(Spoiler Alert: Plot details from “X-Men: Apocalypse” are ahead)
Moviegoers who are well-versed in the “X-Men” mythos will recognize what the final shot in the post-credits teaser for “X-Men: Apocalypse” refers to, but casual fans may be whipping out their cellphones wondering what exactly the Essex Corporation is.
In the end scene, sharp-dressed men from the mysterious company are seen scooping up samples of Wolverine’s blood after the adamantium-laced mutant goes on a rampage. The samples are then placed into a briefcase with the name “ESSEX CORP” etched on the top. The name refers not to a group, but to a man: Nathaniel Essex. Or, as he’s better known as in the comics, Mr. Sinister.
Mr. Sinister was introduced by Marvel in the 1980s to provide the X-Men with a villain other than the usual suspects like Magneto and The Brotherhood. According to lore, Nathaniel Essex began as a Victorian-era scientist who was interested in delving into Darwin’s theory of evolution, and less interested in following those pesky rules known as scientific ethics and basic human decency.
Through his research, Essex uncovered both the secret of the mutants’ existence and the genetic process that gave them their powers. Unfortunately, the unethical experiments he proposed to further investigate these mutations caused him to be exiled by society. Bitter and resentful, Essex came across Apocalypse, who transformed him into the powerful and immortal mutant known as Mr. Sinister.
Along with the standard powers like super-strength and telekinesis, Mr. Sinister has the ability to implant the genes of other mutants into his own, allowing him to copy their powers. In the post-credits scene, we see Essex Corp agents taking vials containing blood from other mutants, not just Wolverine’s.
It’s possible that Essex wants the blood so he can take over Project Weapon X and make an army of mutants under his command, or use the samples to expand his own abilities. Either way, Essex is considered an authority on mutant genetics in the “X-Men” universe, even more than Professor Xavier. But while Xavier is noble, Essex is far more … sinister.
Director Bryan Singer said in the commentary track for “Apocalypse” that Sinister was going to be the villain for “Logan,” but as X-Men fans found out, James Mangold had other plans for the third and final Wolverine film. Still, the post-credits scene did have a connection to “Logan,” as producer Simon Kinberg confirmed that the DNA samples collected by Essex Corp in the scene ended up being the basis for the cloning program that gave birth to X-23, the girl that shares Wolverine’s powers.
It’s still possible that Sinister could also play a role in a future “X-Men” movie, possibly the solo Gambit spin-off that is currently in development. That’s because Mr. Sinister and Gambit have a long history together. In the comics, Gambit was employed by Essex, helping him recruit other mutants to his cause in exchange for help with controlling his increasingly unstable powers.
Regardless of what direction they take him, the “X-Men” franchise is about to move one of its most cerebral, scheming villains ever from the comics to the big screen. Considering the cold reception critics had to “Apocalypse,” this is a villain they definitely need to make work for the franchise to continue without the star power of Hugh Jackman, whose time in the series has now come to an end.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” hits theaters Friday, May 27.