X OF SWORDS Aftermath: X-MEN #13 Explains One Mutant’s Core Motivation

X of Swords is halfway over. We’ve seen the Krakoan sword-wielders go to great lengths to attain their swords, with some literally going through hell itself (ahem, Wolverine)!

This issue brings readers back to the man at the heart of the story, Apocalypse, whose progeny have returned to kill their father and vanquish the mutant nation.

Ever since Apocalypse first (fully) debuted in X-Factor #6 in 1986, his modus operandi has remained the same–to weed out the weak through a twisted version of “the survival of the fittest.” But why? What inspired Apocalypse to take this course of action?

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According to Apocalypse co-creator Louise Simonson in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Apocalypse’s twisted Darwinian vision came about because of his encounter with the god-like race known as the Celestials. The Celestials are the ones responsible for seeding the universe with many of its sentient lifeforms, including humanity, for their own mysterious purposes, with the Celestials periodically returning to evaluate the progress of their work, with a failing evaluation leading to the destruction of that species. Simonson explains, “Apocalypse encountered the Celestials and realized there was a time when humanity might be judged unworthy and destroyed.” This is what has driven him “to kill off the weak and force the survivors to grow stronger, to push humanity to get better and more powerful,” including those who are a part of human evolution’s next step–mutants.

Getting judged poorly by the Celestials is NOT good.

Hickman performs a bit of a retcon to Apocalypse’s motivations in X of Swords.

In an effort to hold back the invading demonic hordes of Amenth, Apocalypse’s wife Genesis and their children stay behind on Arakko and seal the dimensional breach behind them, cutting themselves off from Earth. She tells Apocalypse that he cannot come because he is “not strong enough,” and she advises him, concerning the Earth’s denizens, “Stay. Use what time we buy you to make this world into something that can stand against our enemy. Judge them, my love… So that they–that you–become what we need. See that only the fittest remain.”

This seems to be the inception of Apocalypse’s survival of the fittest ideology, born of a desperate need to come to the aid of his wife and children against a demonic enemy, to make sure at the very least that their sacrifice is not in vain.

But now, with Apocalypse’s own children leading that very horde and having betrayed him while threatening Krakoa, are we about to see a dynamic change in this former X-villain’s motivations?

Apocalypse lived by the principle of the survival of the fittest because of his commitment to his old family and their struggle for survival in Arakko. With his old family turning against him and the inevitable victory of Krakoa, could we see a fundamental change in Apocalypse’s character and core motivation moving forward?

As he defends and fights for his new family, will Apocalypse change and find a new purpose and principle to live by, one beyond the bleakness of “survival of the fittest”?

The ending of this series surely means a deep personal loss for Apocalypse. Perhaps his grief and vulnerability, shared with those in the new Krakoan society, will forge a new path for the world’s oldest mutant.

Or perhaps, Krakoa’s losses in the X of Swords tournament will harden them and push them toward Apocalypse’s approach, in a world where vulnerability is dangerous for the new mutant state and where death in Otherworld may be permanent.

Matthew Brake
Matthew Brakehttps://www.popularcultureandtheology.com
Matthew Brake is the series editor for the book series Theology and Pop Culture from Lexington Books. He is also the co-editor of the forthcoming Religion and Comics series from Claremont Press. He holds degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies and Philosophy from George Mason University. He also writes for Sequart and the Blackwell Popular Culture and Philosophy blog.