheme of reinforcing Wolverine's skeleton with adamantium again and brainwashing him into servitude, succeeding where Genesis had failed.) During the fight, Cannonball opens the sarcophagus containing Apocalypse's body, but finds it empty, and wonders if Genesis was either lying about Apocalypse, or was delusional, or maybe Apocalypse had gotten up and left by himself. It should be noted that Apocalypse was seen alive before this.
After a long healing slumber, Apocalypse, fully restored, awakens with Ozymandias at his side and quickly learns of the present danger: Onslaught. He observes the conflict between the psionic entity and Earth's heroes with Uatu the Watcher, who suggests to Apocalypse a course of action; an alliance with the one who hated him the most, Cable. Apocalypse surmises that Onslaught would be most vulnerable through the astral plane, and that he needs Cable for actual physical transportation to this realm. Once on the astral plane, Apocalypse would remove the captive Franklin Richards, greatly weakening Onslaught. The plan succeeds, but is interrupted by the Invisible Woman, who had invisibly accompanied the pair, having suspected Apocalypse's motive in wanting to actually kill her son. However, the reprieve in battle gave Onslaught the time to escape, prolonging the conflict.
Following the events of the Onslaught saga, the gamma-spawned powerhouse, the Hulk and his human alter ego, Banner, are split into two separate entities; Hulk now draws upon energy derived from Franklin Richards' pocket universe; Apocalypse recruits the Hulk to become his Horseman, War, with intentions of using the Hulk's nexus-energy to overcome the Celestials. To test this newest recruit, Apocalypse set War against the New World Order, a shadow cabinet organization that intends to conquer the world. The New World Order in turn set the Juggernaut and the Absorbing Man against War, but both are easily defeated. However, Hulk comes to his senses after injuring his friend, Rick Jones. Despite this apparent setback, the incident was still a victory for Apocalypse as it was a successful testing of newly understood Celestial technology. Apocalypse activates the self-destruct mechanism on the sword of War, which the New World Order had obtained, destroying their headquarters.
The Hellfire Club later awakens Apocalypse's long-hidden Harbinger from its deep sleep; originally a normal man, whom Apocalypse in the 19th century once left to incubate for 100 years. Apocalypse releases his Horseman (Caliban) and his scribe Ozymandias from his possession, to fend for themselves, if they were to survive the coming events. Cable with the Avengers battles the Harbinger, but are unable to stop it. Apocalypse then appears, activating a bomb inside the Harbinger which would destroy all of New York, but Cable manages to prevent this disaster.
When Magneto is disrupting Earth's magnetic field, Apocalypse sends a Skrull impersonating the mutant Astra (having dealt with the original Astra) to stop the Master of Magnetism.
Intending to start an all-out war between the humans and the subterranean-dwelling Deviants as part of his plan to test the strong, Apocalypse sets off nuclear warheads at Lemuria, causing the Deviants to further mutate (which also restores Ikaris's father Virako to life). Apocalypse launches an attack at San Francisco, using a mentally controlled Deviant, Karkas, now a gigantic monster, that the Eternals are forced to battle. Apocalypse is confronted by his centuries-old foe, Ikaris, who now is a Prime Eternal. Although, Apocalypse defeats Ikaris, the Eternal still succeeds in destroying his ship and thwarting his plan.
Supposedly lost diaries of the mutant seer Destiny surfaced, telling of twelve beings that could defeat Apocalypse once and for all. Various mutants, all listed in the prophecy, are abducted by Apocalypse's Horsemen including a faction of the Skrulls. The Twelve legend was in fact a ruse, orchestrated by Apocalypse himself; once the Twelve are assembled, Apocalypse intended to use them to transform himself into a godlike entity beyond the Celestials. It is revealed at the end of this story arc, that Apocalypse's physical form has been burned out due to the vast amount of energies he has under his control, forcing him to wear a bio-armor (like his future counterpart), and now plans to use Nate Grey as a host body for him to move his energy and consciousness into. The X-Men confront Apocalypse as he is close to merging with Nate, but are unable to stop him. Cyclops however, pushes Nate Grey out of the way, merging with Apocalypse instead. While the merge is successful, Apocalypse's aim for unlimited power is not, and he attempts to complete the transformation by warping reality into various scenarios (see Ages of Apocalypse). Apocalypse hoped to lull the Twelve into empowering him with their energy, but eventually, the mutants realize their true predicament and Apocalypse teleports away.
