Over the years, the X-Men villain Mr. Sinisters more than lived up to his namesake as he is, without a doubt, the most sinister bad guy of them all–at least, most of the time, as one classic storyline depicts Mr. Sinister as a legitimate hero; one who stands up to the even more villainous Apocalypse.
Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister made his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #221, although his presence was felt within X-Men‘s established canon long before that. After Sinister made his presence known, it was revealed that he was a twisted scientist obsessed with genetics–specifically mutant genetics–and he believed he could create the perfect mutant with the combined genes of two particular mutants: Scott Summer and Jean Grey. While his obsession to capture Cyclops and Marvel Girl to use them in his experiments was originally a big part of his character, Sinister eventually grew into a villain with a bit more complexity–something that was brilliantly shown in House of X/Powers of X and has continued through the current age of X-Men comics. However, there wasn’t a change to Sinister’s character more abrupt and shocking than his portrayal during the Age of Apocalypse.
In X-Men: Alpha #1 by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Roger Cruz, and Steve Epting, readers are thrown into the alternate universe of Age of Apocalypse, a world that came to be following the timeline-splitting death of Charles Xavier by the hand of his own son, Legion. In this world, Apocalypse has taken complete control over North America and has established his kingdom there, with certain areas divided into regions watched over by his acolytes. Within Apocalypse’s main capitol, Mr. Sinister serves as his chief scientist who oversees the mutant-hybrid program run by Dark Beast–an evil variant of the original. While that all sounds bad on paper, and is totally in-line with how Mr. Sinister was in the prime Earth-616 timeline, it is revealed by the end of the issue that this is all just an elaborate cover.
Mr. Sinister is a Double Agent, and a Caring Mentor
On top of being the head scientist during Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister is also something of a father and mentor to Cyclops and Havok. This is an ironic turn of events as Sinister would have given anything in the early days of his comic book career to have unlimited access to the Summers family for the sake of his experiments, but here, Sinister is only shown being a pretty caring person who mitigates conflict and offers Scott some much-needed advice. Sinister even tells Dark Beast to stop his work with mutant experimentation, and then later, Sinister advocates for a treaty with humanity to stop all the unnecessary bloodshed–and that’s still not the end of his heroic depiction. As the comic reveals more about the intricacies of this new world, it becomes apparent that Mr. Sinister is acting so nice because he isn’t a villain at all, he’s only pretending to be one while feeding information about Apocalypse to the remaining factions of humanity–intel that can be used against the evil tyrant.
While it’s obvious that Mr. Sinister would betray Apocalypse as that is his nature, it is totally unexpected that he would do so on behalf of humanity. Based on his previous characterization, Mr. Sinister should have been angling to take over the planet himself, not win it back for the humans and mutants who fight for a flourishing, peaceful world. But, in this first issue that introduces readers to the world of Age of Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister is nothing but a selfless hero who is willing to put his life on the line for the sake of the entire world–an interesting change-up that depicts X-Men‘s Mr. Sinisters as a secret hero opposite Apocalypse.
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