X-Men ’97 Episode 10’s Ending Cameos Just Set Up a Huge Season 2 Story

The X-Men '97 season 1 finale welcomes En Sabah Nur and Mother Askani in its final minutes. Here's how these cameos and surprise reveals set up season 2.

(L-R): Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) and Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale) in Marvel Animation's X-MEN '97. Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL.
Photo: Marvel Animation.

This X-Men ’97 article contains spoilers.

Well, X-Men ’97‘s finale didn’t end with Onslaught or Ultimatum (thank goodness), but it did go out with quite the bang. The heroes stop Bastion’s assault with the help of Jean Grey’s Phoenix Force, depowering Mister Sinister at the same time. Although the battle sends Asteroid M crashing toward the Earth, Professor X appealed to Magneto’s better angels once again and convinced him to prevent a global catastrophe, apparently killing himself and the X-Men in the process.

But, as Bishop tells Forge, “This ain’t our first time at the ‘X-Men are Dead’ rodeo.”

Sure enough, the final minutes of the finale confirm the X-Men still live, albeit in very different times. With half the team in ancient Egypt and the other half in a ravaged far future, they have their work cut out for them in season two. What does it all mean?

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En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse

Although confused by their sandy new whereabouts, Rogue and Nightcrawler recognize injustice when they see it. So they both jump right in to help a mystery man defend himself from a masked mob surrounding him. When the mob subsides, the man pulls down his face covering and introduces himself as En Sabah Nur.

If those pretty purple lips didn’t give it away, En Sabah Nur is Apocalypse, the evil mutant who becomes a thorn in the X-Men’s side in the present. Where’s his cool armor? And what’s he doing in ancient Egypt?

As comic fans know, En Sabah Nur was born in Egypt thousands of years ago as the first mutant (or one of the first, depending on the writer/definition). Exiled for his unusual appearance, Nur adopted a survival of the fittest worldview, which only intensified as he grew and his mutant ability to control his molecules (simply put, shape change) developed. Nur’s conquests drew the attention of the Celestials (remember them from Eternals? Because Kevin Feige doesn’t), who gave him advanced technology and set him to further human evolution.

Nur took the name Apocalypse and gathered four horsemen—Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence—to cull the weak and empower the strong. Of course, Apocalypse lost fairly regularly in the comics. But, between his Celestial armor, his mutant ability, and the fact that he is one of the immortal mutants known as Externals, Apocalypse simply goes into regeneration when defeated, waiting to arise and begin the process again.

The look of En Sabah Nur in X-Men ’97 suggests that he’s still early in his campaign, not yet sure about his mission. Will the fact that Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Magneto already know too well the villain En Sabah Nur will eventually become tempt them to change the past? Will they follow in the footsteps of their teacher and show him a better way?

As with all things involving Apocalypse, time will tell…

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Speaking of time, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and the other X-Men arrive in the far future, which also looks like sandy ruins. There, they are the outnumbered ones, surrounded by ragged figures with advanced weaponry. Their hooded leader comes forth and introduces herself as “Mother Askani,” a name that means nothing to the vast majority of TV viewers and everything to a handful of comic book nerds like me.

Viewers probably recognize the boy who comes to greet Scott and Jean as Nathan, Scott’s son with Jean’s clone and the future Cable. However, Nathan isn’t the only Summers scion present in that meeting. If the lines on her face didn’t give it away, Mother Askani is actually Rachel Summers, also sometimes known as Phoenix.

Rachel has made a few appearances in X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men ’97, most recently in the vision of the future that Cable shared with the present-day X-Men. Rachel is the daughter of Scott and Jean, who possesses her mother’s amazing psychic abilities. She hails from the future seen in Days of Future Past, where she has been enslaved and used as a “hound,” a mutant who hunts other mutants.

In the comics, Rachel makes her way to the present and joins the X-Men and, eventually, the European team Excalibur. While serving in Excalibur, her sacrifice sends her to a far off future, one ravaged by an evil warlord. Rachel finds shelter with some rebels, who dub her “Askani” which means outsider. Over the decades, Rachel gathers others to fight against the warlord, forming the Clan Askani.

Rachel gets a powerful new addition to her clan when she pulls her time-displaced half-brother Nathan to her time. There, she cares for Nathan but also prepares him as a warrior who will be the final undoing against the warlord, a mission he carries with him when he becomes Cable.

