WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Uncanny X-Men #5, by Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, R.B. Silva, Adriano di Benedetto, Rachelle Rosenberg and Chris Eliopoulos, on sale now.
Apocalypse is one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe. Between his own considerable mutant powers and his Celestial alien technology, the ancient X-Men villain is strong enough to take over the world, and he's achieved that perennial supervillain goal in several alternate timelines.
Despite that, Apocalypse has spent the last few months in chains. Along with Kitty Pryde, the X-Men's current leader, and the anti-mutant politician Ashton Allen, Apocalypse has been held captive since the last page of Uncanny X-Men #1. Since then, the villain's captor has revealed himself to be Nate Grey, an unimaginably powerful version of Cable from an alternate reality ruled by Apocalypse.
In Uncanny X-Men #5, Nate continues his efforts to save the world from itself by reshaping it in his own image. Despite his history with Apocalypse, Nate seemingly blinks several sites of religious significance out of existence on the advice of Apocalypse.
With a casual amount of effort, Nate makes sites in Vatican City, Mecca and Thiruvananthapuram, India vanish into thin air in a burst of energy. It's not totally clear what happens at these sites or if these were the only sites affected. Since Grey has primarily been a telepath in the past, he may have psychically erased them from view. Of course, he was recently identified as Marvel's most powerful mutant, so his Omega-Level powers may have evolved to include some reality-warping capabilities, too.
After the sites vanished, a horrified Kitty Pryde asks Nate why he would listen to a "genocidal maniac" like Apocalypse. In response, Nate says that he doesn't know how to save the world so he's "listening to all sides and trying to find the best solution." He also adds that he views his three captives as a council that will help him reshape the world.
Throughout this issue, Nate seems cordial and even respectful towards Apocalypse, which is a far cry from how he usually treats the X-villain.
Nate Grey was genetically engineered in the Age of Apocalypse, a dark alternate reality where Apocalypse ruled a dystopian world. After the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline in the 1990s, Nate traveled to the main Marvel Universe, where he operated as the solo hero X-Man and on a few mutant teams.
Historically, Apocalypse is the ultimate embodiment of evil to Nate Grey. Nate was specifically designed to be strong enough to defeat his world's Apocalypse, and he witnessed the horrors of Apocalypse's dystopian vision firsthand.
Even in Uncanny X-Men #4, X-Man held Apocalypse in open contempt and said that he was only there to serve as a reminder of the Age of Apocalypse. Nate explicitly told the villain that his council was not welcome.
It's not clear why Nate changed his views of Apocalypse so quickly. While it could speak to some kind of instability on his part, Grey could be so open to listening to ideas that he'd even take the advice of his worst enemy.
Apocalypse, on the other hand, has already used Nate as a means to an end once before. In the mostly-forgotten early 2000s crossover "The Twelve," Apocalypse tried to put his consciousness in the ultra-powerful Nate's body, but the process fused the villain with Cyclops instead. Even though he's in a position of unusual weakness right now, Apocalypse still manipulated Marvel's most powerful mutant into following his whims, which included eliminating global religious centers in order to solidify his own power base.
X-Man has already started following in the villain's footsteps by gathering the Horsemen of Salvation, a group that inverts Apocalypse's Horsemen of Apocalypse. In a few months, he'll almost certainly be the center of "Age of X-Man," an upcoming crossover that appears to be a months-long inversion of "Age of Apocalypse."
While it's not clear how long X-Man will keep taking Apocalypse's advice, they both likely still have roles to play as "X-Men: Disassembled" unfolds across Uncanny X-Men, which is being released weekly by Marvel.