Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse wasted one of Marvel’s greatest mutant villains – but the truth is, the comics have failed Apocalypse just as badly.
Marvel has failed the X-Men villain Apocalypse both in the movies and in the comics. Introduced in the comics back in the ’80s, Apocalypse is traditionally viewed as a classic X-Men villain. He’s a powerful mutant who wields the power of the Celestials, and he’s typically been devoted to a fanatical doctrine of “survival of the fittest,” seeking to prune the weak from the gene pool. Apocalypse is particularly well known for creating several iterations of Horsemen, sworn servants who are mutated by Celestial technology and brainwashed to do his bidding.
Apocalypse finally hit the big screen in 2016’s appropriately-titled X-Men: Apocalypse, but unfortunately, viewers were underwhelmed. Oscar Isaac played the role, and his heart just didn’t seem to be in it, and the CGI and visual design just didn’t work. The third act was actually fairly well designed, a literal “apocalypse” – the unveiling of Jean Grey as the Phoenix, with the powerful telepath and telekinetic defeating Apocalypse with ease. Unfortunately even that didn’t age well, because X-Men: Dark Phoenix took a totally different approach to the Phoenix. The result was a plot hole so large it literally consumed X-Men: Apocalypse‘s entire third act.
Oddly enough, Captain America Annual #1 subtly revealed the comics have failed Apocalypse as well. The issue sees Captain America review the “Abaddon Index,” a list of potential extinction-level threats compiled by the now-defunct SHIELD. According to the Abaddon Index, the greatest threats facing the Earth are the cosmic beings Galactus, Thanos, and Annihilus; interdimensional entities Shuma-Gorath and Mephisto; and the mutant villain Apocalypse. The problem is, when readers compare the actions of the other beings named on the Abaddon Index with Apocalypse, they swiftly realize he’s done nothing to earn his inclusion there.
Apocalypse has only ever really demonstrated his potential in alternate timelines or dystopian futures. The classic Age of Apocalypse epic, for example, revealed a twisted timeline in which Charles Xavier was killed before he ever founded the X-Men, and in which Apocalypse rose to power and conquered North America. Meanwhile, comics such as The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix have revealed horrific futures where Apocalypse had come to dominate, crafting mutant supremacist states. But this potential has never been seen in the present day of the main timeline – all the more remarkable considering how many times Marvel’s told tales in which the world was conquered by Hydra, the Dark Elves, or Knull. Frankly, going by actions in continuity, Magneto has more reason to appear on the Abaddon Index. During Fatal Attractions, he unleashed an electromagnetic pulse that ravaged the entire planet Earth.
Marvel Comics has failed Apocalypse, too. But it’s possible things will change for the ancient mutant, because in the Jonathan Hickman era he gained acceptance as a key player on the mutant nation of Krakoa, only for Apocalypse to leave this dimension with his wife. Apocalypse now wields a corrupting being from the world of Ananth, known only as Annihilation, and if he ever returns to Earth, he may be more of a villain than ever before – his worst impulses enhanced by Annihilation. It remains to be seen whether Marvel will take this approach, but that’s probably the only way they could make the X-Men foe worthy to appear on the Abaddon Index.