There are more than enough teams of villains in the long-running lore of the X-Men, let alone the Marvel Universe. Be it Magneto’s vicious Brotherhood of Evil Mutants or Mr. Sinister’s terrifying Marauders, the X-Men have found themselves tested again and again as they faced off with villains from all walks of life, some seeking to better the world through action and others seeking to rule it through villainy. But at the top of the list may be Apocalypse’s dreaded force, The Four Horseman.
Modeled after the biblical concept of the same name, Apocalypse has been creating his Four Horsemen since he appeared in the pages of X-Factor. Whether they accept the selection willingly or are brainwashed and experimented on, the entities of War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death have terrorized Marvel for decades, and their bloodthirsty reputation is more than earned. Throughout their storied history, mutants (and a few humans) of all walks of life have become Horsemen. Some have survived the experience, while others have lost everything… including their lives. We’ve pored through the characters, be they from the core universe or hailing from worlds beyond, to identify the most terrifying. These are the 25 strongest Horsemen of Apocalypse.
When the Marauders raided the Morlock tunnels during the "Mutant Massacre," Plague was very nearly killed by Sabertooth. But Plague’s powers proved to be more than enough to ward him off. Plague had the ability to spread disease, a power so potent that it could even affect Kitty Pryde when she was intangible. The Massacre was a terrifying event, and Plague may still have died in the tunnels that day, but was saved by Apocalypse.
In exchange for saving her life, Apocalypse transformed Plague into the shown Horseman of Pestilence, amplifying her already terrifying power levels. Pestilence would serve as a Horseman alongside the newly christened Death, Archangel. During the ensuing battle with X-Factor, though, Pestilence would fall from the mechanical steed she had been given to her death.
Maximus the Mad was typically just a thorn in the side of the Inhumans. Furious that he could not become King of the Inhumans, the Maximus of the Age of Apocalypse would slay the entire House of Agon after allying himself with Apocalypse. Setting up his lab on the moon, Maximus would become Apocalypse’s Horseman Death.
Maximus was truly despicable, keeping an ailing Sunfire captive and taking advantage of his raging out of control powers. However, he also had designs to usurp Apocalypse’s reign, something that Scott Summers, the Horsemen of Death in the Age of Apocalypse, took umbrage with. Summers would sell out Maximus, allowing Blink to escape with her team of X-Men. In the ensuing battle, Sunfire’s powers would rage further and incinerate the laboratory, and Maximus along with it.
23 SCARLET WITCH
At some point, in an alternate timeline or on an alternate Earth, Wanda Maximoff was brainwashed and turned into the Horseman Famine. When the time stream was damaged due to the machinations of Kang the Conqueror, Apocalypse and his Horsemen -- consisting of Wanda, Spider-Man, Red Hulk, and Wolverine -- were thrown into the present day and battled the Avengers at the dawn of "The Heroic Age."
While the extent of Wanda’s powers were never fully established, the thought of increasing the power level of someone already capable of rewriting all of reality is truly terrifying. Wanda demonstrated no remorse towards her former comrades, disintegrating Tony’s biological armor as he tried to appeal to her and sending him hurtling to his death if not for Spider-Man. With the timeline eventually fixed, it remains to be seen if this version of Scarlet Witch survived or even ever existed.
In two alternate universes, the atypical Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man found himself drafted into Apocalypse’s Horsemen, and both times he served as Pestilence. One such occasion was when the reunited Avengers found themselves facing off against the Horsemen of Apocalypse at the dawn of the Heroic Age, thanks to damage inflicted on the timestream by Kang the Conqueror.
Elsewhere, on Earth-5701, Peter was transformed into Pestilence by Apocalypse. Alongside Archangel and Famine, he was enlisted to track down Cable, throughout reality. The trio should have been formidable enough but didn’t count on the trio of Deadpool, Cannonball, and Siryn also searching for Cable, easily besting the Horsemen. It’s unknown exactly how strong Spider-Man became as Pestilence but given that, on his own, he’s managed to defeat the likes of the X-Men at his normal power levels, it's safe to say he was significantly stronger.
