The Comic History of X-Men’s Four Horsemen

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Movies Comics Marvel

X-Men: Apocalypse is about to take moviegoers by storm. No, by Storm. The character makes her “revised timeline” X-Men movie debut in the film as one of the title character’s “Four Horsemen,” along with Psylocke, Archangel, and Magneto. Just who are these biblical foes? Here’s an in-depth look at their comic book history…


Part 1: The Mutant Prince of Egypt

En Sabah Nur was born at the edge of the Valley of the Kings nearly 5000 years ago. Raised as a member of Clan Akkaba, En Sabah Nur was abandoned as an infant for being malformed. Left to die in the desert, he was found by Baal of the Sandstormers. Baal gave the infant his proper name and trained him to rise among the greatest in Egypt. Eventually, Baal was set to use En Sabah Nur as a tool to overthrow Pharaoh Rama Tut. Baal knew that Rama Tut was a conqueror who time traveled to their era in a ship made to look like a Sphinx. While the Egyptians feared Rama Tut as a God, Baal knew that this God could be killed.

Rama Tut was ready for the challenge and had his warlord Ozymandias take care of En Sabah Nur. While Nur fought, Ozymandias eventually has him thrown into a pit of snakes. Fearing for his life, En Sabah Nur‘s powers activated and the world got to see Apocalypse for the first time. Apocalypse rose from that pit and began war against Rama Tut. After several heroes time traveled back to fight Rama Tut, Apocalypse used the distraction to take power. Apocalypse bent Ozymandias into being his scribe, while Rama Tut eventually fled back into the future where he reclaimed his identity as Kang the Conqueror.

Over the next few centuries, Apocalypse would begin building what he called his Riders of the Dark. Whether it was fighting Alexander the Great or finding some early mutants in Ancient Rome, Apocalypse had no problems spreading his message of Extreme Darwinism. Garbha-Hsein took notice of Apocalypse, as the ageless one made his way into Mongolia. Realizing that other immortal mutants existed, Apocalypse understood that he had to take everything that could help him achieve his vision. While the Riders of the Dark were strong, they were simply foot soldiers for Apocalypse’s survival of the fittest. Apocalypse needed to craft Four Horsemen to act as Generals for his Army of Death.


Part 2: The 19th Century

The Victorian Era of the Marvel Universe is quite a bizarre discovery. While Apocalypse had been amassing mutants for various iterations of the Horsemen over the last few centuries, the Victorian era brought his work to the limelight. Before the Victorian era, Apocalypse fought Thor in the Middle Ages and battled the Eternal known as Sersi in the 12th century. Eventually, he would power a Crusading Knight in the Holy Lands into the mutant oddity known as Exodus. But, what about the Victorian era? What was so important about Apocalypse meeting the geneticist known as Dr. Nathaniel Essex?

Essex was an educated scholar of great renown that used his academic leanings to bring great credit to Apocalypse’s views. Essex helps introduce Apocalypse to the Hellfire Club, as Apocalypse enlists the powerful forces into beginning his rise in the Western World. While dealing with these events and building a new team of Horsemen, something happened. Apocalypse was drawn to the powerful Count Dracula in the middle of London. Remembering Dracula from a previous fight with Vlad the Impaler, Apocalypse took it on himself to fight Dracula. After defeating Dracula, Apocalypse chose to hibernate for two hundred years while awaiting the true rise of mutants. Apocalypse would accidentally be awoken in the 20th century when Cable traveled back to the era.


Part 3: Apocalypse debuts in the modern era

X-Factor #6 was the proper debut of Apocalypse into the Marvel Universe. While serving as the leader of the Alliance of Evil, Apocalypse first gained the attention of X-Factor. Apocalypse tried to capture a mutant to boost the powers of those he was recruiting for his “final” Horsemen. Fighting with X-Factor and the Avengers for awhile, Angel (Warren Worthington III) would eventually be swayed into becoming the Horseman known as Death. Warren had lost his wings during the Marauder assault on the Morlock community. Feeling suicidal at the loss of his powers, Warren would be subjected to body altering experiments that would unravel over years to come.

