By now you’ve had the chance to see the latest X-Men movie, Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. The film itself is a worthy sequel to his original films, but it also piggy-backed nicely onto Matthew Vaughn’s prequel X-Men: First Class. And we were all pleased to find out that they attempted to undo all of the damage done to the cinematic X-Men universe by Brett Ratner’s horrible, horrible X-Men: The Last Stand.
But there are still more X-Men films coming, and Singer is still scheduled to be at the helm. Many people were left scratching their heads during the post-credits sequence, which shows a gaunt, pale boy constructing an Egyptian pyramid out of thin air. Then, over his shoulder, appear four horsemen. It might’ve been baffling even for hard-core fans of the X-Men comic books, so let me explain it and point you at some comics that will shed light on the situation.
Let’s start with the ancient pale-boy mutant. The assembled crowd chants his name as he seems to telekinetically put together the pyramid En Sabah Nur. He’s the first mutant, an immortal who would live thousands of years, becoming the time-and-space-traveling villain Apocalypse, the title character of the next X-Men film.
Apocalypse is a popular villain, ranked consistently as one of the best villains ever to grace the pages of Marvel comics. He’s ruthless, a god of death in many civilizations, and bent on becoming the strongest; because to him, only the strong survive. His plots involve plenty of time travel and death, making the X-Men universe established in Days of Future Past the perfect breeding ground for his story.
The four horsemen behind him are the Horsemen of Apocalypse, the tools of his destruction. Most often, Apocalypse brainwashes mutants to serve as his Horsemen and wreaks havoc and spreads death wherever they go. Through the years of the comics, many mutants and heroes have been bent to the will of Apocalypse in this way. The Hulk, Wolverine, Gambit, and Archangel rank among the most powerful and recognizable of his merry band of death.
There are plenty of comics you’re going to want to read before the new film. First, I’d suggest starting with X-Men: Days of Future Past, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne. It’s one of the most iconic stories in the X-Men universe—and, not surprisingly, the inspiration for the current film. I can’t recommend it enough.
Next, I’d have you move on to Marvel’s X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Volumes 1-4. This is a massive four-book collection that brings the entire epic of Apocalypse together in one place—and in an order that makes some sense, which is helpful. The X-Men comics are notorious for having stories spread across a dozen titles, and getting them in this format helps fight the inherent confusion.
And though we’ll never see it on film because Fox controls X-Men and Marvel controls Guardians of the Galaxy, I’d still like to point you to The Trial of Jean Grey. It’s a team-up comic featuring the Guardians—whom you’re going to worship come August—and the X-Men. It’s a good middle ground between the worlds, and will help acclimate you to the increasingly cosmic scale we’re going to get from the cinematic offerings from Marvel in the coming years.Â
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com