The sister of Shi’ar Empress Lilandra, Deathbird had a complicated relationship with the empire. Alternating between exiled criminal and accepted political figure, Deathbird was often in conflict with her sister and the X-Men over her own desires to rule over the Shi’ar empire. For a brief spell, though, she also found herself serving as the Horseman War.
Deathbird was enlisted as War near the start of the millennium as Apocalypse sought to gather The Twelve, a band of 12 mutants who would allow Apocalypse to possess a new body and obtain incredible power. The plan was foiled when Apocalypse failed to realize that Magneto, one of the chosen 12, had actually lost his powers, leaving an opening for the X-Men to stop him. Deathbird would escape to space, where she eventually started a relationship with the third Summers brother, Vulcan.
One of the countless victims of the M-Day event, Polaris lost her magnetism powers, a fact she kept hidden from her teammates. In denial, Polaris was ripe for the taking by Apocalypse, who eventually persuaded her to serve as a Horseman in exchange for having her powers restored. Polaris accepted, and had her powers restored through technological means. Apocalypse fused with her body.
Polaris’ appearance as Pestilence was greatly changed from her typical appearance, wearing a bulky suit of armor that completely concealed her body. Lorna attempted to create a new plague that would devastate the globe but was stopped by the X-Men and other heroes of the Marvel Universe. Resisting Apocalypse’s control, Polaris refused to follow Gambit and Sunfire, eventually being freed from her Horseman status.
Caliban perhaps has the most dubious honor of all of Apocalypse’s known Horsemen, serving as two different Horsemen. During the original run of X-Factor, Caliban would be tempted by Apocalypse to join him in exchange for becoming stronger. Caliban would first become one of Apocalypse’s Hellhounds before eventually replacing Archangel as the Horseman Death.
Caliban would remain largely by Apocalypse’s side, save for a spell where he was tricked into working alongside Mr. Sinister. When Apocalypse returned during "The Twelve," Caliban would again become a Horseman, this time adopting the moniker of Pestilence. Following "The Twelve," however, Caliban began to free himself from Apocalypse’s programming. Caliban would briefly join X-Force during the "Messiah CompleX" event but died saving fellow X-Force member Warpath from a bullet.
18 AUTUMN ROLFSON
Autumn Rolfson was a young girl, suffering from anorexia and burdened with overprotective parents. She was also a mutant with the ability to disintegrate any organic matter, which made her parents all the more unbearable. Apocalypse lured her in with the promise that she could exact revenge on her parents, which she was more than willing to agree too.
Autumn became Pestilence, and one of Apocalypse’s fiercest Horsemen. She was able to best Jean Grey one on one, and at one point nearly destroyed crops in the farm belt, though Captain America prevented it. Autumn seemingly reformed after giving birth to William, whose father was Apocalypse. William, who became the incredibly powerful Genocide, was taken in by Archangel. Autumn would later be killed by Archangel after she demanded to be relieved of her duties as a Horseman.
Sean Cassidy joined the all-new X-Men as Banshee. Cassidy was a well-respected and long-tenured X-Man, eventually training a new generation of X-Men in the popular on-going Generation X. During the events of Deadly Genesis, as Gabriel Summers attempted to manipulate the X-Men, Banshee was killed trying to stop a hijacked Blackbird from crashing into a commercial airliner.
Banshee’s resurrection was often teased, but he remained dead for several years until he was eventually revived by the Apocalypse Twins as one of their four Horsemen of Death. Banshee’s mutant sonic scream made him formidable alone but enhanced by the Apocalypse Twins, he was devastating. He would be rescued by the X-Men, though it remains to be seen how or if they have the ability to free him from his Horsemen abilities.
