Some of you may not remember what things were like in 1999. If you don’t remember, you’ve just made me feel old. Thanks for that. Back in ’99 every one was getting ready to crack out their old Prince albums and party like it was 1999, because, well, it was. But there was a looming threat. The Y2K bug. There was a great panic because we were uncertain that our computers could cope with the change from ’99 to ’00. Planes were going to fall out of the sky, cars would spontaneously combust in the streets, microwave ovens would rise up against the oppressive regime of mankind and over throw the government – you know, the usual. It would be the end of the world as we know it. It was time for the apocalypse.
As I’m writing this in 2009, you can be pretty much assured the apocalypse didn’t happen in 1999. But there was a genuine uncertainty about the year 2000. Vertigo comics jumped on this wave with their V2K line of comics, all focusing on the stroke of midnight, New Year’s Eve 1999. 4 Horsemen was one of those books.
On New Year’s Eve, there’s a massive concert in Times Square. As the crowd chant along with the singer for the apocalypse to come, it does. Four horsemen, resembling the medieval depictions of the characters from Revelation, burst onto the stage. However, they are concerned why the crowd are cheering them and not running scared. So they retire to a local pub to regroup and work out what’s going on.
Famine, War, Pestilence and Death sit in the pub and interact with the customers in the bar. Across the four issues, we see that the threats of the ancient world have been superseded. The four horsemen may have to adapt to this new world if they seek to take it down in one big fiery finale.
This is a great comic that explores the terrors of this modern world. In our comfortable, Western lives, are we really that concerned about famine, war and pestilence? Their cruel touch barely reaches us in our comfortable lives. Even death has a reduced impact when medical advances keep putting that final moment off. But the things that can really tear us apart, the things that we’ve let into our society that can destroy us, the things that are right in front of us but we don’t even notice? They’re the new horsemen of the apocalypse.
It would be an understatement to say that there are many different ways to look at the Book of Revelation. It seems everyone has an opinion on what it means. As we read the Book of Revelation, I think it would be foolish to believe that the entirety of the book is about the future, about events that are yet to happen. This book was relevant to the contemporary readers. It had a message that applied to them. This is heightened when you think of the four horsemen. Famine, war, pestilence (or conquest in the Biblical text) and death are not new concepts. They are things that eternally affect this fallen world. The Book of Revelation describes past, present and future events. The horsemen in the Bible have a present effect on this world. They will damage this world, but they are not the final agents of destruction. That event will come about by the one opening the seven seals. Once the seals are opened, once the trumpets are blown, once the censers are emptied, then the world will end.
Who will be the one bringing the world to it’s conclusion? Will it be famine? War? Pestilence? Death? No. It will be the lamb. It will be the one being in all creation who is worthy to open the seals. The one being who is without sin. It will be the duty of the only begotten son of God, Jesus. For the Christian, the end of the world is not to be feared. No matter how bad things get, Jesus will return as the conquering king of Revelation 19. The end of the world will mean an end to sin. And the coming of a new creation. One where God will receive the glory and honour he is due and we will live eternally with him. As the saying goes, don’t fear the reaper. Pray for Jesus’ return.
4 Horsemenis a great read. As far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been collected. So you’ll have to go diving in the back issue bins to find it. But it is definitely worth tracking down.