Credits: Peter Milligan (writer), John Paul Leon (penciler), Shawn Martinbrough & Tommy Lee Edwards (inkers), Kevin Somers & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Summary: Phoenix speaks to Essex and tries to convince him to abandon Apocalypse. Nearby, Oscar Stamp is attacked by Cootie Tremble, who has been remade as a cyborg by Apocalypse. Essex is intrigued that Phoenix violates the rule of survival of the fittest and saves Oscar. He returns home to learn that Rebecca has freed his lab subjects, and that Phoenix has cured the mute boy Daniel. He goes inside and discovers that his wife went into early labor due to her recent stress. After hearing that their baby died, Essex vows to be a better person. Rebecca, dying, rejects Essex and blames him for the death of their child. Distraught, Essex attacks his family graveyard and contemplates suicide. Elsewhere, Apocalypse meets with the Hellfire Club and orders them to foster war and hatred throughout the world. In the sewers, Oscar leads Phoenix to Apocalypse’s headquarters. They discover Cyclops being tormented by the Marauders. Phoenix tries to rescue him, but is captured by Apocalypse’s sentient technology. Meanwhile, Essex visits Charles Darwin and tells him that new, cruel gods are coming. Apocalypse returns to his base and tries to interrogate Phoenix. Essex enters and agrees to Apocalypse’s offer, as Oscar recruits Essex’s freed subjects to fight Apocalypse. Apocalypse straps Essex inside a chamber where his genetic material is remade. He renames himself Sinister. Soon after Apocalypse leaves, Oscar leads the freaks in an attack against his stronghold. Cyclops and Phoenix are freed, as Sinister’s chamber opens. Meanwhile, Apocalypse prepares to attack Buckingham Palace.
Continuity Notes: It’s implied that Apocalypse created the ruby quartz that blocks Cyclops powers, as his machinery evolves and protects itself from Cyclops’ blast.
Essex names himself “Sinister” after his wife labels him “utterly and contemptibly sinister”. Apocalypse adds the “mister” when he says, “Mister Sinister will be working on perfecting the scourge”.
After Apocalypse encourages the Hellfire Club to create war, he tells them that he will stay in the background (to prevent humanity from having a common foe to unite against) and will reappear when “the planet is ravaged by war and disease”. This is a rationalization for why we didn’t see Apocalypse until the 1980s in the comics.
Review: This is the climax of the series, as Nathaniel Essex officially becomes Mr. Sinister. Milligan tries to delay what we all know is coming by offering false hope that Essex might turn against Apocalypse. Having Essex realize what his wife means to him just seconds before she condemns him as a monster adds a classic sense of tragedy to his origin story. It’s obvious at this point that the series really isn’t about Cyclops and Phoenix, although there’s some attempt to connect their backstory to Sinister’s narrative. Phoenix compares Cyclops losing his son to Apocalypse to Sinister’s predicament, while she encourages him to follow Cyclops’ example and retain his humanity. The irony that Cyclops’ son only exists because of Sinister’s manipulations is also brought up, although no one mentions that if they’re successful in preventing Essex from becoming Sinister, then Cable will not exist. That actually would’ve been an interesting conflict, but I guess Milligan didn’t want to dwell too much on Cable’s muddled origins.
One element of continuity that Milligan does delve into is Apocalypse’s connection to the Hellfire Club. I don’t mind connecting Apocalypse to Sinister, but revealing that Apocalypse commanded the Hellfire Club in the 1800s bothers me. Isn’t it enough that they’re greedy and heartless on their own? I don’t see how connecting Apocalypse to their backstory adds anything. All it really does is make the club seem weaker, as they now promote war to appease someone they’re afraid of, rather than doing it on their own accord. Plus, the move inserts Apocalypse into the backstory of even more characters, which is a trick that’s getting old at this point. I suppose it had already been decided by the ‘90s that Apocalypse was a more important adversary than the Hellfire Club, which might’ve been the rationalization for the move. Whatever the reason, it pulls me right out of the story.