An amnesiac and powerless Cyclops regains control of the merged form, but Apocalypse begins to re-emerge. Jean and Cable are alerted to his location in Egypt, where Jean in the end manages to free Cyclops by telepathically tearing out Apocalypse's essence from her husband's body, rendering Apocalypse in an incorporeal astral form, which Cable apparently destroys using his Psimitar.
Blood of Apocalypse
Due to the events of M-Day, in which most of the mutants lost their powers, Apocalypse was revealed to be alive and well. The techno-organic virus, with which he long ago infected Cable, was revealed to be the means by which Apocalypse's spirit reconstituted itself. With only a drop of his blood into a vat of organs and blood, the virus would rewrite the genetic code of the material within to form a body for Apocalypse. Apocalypse awakes from a slumber in a tomb in Akkaba, recalling:
“ "Across the world — helpless mutants slaughtered. Pogroms. Horror. ...Something has woken me from my slumber. Once, a sudden surge in worldwide mutant power stirred me from a similar sleep. Now — a plummet in global mutant capacity — has opened my eyes". ”
Apocalypse finds himself in a world with its mutant population reduced to a tenth of what it had been, out of the millions who populated earth prior to his demise at Cable's hands. Reappearing inside a Sphinx-shaped ship, Apocalypse confronts the X-Men with his newly assembled cadre of Horsemen on the front lawn of the X-Mansion. The Horseman Famine uses his powers to cause an intense feeling of hunger and weakness in the mutants and humans on the institute grounds. Apocalypse offers the mutants an elixir; his own blood, provided they join his side. Bent on becoming the new messiah for mutant-kind, Apocalypse approaches the world leaders at the United Nations in New York and issues an ultimatum: humanity would destroy ninety percent of its own population, putting man and mutant on level ground in anticipation of the final conflict when the worthy alone would survive - or Apocalypse would unleash his meta-plague on the world and obliterate all humanity.
In the end, Apocalypse's horsemen are lost, Ozymandias betrays him, and he is forced to retreat by combined assault of the X-Men and the Avengers. Ultimately, it is discovered that the Celestials lent their technology to Apocalypse, requiring as payment greater sufferings later. He attempts to embrace death as an escape from his lifelong pact, only to find himself instantly resurrected and hearing a voice: "We cannot let you die. Not yet. It is time Apocalypse… it is time".
Characterizations of Apocalypse have varied through the years. In his initial appearances, Apocalypse was depicted as a mutant supremacist, but he slowly became more of a character with concerns of the evolution of mankind and how it must progress; he tests mankind to provide his own form of natural selection, culling the weak from the strong in order for humanity to grow stronger. Apocalypse is sometimes portrayed as a malevolent and megalomaniacal despot, bent on conquering the world as the self-considered fittest. Apocalypse's strong belief in survival of the fittest has made him a considerably complex foe. Even when seemingly defeated, his plans have meant that even a loss is a victory; in his first encounter with the X-Men, when the mutant team had defeated his Alliance of Evil, Apocalypse, much to Cyclops' confusion, displayed satisfaction, stating that they had done well and that their "assistance" has been invaluable and he will find them again when he needs their help in winnowing out the weak. Apocalypse also did not consider X-Factor foiling his plan of destroying New York with his Horsemen a defeat, but a victory of lesser degree; not only had X-Factor proved that they were among the strong, but division now existed with his former Horseman joining the team, and as they now controlled his Celestial ship, Apocalypse predicted that it would cause distrust between the mutant group and the New York human populace. Apocalypse has shown to admire his servants when they are standing up to him; as his former Horseman Archangel had come to his senses, refusing to serve him any longer and attacking him, Apocalypse responded saying "Excellent! Strong in mind, as well as body!" In addition, Apocalypse did not kill Sinister upon learning of his treachery but forgave him, seeing strength in Sinister's defiance, although with the understanding that it would not be tolerated again.
Apocalypse is unaccustomed to engage in physical confrontation, and instead prefers to manipulate figures, and events behind-the-scenes. He is cruel, vicious, sadistic, and masochistic; during the X-Cutioner's Song, when his entire body was falling apart, it was said that Apocalypse had not been this happy in a thousand years, and Apocalypse stated that he took joy in the struggle of his pain.