While the Horsemen War, Pestilence and Famine were transformed by Apocalypse, he skipped one important step. Apocalypse’s extended life and augmented powers stem from Celestial technology that Apocalypse pilfered over the ages. Apocalypse implanted a Death Seed within Warren to transform him into the Archangel. Initially, it just seemed that Apocalypse gave Warren metal wings and made him grimdark. Over the years, Warren would learn that the Celestial technology had profoundly transformed him into a vessel for Apocalypse’s will. While there were Celestial seeds to warp Pestilence, Famine and War….the audience has yet to see them deployed.


Part 4: A revolving door of Horsemen

The 1990s and 00s saw the Horsemen face frequently changing rosters. The War and Death positions changed hands between Caliban, The Hulk, Wolverine, Deathbird and tons more. The X-Men comics also spent a few months in an alternate reality where Apocalypse rose to power unchallenged by Professor Xavier. The nightmare world of the Age of Apocalypse was quite popular with readers as one of the greatest X-Stories of the 1990s. That being said, most of the 90s and 00s were spent resolving the lengthy battle between Cable and Apocalypse. Cable was a child sent to the future to be cured by the Sisterhood of the Askani. The Askani were the lone resistance in an Earth ruled over by a dying Apocalypse.

While in the 39th century, Cable destroyed Apocalypse’s empire, but realized his people would never be free until he traveled back to stop him in our time. Following the assembly of The Twelve (mutants that could kill Apocalypse), Cable seemingly destroys Apocalypse. Unfortunately, Apocalypse resurrects again to fight the X-Men. Unfortunately, his latest efforts are in violation of what the Celestials intended for him and they return to take back their stolen technology. The last readers have seen of Apocalypse in the modern era is a terrified En Sabah Nur being experimented on by angry Celestials.

Hindsight shows us that there were an insane amount of Horsemen. While prepping this piece, there was much pow-wow over covering the Four Horsemen featured in X-Men: Apocalypse or the comics. Talking about Psylocke, Magneto, Archangel and Storm would be rather easy. Naturally, the lengthier option was chosen. For those that aren’t familiar, here’s a complete list of everyone who has been a Horseman for Apocalypse.

Death (11th Century incarnation)
Sanjar Javeed
Grim Reaper

Famine (11th Century incarnation)
Autumn Rolfson
Jeb Lee

Pestilence (11th Century incarnation)

War (11th Century incarnation)
War (19th Century incarnation)
Abraham Kieros
Decimus Furius


Part 5: The end of Apocalypse

Cable had defeated Apocalypse. Various future forms of Apocalypse existed in alternate realities, but it didn’t matter. En Sabah Nur was long gone, but not forgotten. What arose from Apocalypse dying at Cable’s hands was the rise of succession. Apocalypse feared that he would be destroyed and forced his Clan Akkaba factions to begin finding a new leader. Feeling that Warren Worthington was his best chance as his successor, the Clan Akkaba activated some deep programming from his time as Archangel. Archangel took a broodmare from among the chosen Akkaba women and had twins with her. These twins would be later taken into the future by Kang to become the Apocalypse Twins. That moniker isn’t their choosing, but it just makes life easier for readers.

While Archangel slowly fell into his role as the new Apocalypse, he tried to implant another Death Seed into Psylocke making her his Horseman of Death. Psylocke and X-Force rejected the efforts to turn into Horsemen. This lead to a lengthy battle where Psylocke mindwiped and seemingly killed Archangel. Following the death of Archangel and later the Apocalypse Twins, the Clan Akkaba and the Four Horsemen have dissolved. What does this mean for people getting ready to meet Apocalypse and the Horsemen for the first time in X-Men: Apocalypse?

X-Men: Apocalypse offers viewers a chance to see the majesty of En Sabah Nur for the first time. The terror of realizing that there are godlike mutants shaping in the world and that they want to steal your allies? That’s some frightening stuff. Time and over-saturation has killed a ton of Apocalypse’s appeal, but this refreshing trip back to when the character was new is welcomed. The minutia and tangents of Apocalypse and his followers were glossed over. If you wish to learn more, visit your local comic book dollar bins and go nuts. Seriously, Apocalypse was the POGs of ’90s Marvel.

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