X-Men #13 continues the X of Swords event of Jonathan Hickman’s Dawn of X saga. This week has a special focus on Apocalypse, where artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Sunny Gho gives the usually stoic mutant supremacist more emotional expression. VC’s Clayton Cowles and designer Tom Muller meanwhile fill in smaller details, so readers understand the full story.
Background And Recap
Apocalypse is a regular X-Men villain who serves as a mutant supremacist following a “survival of the fittest” mentality. Even after he joins Krakoa, Apocalypse’s ulterior motives to ensure his brand of supremacy remains. Unfortunately, this makes him a rather bland character. So diving into his backstory regarding Krakoa’s other half Arakko is a little necessary to see his motives. What better way to do that other than recovery from a beating from his grandchildren?
X-Men #13: The Tragic Apocalypse
Through Jonathan Hickman, Apocalypse gets some much-needed character development in X-Men #13. As Apocalypse takes a risk to recover from his injuries, he recalls his past. Back during the battle of Okkara (past Krakoa and Arakko), Apocalypse found his views affirmed. But not by his power; it was his wife Genesis he saw as the strongest. So when she has to leave to protect Arakko, Apocalypse has to remain behind. With this Apocalypse’s view of survival of the fittest means not just being powerful with followers to match but standing at the side of the person he loves.
Even his Khopesh Scarab is a testament to this. Muller fills the reader in on its backstory before Apocalypse goes to retrieve it. It was actually a gift from his sister-in-law to celebrate his and Genesis’ children’s birth, the original Horsemen. Apocalypse isn’t just fighting for supremacy but the memory of everybody he loved. This gives him much greater character than he ever had before as a force of nature.
How The Emotionless Emote
Mahmud Asrar goes to great lengths to show how the lack of Genesis in Apocalypse’s life affects him. Throughout X-Men #13, Asrar displays characters without pupils yet plenty of facial language. As Apocalypse remembers his old life, he begins in pain but nostalgic as he calms down when remembering Genesis. But upon recalling a personal tragedy from betrayal, Apocalypse cries for Genesis and the decision she made in reaction. His usually stoic look through the rest of X-Men #13 feels more like a defense mechanism afterward.
Sunny Gho decorates some of the less physically emotional parts of X-Men #13 with coloring to evoke moods. Purple evokes a sense of dread in all of its appearances. The beginning has Apocalypse close to death to the point of needing to be restrained. Threats in the flashback share this feeling as it looks like Apocalypse and his family are fighting a hopeless battle. Even after Apocalypse recovers, seeing these old memories remind him of what’s lost. As such, Apocalypse despite being alive, feels dead. So when he recovers Scarab, the yellow backgrounds indicate a mood of recovery, matching the energy colors of his restoration.
Designing X-Men #13
Clayton Cowles on lettering has to make sure he doesn’t overshadow the above artwork. The most notable uses come in two ways, a recycling use of dark red colored screams are trying to escape the word balloons, but doing so indicates that Apocalypse would die. Then there are the black word balloons with white fonts to indicate possession via a helmet that causes its wearer to decompose. This indicates that the vessel is in pain and the entity is a threat to those opposing it. But all of this pales in comparison to Tom Muller’s infographics that foreshadow appearances like Gorgon’s later in the issue via the swords he wields.
Witness Apocalypse In X-Men #13
X-Men #13 is a good piece about Apocalypse’s character, but one best used with full context. In most of his other appearances preceding Dawn of X, he’s not really that interesting. Here however, they see the usually stone-faced immortal mutant in a state of vulnerability. For once, readers see Apocalypse not as imposing, but something trying to live up to his own expectations. This new awakening and weapon leaves even more down the line. Only time can tell if this will lead to major developments.