In his latest appearances, Apocalypse's personality has drastically changed. He has displayed benevolence, feeling too many mutants have needlessly died, and hesitating to unleash his Horseman Pestilence to wipe out all of humanity.
Powers and abilities
Apocalypse is portrayed as one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel universe, exceeding even that of his former minion, the Harbinger in power, who was capable of going toe-to-toe with the Avengers and Cable at the same time. Even when in a severely weakened, dying state, Apocalypse has been shown to be capable of fighting and defeating the combined strengths of the X-Men.
Apocalypse possesses several superhuman powers rather than a singular mutant ability, unlike other mutants. He further augmented himself by Celestial technology, though it is unclear if these enhancements granted him any additional powers beyond what he already possessed. His powers appear to change according to the story's need and/or the creative team's desires; Apocalypse was initially portrayed as a shape-shifter with the ability to teleport himself and others over unknown distances, but his powers have been greatly expanded since then, and he has displayed immense strength, near invulnerability, rapid regeneration, energy absorbing and projecting, as well as some telepathic and telekinetic capabilities.
Apocalypse has complete control over the atomic structure of his body — can alter his form as it suits him; allow his body to become extremely malleable, change his density and even increase his size and strength by taking on additional mass from an extra-dimensional source. Apocalypse can stretch, or contort his limbs and body into a multitude of shapes and sizes, with elasticity and flexibility far beyond the natural human limits. He can open holes through his body to avoid attacks. He is able to form various weapons (e.g. blades, hammers, guns, or shields) with parts of his body, including wings or jets to enable flight. He is also able to adapt his body to apparently any disease or environment. On one occasion, he has shown the ability to phase his hand through another object/person. Through his shape-shifting ability, Apocalypse can give himself virtually any physical superhuman power and transform himself into a vast variety of disguises.
Thanks to his mutant power of immortality, Apocalypse is immune to ageing. He does not need sustenance of any kind, and his body produces practically no fatigue toxins during physical activity, enabling him to exert himself at peak capacity indefinitely. Apparently Apocalypse belongs to a sub-species of immortal mutants known as the Externals. He has been referred to as an External on several occasions, however, his longevity is believed by Selene as mostly due to technological means. Although, Apocalypse was already many centuries old before his first encounter with the technology with which he would later integrate himself. To note, Selene herself needs to maintain her supply of life force that she drains from living victims.
Aside from his superhuman powers, Apocalypse is extraordinarily intelligent and wise. His knowledge in various areas of science and technology, primarily genetics and biology, is far more advanced than conventional science; even Beast needed Apocalypse's expertise in biology to cure Xavier of a techno-organic virus. Apocalypse has mastery of Celestial technology that he uses for his own applications, such as altering mutants or humans (he is able to directly interface with the various technologies he has at his disposal). Apocalypse is a skilled demagogue, able to turn even the greatest of the X-Men to his side. He is also a master strategist; Apocalypse revealed to his Skrull allies during the gathering of the Twelve that he had been precisely preparing every single one of his plans and plots for centuries, using hundreds of generations of pawns and peons, both human and mutant, all to reach the specific end goal of evolving to a level of power beyond even the Celestials themselves.
The exact origin of Apocalypse's technology has been inconstant throughout the years. Originally, writer Fabian Nicieza revealed in X-Force #37 (1993) that Apocalypse (as En Sabah Nur) in the middle of the 12th century discovered a starship of the Celestials in China that had crashed on a mountain ages ago.
By the end of the Blood of Apocalypse storyline, it is revealed that Apocalypse built a pseudo-Celestial ship from alien “blueprints” in Egypt, and that the Celestials loaned their technology to Apocalypse in return for an unknown, yet to be revealed, favor. Nevertheless, Nicieza the following year in Cable & Deadpool #27, continued his contradicting version involving the crashed Celestial Ship in China.
The meaning of En Sabah Nur can be interpreted as "The First One" in modern Arabic. Translated from the Arabic language; En = most, ultimate / Sabah = morning / Nur = divine light, so this can be interpreted as First Light at the Break of Dawn. It is also a common greeting in Arabic "Sabah al nur.", meaning "Good morning." However, it is worth noting that modern Arabic did not exist in 3000 B.C., the languages that developed into them were confined to Arabian Peninsula and the modern-day Middle East at that time, and the language spoken by the Sandstormer tribe is not recorded.