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Uncanny Avengers Spotlight: Apocalypse

Rick Remender talks about why he loves this X-Men antagonist, and how his legacy will hit the Uncanny Avengers!

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Apocalypse by Ariel Olivetti

By Ben Morse

During Rick Remender’s tenure writing UNCANNY X-FORCE, classic X-Men villain Apocalypse loomed large, even if he himself never appeared. The legacy and machinations of manipulative immortal mutant outlived his physical form, dragging heroes down and scorching the Earth of those deemed “unworthy.”

Since his introduction, Apocalypse has served as the lynchpin to classic X-Men stories and even received his own alternate reality in the epic and fondly-recalled Age of Apocalypse. Yet aside from the occasional skirmish against the Hulk or a time-travelling Kang, the ruthless Darwinist has mostly steered clear of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Until now.

Remender brings the influence of Apocalypse into UNCANNY AVENGERS as part of the “Ragnarok Now” arc beginning with issue #6. In anticipation, we spoke to the writer about the past and future of this mutant mover and shaker plus much more.

Marvel.com: With Apocalypse, what is your fascination with the character? This is a guy that you built a huge X-Force arc around not just him, but also his mythology.

Rick Remender: Well I guess for one, it was how over time the mythology grew and the character grew and it all developed into something. And when they needed somebody to potentially be the guy that took over to create an alternative universe, he’s the guy, and they built so much in Age of Apocalypse around him, and it really elevated the character. The survival of the fittest is one aspect of it, but more than anything, the Celestials in charge of this first mutant with these armors and these energies and these powers, in order to make sure that mutants flourish and that humans don’t kill them.

Apocalypse and Archangel by Clayton Crain

And that makes sense. I love that there’s this certain cosmic manipulation to it all. Like the Celestials are saying that mutants must move forward. I never understood Scott Summers’ purpose for wanting more mutants; I never understood why it was important. Why do you need more mutants? But in Apocalypse’s eyes, I do understand that motive: That it’s important to the Celestial’s cosmic will that evolution on this planet move forward toward something, and that mystery makes me excited. The giant hands of space gods manipulating it makes this even more interesting. And you almost wonder, is he a good guy? I like the idea that there have been other evolutionary caretakers throughout history, and their job is to make sure that as the new arrive on the scene, that the old, who are more numerous, don’t wipe them out. And that’s the perfect motivation for a villain.

All the pieces were there. It had never been cooked together, all the different things that were sort of built on him; it had been cooked in so many different ways. Here’s a character that’s a big powerful hulking figure that has all this really cool mythology and all this history in the Marvel Universe, and is the first mutant going back to the days of the Pharaoh, so that stuff is all really fascinating.

I was trying to find context, because the things that I do when I pick villains is I think how does this connect to my team? And for me, it was a natural fit that Archangel would go take out Apocalypse [in UNCANNY X-FORCE]. And the consequences of the kill lead to Archangel ascending and becoming Apocalypse. And as I build this story, more and more story presents itself [with] the conflict between people that think that they’re the heir apparent to become a Celestial and an evolutionary caretaker, to serve as the Apocalypse of humanity, and that kind of starts turning into a big “Game of Thrones” thing, where I start seeing factions and groups who are all vying for this throne. And it just starts telling me more and more stories, so I just keep telling them.

Uncanny Avengers #6 cover by John Cassaday

Marvel.com: In UNCANNY X-FORCE you told, in my mind, one of the best Apocalypse stories ever and Apocalypse himself wasn’t really in it, in his classic form at least. Whether we see Apocalypse or we don’t, what elements of his mythology will we see in the UNCANNY AVENGERS with “Ragnarok Now”?

Rick Remender: Well the important thing was to find a way to mix the A and the X. And that was a lot of work. So I threw out most of my outline for the sequel to the Dark Angel Saga. And I kept the four most important things that I was excited about and the things that most closely tie in to characters like Wolverine or Sunfire, characters that have been tainted by this and manipulated by [Apocalypse]. So as I was building [the story], it was important to find how it was an X-Men story and also an Avengers story. And that’s where Kang grew out of. Kang’s favorite thing is to set himself up with a giant puzzle or challenge so that he can actually earn his victory as a warrior and an intellectual champion.

So it presents a lot of really fun opportunities and then I started tying in the Rama Tut/Apocalypse of it all, and then I thought “oh, Rama Tut is Kang.” And I was like, “Yaaaay!” And then I threw my arms in the air and said, I am a genius, and then got hit by a truck [Laughs]. So that’s how that went down.

Marvel.com: That’s how it always goes. So you talked about Apocalypse’s ties to Wolverine and Kang. We’re also going to find out that he’s got a past with Thor, which is something that we’ve never seen before. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Rick Remender: Well one thing new when [THOR: GOD OF THUNDER writer] Jason Aaron was building Young Thor, and I was putting these pieces together, was, I was actually on the phone with Dan Slott, and I had the X, and he kept reminding me that you need to make sure that the A and the X meet. And in building something like this, it’s never really been done, there’s never been an Avengers/X-Men book, so those are the kinds of things that have been very helpful for me, and have helped to keep me on track.

Uncanny Avengers #8 cover by John Cassaday

With Thor, we now see Thor in the tenth century; we now know what Thor was like, back in the day, with this weapon he’s got, this axe. So Jason and I spent a few afternoons on the phone talking about my plans and talking about how Thor could fit into [them], and more importantly, how that axe could be the most important relic in the Marvel Universe, and that’s something that will be buried in this interview and most people won’t pick up on.

But that axe becomes the new thing, and in issue #6, we see how the meeting of Thor and Apocalypse leads to that axe becoming one of the most powerful weapons in the Marvel Universe. So it was just hours and hours and hours of brainstorming and figuring out how does Thor connect to this, and how does young Thor connect to this, and how does Apocalypse, and Rama Tut and Kang—how does all this happen in the tenth century as the inciting incident for the biggest story I’ve ever written? 

I knew where I wanted to get to and to act naturally and fit into a really big story slot that I needed and from there it just sort of built itself and it’s pretty perfect. It was also nice to take what Jason is setting up in THOR, and reflect on it in the modern Marvel Universe and see it have an effect on things in a huge huge way. You want to make sure these things connect, you want to make sure there are a lot of different personal reasons for the characters to want to take down the villains, and this was the inciting incident that got me all of that moving forward in a pretty perfect way.

Marvel.com: Final question on Apocalypse: how is your approach different to him here in UNCANNY AVENGERS than it was in UNCANNY X-FORCE?

Sunfire

Rick Remender: I hate to keep going back to the “Game of Thrones” thing, but we do deal with Apocalypse in the past, we do deal with the first Celestial appointed evolutionary caretaker for the mutants, but what we deal with in the present is a whole new house; it’s a whole new house with a whole new set of rules and a whole new set of Horsemen and a whole new thing, and what they’re looking for, and what they’re doing is big, and there are many big reveals.

This is really jumping over to another castle and another house, and while some of the same characters like Wolverine are bouncing about, it’s a new story. It’s a new layer into the Apocalypse mythology.

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