It’s been almost two years now since the first issue of The Rise of the Antichrist came out. It was a strange and fascinating indie comic release. The fact that it was so odd, actually, was the only reason I took interest in it back then. It’s not often, after all, you find a comic book that utilizes Bible passages as dialogue.
There’s a certain hook inherent in that. No matter your beliefs, Western theology and philosophies have permeated large portions of the world’s population through sheer osmosis. I’m an atheist through and through, but even with my base clinical interest in the religions of the world (and slightly more curious studies of various folklore, which is really just religion without a church), it was surprising how much nuance in the comics I picked up.
Since then, the series has been renamed to Prince of Peace, but the story remains the same: a man gains dubious and supernatural powers that endow him and others with the belief that he is Christ risen once more. It’s been a weird ride of ups and downs, of establishing intrigue and setting off mystery after mystery. It has, for the most part, been the kind of eccentric, haphazard, and unfettered story I’d been hoping for from this small and independent series.
This last and final issue, however, throws a great deal of that away. It opens with promise. The pages of Michael finally unleashing his wild and untethered idea of salvation on a crowd gathered to support his lofty, Jesus-y claims are spectacular. They highlight how fickle people are, especially when something as valuable as their lives are on the line. A fully committed believer would gladly given up their life to Christ while a single falsity turns that dedication into a cult.
It’s introspective enough to be somewhat thought-provoking. (I’m not sure if it’s more critical specifically of the casually faithful or people in general.) But it quickly turns to puzzling for the wrong reasons.
A long forgotten component of the narrative returns in the form of Michael’s friend Gabe. His intentions and motives could make for some interesting parallels to the idea that someone close to the savior would attempt to mislead and misappropriate his fame and power, but for the entire four pages, my only thought was who the fuck is this guy. His introduction and swift exit are so baffling that all momentum in the issue is killed.
Then the inevitable showdown between Adam and Michael occurs with neither side saying anything of substance or revealing anything new. From the moment Adam arrives to the inescapable and foregone conclusion, the exchanges are bland and carry no subtext while the action indulges in many of the tropes of the mad dash/protracted climaxes trademark to hollow summer blockbusters.
The worst of which is that we know so little of the motivations behind Adam’s actions that his decision to appear feels unrewarding, just as the outcome feels unsatisfying. And save for a delectably subtle denouement regarding the Christian church egocentric aftermath, the last quarter is almost pure exposition that fails to answer any of the myriad questions established through the past nine issues.
It does, in fact, seem to only serve in setting up the cliffhanger for a second series. In a Marvel-style stinger, it even sees fit to bring back another long-lost component of the story, one that had originally hooked me into the story but failed to surface ever again. In essence, this tenth issue takes the originality and pointed nature of the series and makes them subservient to its own survival and some broad, amorphous idea of what an action-oriented final act looks like.
I guess such a conclusion could serve as an allegorical experience for what the followers of Michael felt. Something they’d briefly but attentively been attached to was pulled out from under them for something else entirely. But that is simply a bridge too far.