In the desperation that came following the near extinction of mutantkind on M-Day, Gambit turned to a surprising source for aid: Apocalypse. Believing Apocalypse may have the means to restore mutants, Gambit agreed to become Death so that he could work with Apocalypse from the inside. However, he was unable to retain his personality as he had hoped and became totally subservient to Apocalypse.
Gambit was eventually rescued by Sunfire (who was serving as Famine at the time) and formed a temporary alliance that resulted in them attacking the X-Men. Though the attack failed, it became clear that Gambit was long gone under the influence of Apocalypse. After the failed attack, however, Gambit and Sunfire were rescued by Mr. Sinister, who freed them from Apocalypse’s control.
Much like fellow X-Men Storm and Magneto, Psylocke has the dubious honor of becoming a Horseman in two different timelines. For her 2016 appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse, Psylocke was chosen to be a Horseman alongside Magneto, Storm, and Archangel, though none of the Horsemen in this film received their standard mantles. Psylocke’s alignment was indecisive by film’s end, slipping away into the shadows.
Most notably, during Uncanny X-Force’s 2011 event "The Dark Angel Saga," Archangel was cast into a new role as Apocalypse’s heir. Using a Death Seed, Archangel reshaped Psylocke as his Horsemen Death. This incarnation was short-lived though, as Fantomex and an alternate Jean Grey were able to release Psylocke from Archangel’s hold, allowing her the opportunity to kill her former lover before he could succeed in destroying the world.
Storm has technically been a Horseman twice, though both times were outside of comics. In X-Men: Apocalypse, Storm is depicted in a time prior to joining the X-Men, when she was an orphan thief on the streets of Cairo. Storm joins Apocalypse, seeing no other course of action, but eventually rebels and joins the X-Men as their newest, and arguably most powerful member.
Still elsewhere, Storm is depicted as the Horseman Famine in the 2000s era animated series X-Men: Evolution. Storm was brainwashed into becoming Famine alongside Xavier, Storm, and Magneto and tasked with protecting Apocalypse as he attempted to ascend to even greater power. The two-part story "Ascension" would see the X-Men rally against Apocalypse in episodes that would ultimately be the series finale.
13 THE HULK
During an escape from prison, an exploding grenade lodged shrapnel in The Hulk’s brain, effectively removing the boosted intelligence he’d had for several years. During this time, he was also briefly separated from Banner, who was believed dead but was, in fact, alive and well in an alternate universe created by Franklin Richards.
Seeking a new array of Horsemen, Apocalypse would manipulate The Hulk to serve as the Horseman War in exchange for having the shrapnel removed from his brain. The Hulk accepted, and with his newly enhanced abilities nearly killed the team of Absorbing Man and Juggernaut. Rick Jones attempted to interfere but was attacked himself, and the sight of his injured friend snapped Hulk out of the mind control he had endured. Shortly thereafter, the heroes of the alternate Earth were brought back, and Banner and Hulk were reunited.
X-Men: Apocalypse was the first of the new wave of X-Men films to attempt to rest on its own laurels, telling a new story rather than attempting to soft reboot the ailing franchise. Introducing Oscar Isaac of Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the sinister Apocalypse, the film’s reception was middling with many criticizing the film’s lackluster plot, especially in comparison to the previous entries, First Class and Days of Future Past.
X-Men: Apocalypse depicted longtime villain Magneto as a Horseman of Apocalypse. Though he did not appear to receive any kind of reprogramming or enhancements, he was shown new levels of his already impressive powerset. Unlike other incarnations of The Horsemen, the film gave no designations to the members, though Magneto would likely be closest to the Horseman War in his role.
Believed dead after an encounter with Lady Deathstrike took his legs, Sunfire was visited by Apocalypse who offered him new legs in exchange for loyalty. Depressed and suicidal, Sunfire accepted and was transformed into the Horseman Famine. Sunfire’s already powerful control over flame was made even more terrifying thanks to enhancements by Apocalypse.
