The X-Men are returning to theaters this month in their sixth big screen adventure, X-Men: Apocalypse, and a number of familiar faces are returning. Professor X is back as leader of the X-Men, as is their archenemy, Magneto. Beast is back as well as a member of the team, and so is Mystique, who will once again probably waver in her allegiance at some point in the film. But it's the boatload of new characters who are drawing the most attention, and none are bigger than the movie's titular villain. So who is Apocalypse, anyway?
Apocalypse, in both the film and in Marvel Comics continuity, is believed to be the world's first mutant. He was born in Ancient Egypt several thousand years ago as En Sabah Nur, and is essentially immortal. He hasn't aged in many centuries, but his powers don't end at turning back the clock. Although his powers are among the most loosely defined in the Marvel Universe, his most commonly depicted ability is that of molecular manipulation. He can alter his size to grow into a giant, and also alter his shape which can grant him new abilities; and he often utilizes this power by turning his arms into various forms of weaponry. He is also super strong, has psychic powers, and did I mention he's pretty much immortal?
In addition to his natural mutant abilities, Apocalypse also makes use of alien technology he first encountered in Ancient Egypt to improve both his abilities and the abilities of others. While the alien connection is never explicitly mentioned in the movie, the film does hint at it since aspects of his character, like his armor, are never fully explained.
Another hallmark of Apocalypse is that he always has four powerful generals, known as the Four Horseman. There have been numerous iterations of them in the comics, but in the film they consist of the following mutants: Psylocke, Archangel, Storm, and the most powerful of all, Magneto. Apocalypse uses his powers (or alien technology) to improve the Horsemen's abilities upon recruitment, which better equips them to do his bidding.
Other than his immense power, what really makes Apocalypse a great villain is his personal philosophy: "Survival of the fittest". Unlike Magneto, who believes that mutants are superior and should rule over other humans, Apocalypse believes that anyone he deems weak deserves to be destroyed, whether they're a mutant or not. If Apocalypse had his way, most people on Earth would be dead, with only a few survivors whom he considers strong enough allowed to live. It's a pretty harrowing thing to think about, and he actually once accomplished it in the comics.
A popular '90s storyline called Age of Apocalypse takes place in an alternate universe where Apocalypse has conquered the world. Professor X is dead in this timeline, but the X-Men fight on, led by Magneto. There are pockets of human resistance as well, led by people like Tony Stark, Clint Barton, and Carol Danvers, but they are few and far between. In this reality, Apocalypse's Four Horseman each lord over a quadrant of North America, and things are pretty terrible everywhere in this Apocalyptic world (get it?).
As powerful as Magneto is, the X-Men have never faced a foe quite like Apocalypse. He's all-powerful, essentially immortal, and wants to kill almost everyone on the planet. So yeah, I'd say this is one villain who has definitely earned his intimidating name.
Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy, Marvel Comics