The name of that warlord who controls the future: Apocalypse. The “something” that pulled the X-Men into these points in time may very well be Rachel, who also has the Phoenix Force and could be gathering her family to help her take down Apocalypse once and for all.

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The Post-Credit Scene and What These X-Men ’97 Finale Cameos Mean for Season 2

Like a true Marvel property, the finale of X-Men 97‘s first season features a post-credit sequence. Back in the present, Apocalypse himself makes an appearance in the ruins of Genosha. Like the rest of us, he’s dismayed by all the destruction he sees. Toward the end of one of his patented grandiloquent monologues, Apocalypse picks up one of Gambit’s charred playing cards and observes, “So much death.”

Of course, where most of us viewers look on the rubble with a sense of regret, Apocalypse seems happy about what he’s found. That’s because, for him, Gambit is most useful in death.

Remember how Apocalypse has four horsemen to do his bidding? In 2006’s X-Men #183 by Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca, Apocalypse unveils his latest Horseman, Remy LeBeau, who has become Death. Remy joins three other one-time allies—the mutant Gazer becomes War, occasional X-Man Sunfire becomes Famine, and Magneto’s daughter Polaris, seen in shadow alongside Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in “Tolerance is Extinction Part Three,” claims the mantle of Pestilence.

Between the Remy tease and the X-Men re-introducing En Sabah Nur at different points in time, it’s clear that Apocalypse will be a major big bad for season two. Scott and Jean will continue to form their bond with Nathan, drawing from the great miniseries The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, while Magneto and Rogue will have their anti-mutant concerns tested while they debate with Nur in Ancient Egypt.

Of course, there are still some dangling plot threads out there, too. We still haven’t seen Wolverine back in action without Adamantium, which means that season two will have to deal with Feral Wolverine. And did I mention that Wolverine also becomes Death of the Horsemen in the comics? When Apocalypse offers to restore his Adamantium? And then promptly sends Wolverine to recover the remains of Bastion? Seems like a potential season two plot thread.

Finally, there are the X-Men left behind, namely Forge. We find Forge in his workshop with the names and status of the missing mutants behind him, a bleak homage to the iconic cover of 1981’s Uncanny X-Men #141. He’s greeted by Bishop, who recruits Forge to help him find his missing colleagues.

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As we’ve mentioned previously, X-Men ’97 also keeps dropping hints about X-Factor, a mutant team known for detective work, at least in some incarnations. Although Bishop isn’t normally a member of X-Factor in the comics, his sister Shard was at one point, along with Forge. In other words, we might finally see some version of X-Factor next season, doing their best to find their time-displaced friends.

And what about Onslaught? We’ve been pushing the Onslaught theory pretty hard, so there’s a bit of egg on our faces after the ’90s baddie failed to show up in the finale when Xavier entered Magneto’s mind. But this might be a case of X-Men ’97 actually taking its time with a plot point and saving Onslaught for next season, as all of the set up remains in place.

Whatever happens, it will certainly mean the world of the X-Men will never be the same.

All the Other Big Marvel Cameos

Of course, X-Men ’97 has never limited its focus just to Marvel’s Merry Band of Mutants. As Bastion’s Prime Sentinels attacked and, later, Asteroid M plummeted toward Earth, the show checked in with others around the globe, giving us a look at a few familiar faces, albeit in sometimes different forms.

Daredevil gets in on the action, defending Hell’s Kitchen from Bastion’s attacks, as do the X-Men adjacent teens Cloak and Dagger. Dr. Stephen Strange uses magic on the operating table to care for victim, while Peter Parker and Mary Jane watch news coverage of Asteroid M in their civilian garb. Iron Man and Captain America stand by President Kelley as he consults with King T’Chaka about next steps, and we see his son T’Challa standing by Okoye while Wakanda waits to respond.

Once again, Silver Samurai looks stoically at the effects of Magneto’s powers, while Psylocke and Celia Reyes join Alpha Flight in Canada to plan their attack. And, as usual, Morph becomes the cameo machine, shifting into Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four to save himself and others from getting sucked out into space.

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While it would be easy to dismiss these cameos as fun winks, they also show the larger scale the X-Men’s actions. Mutants, good and evil, influence the rest of the world, which is why the dream of Professor X is so important. X-Men ’97‘s first season tested that dream, but season two threatens to break it, as Apocalypse makes his play for control.

X-Men ’97 is now streaming on Disney+.