In addition to control over flame, as Famine, Sunfire gained the ability to make anyone believe they were starving. Sunfire would eventually free himself along with fellow X-Man Gambit, who at the time was the Horseman Death. The two would find themselves in the care of Mr. Sinister, who was able to free them from Apocalypse’s programming. Sunfire would briefly join the Uncanny Avengers and was last seen assisting mutant refugees in the bizarre Weirdworld.
10 SANJAR JAVEED
The misbegotten son of a Persian King, Sanjar Javeed was spurred by his father because of his mother. Sanjar turned to thievery to try to earn his father’s approval but wasn’t yet aware of his blossoming mutant abilities. Sanjar gained the ability to transmit an array of diseases over metal, and the items he stole led to the deaths of his victims as well as his father.
Sanjar would be chosen as Apocalypse’s Final Horseman Death, activated to guard the child Evan so he could be reborn as Apocalypse. When those plans failed, however, Sanjar would find himself serving Archangel as he became the new Apocalypse. Sanjar’s ability proved incredibly devastating, even managing to overwhelm Wolverine. Sanjar’s powers would be ineffective against X-Force member Deathlok however, a mistake which would seemingly cost Sanjar his life.
9 DECIMUS FURIUS
The son of a disgraced ancient Roman philosopher, Decimus Furius mutated after years of being homeless into a terrifying monster resembling a minotaur. Imprisoned after slaughtering dozens, Furius worked his way up through gladiator combat and eventually came to be hailed as the dark God Minotaur, though Apocalypse immediately knew his true nature.
Apocalypse made Furius his Final Horseman, War. Activated following Apocalypse’s death, Furius proved a formidable foe, even managing to best Deadpool in one-on-one combat. Furius would soon follow Archangel when he ascended to become the new Apocalypse, but the pairing was short-lived. Following Archangel’s death, Furius would attempt to revive Apocalypse’s son Genocide to replace his father, but found themselves in confrontation with the Apocalypse Twins and, alongside fellow Horseman Jeb Lee, would die in the encounter.
In feudal Japan, Ichisumi was a maiden jealous of all the other women in her village. Afraid of being left alone and a disappointment to her family, when her mutant powers first activated she unleashed a deadly wave of spiteful revenge. Her body was host to a swarm of beetles, which she unleashed to disfigure every woman in the village.
But Ichisumi didn’t realize the control went both ways, and the beetles returned to her with the memories of everyone they attacked, overwhelming her with the pain and fear of her victims’ suffering. Impressed by her power, Apocalypse made her the Final Horseman of Pestilence. Following Apocalypse’s death, Ichisumi became the consort of Archangel as he attempted to replace Apocalypse, and the two eventually sired The Apocalypse Twins. Ichisumi survived the Apocalypse Twins’ attempted reign, though she has not been seen since.
7 JEB LEE
Apocalypse planned for everything, and this included the possibility of his own failure. In the event of this, he prepared The Final Horsemen, chosen to rise after his defeat and defend him in a new host body. Jeb Lee, the Final Horsemen of Pestilence, was a Civil War-era spy who suffered the loss of his family when his ways as a spy were misinterpreted.
Distraught over the death of his family and branded a traitor, Jeb’s mutant gifts first flourished: the ability to create a bioauditory cancer by making a rhythmic tapping sounds, either with the drums he is typically seen with or even by simply tapping his fingers. Watching Lee march through the battlefield at Gettysburg Apocalypse selected him as the final Famine, but would eventually be killed by the Apocalypse Twins.
6 THE SENTRY
Debuting under a marketing stunt as a lost Marvel Comics creation of the Golden Age, The Sentry quickly became a major player in the Marvel Universe. The Sentry fought for years alongside The New Avengers as their heaviest hitter and eventually joined the Dark Avengers. The mentally unstable Sentry contended with his darker half, The Void, but eventually succumbed during the events of Siege and ultimately died in battle.
The Sentry, alongside Daken, Grim Reaper, and Banshee, was revived as one of the Apocalypse Twins’ Four Horsemen of Death. Unlike his counterparts, Sentry was able to free himself of the Horsemen programming. Seeking to die again, Sentry would eventually be found by Doctor Strange, who would completely clear the Apocalypse programming, allowing Sentry to become a hero yet again.
Investigating a mysterious signature of new mutants in Tokyo, Colossus instead found Sugar Man hoarding a collection of mutant embryos that he planned to take to the future to protect from M-Pox. Colossus and his band of X-Men chased after Sugar Man and soon found themselves accidentally stranded in the future alongside him.
By the time help arrived, Colossus’ team of X-Men students had been lost for months, and Colossus was gone. In an effort to protect the students, he had attempted to fight off Apocalypse and instead was brain-washed into serving as the Horseman of War. Though eventually brought back to the present, Colossus still retained his programming but was eventually freed by Apocalypse in exchange for his release from the X-Men’s custody.
4 THUNDERBIRD (EARTH-1100)
One of the all-new, all-different X-Men, John Proudstar died in the original timeline. But on Earth-1100, he was experimented on by Apocalypse, and eventually became the new Horseman War. Thunderbird eventually freed himself from Apocalypse’s control and attempted to return to his life as an X-Man, but the damage was already done.
Thunderbird was soon taken in by the Timebroker, who paired him with Blink’s team in Exiles, traveling through universes in an effort to correct anomalies. Aiding the Exiles, Thunderbird proved to still possess great power thanks to Apocalypse’s enhancements. One such early encounter saw Thunderbird tap into his War persona to tackle an insane Hulk. While powered up, Thunderbird managed to best the Hulk even at his angriest, a feat that few people in any universe can lay claim to.
When Wolverine lost his adamantium, the character spent a long time coming to terms with the change. No longer the walking tank he once was, several stories dealt with Wolverine coping with his new weakness. Several attempts were made to reclaim his lost adamantium, but these efforts either failed or left him worse than he started.
Enter the evil Apocalypse. Apocalypse was aiming to make Sabertooth his newest incarnation of the Horseman Death but pitted him against Wolverine to determine who was worthy. Not wanting for his nemesis to gain such power, Wolverine bested Sabertooth and took on the mantle of Death. To further buff his creation, Apocalypse restored the adamantium to Wolverine’s skeleton, and then replaced him with a Skrull so the X-Men wouldn’t be suspicious. Wolverine eventually freed himself from Apocalypse’s control and has had his adamantium ever since.
In a universe populated with sadists and murderers, Daken is still regarded as one of the worst. The long-lost son of Wolverine, Daken has taken on his father’s penchant for killing with none of the honor. But he eventually pressed too hard, and Wolverine had to kill his own son before he went too far, drowning him for his part in trying to turn the child Evan into the new Apocalypse.
Sometime later, Daken was brought back from death by The Apocalypse Twins, who made him one of their four Horsemen of Death. The twins contended with the Uncanny Avengers but ultimately died failing. With their death, Daken and fellow Horseman Grim Reaper returned to Earth. Daken would eventually free himself of his Horseman abilities, allying with his sister Laura in the wake of his father’s death.
There is perhaps no Horseman of Apocalypse more well-known or fearsome than Archangel. Warren Worthington III was a member of X-Factor alongside his fellow founding X-Men but had lost his wings as a result of manipulation by Cameron Hodge. Apocalypse preyed on a distraught Warren, brainwashing him and turning him into Archangel, the first Horseman of Death to appear in X-Men comics.
As Archangel, Warren led Apocalypse’s Horsemen for a brief spell, eventually breaking free. Warren would periodically succumb to Apocalypse’s call over the years, and at one point very nearly replaced him following Apocalypse’s death. Warren still has his Archangel form in a duality with his Angel form, and even without the influence of Apocalypse remains one of the most terrifying entities of the Marvel Universe.