Yet again, Betvin Géant twists the direction of The Rise of the Antichrist. In issue #3, we left off with our protagonist Michael out in the world, still struggling to make sense of the inner demons inside of him. This subsequent issue, titled “Tribulation,” takes a step away from Michael to center on his therapist Dr. Mendeev, or Adam as he’s come to be known later in the book. Géant doesn’t forget about Michael – he’s still an integral part of The Rise of the Antichrist, though at this point I’m not sure if he’s the antichrist or not – but explores wider themes and a supernatural subplot, one that indicates that Mendeev is an immortal healer.
It’s good to see Géant venturing away from Michael for a little while, too, because that character’s psychoses often make it difficult to fully engage with him. By shifting the focus to Mendeev, Géant gives a reprieve from the usual craziness spouted by Michael, and also allows a world to take shape within The Rise of the Antichrist. Up until now the series has had a fairly narrow view, and continuation of that would strain the plot; so with that in mind, Géant’s new exploration of Mendeev’s character, along with a eugenics scientist named Noa, enlivens and advances the series without necessarily moving Michael forward.
We’ve met Dr. Mendeev before, but not in the manner that The Rise of the Antichrist #4 presents him. The issue’s opening shows the mundanity of his life: waking up from a nightmare, getting dressed in a massive and empty house, watching cartoons while eating breakfast, and biking to work. It’s a series of panels presented without dialogue, expertly crafted by Kay and smartly realized by Geant, that tells the reader a lot about Dr. Mendeev/Adam without having to resort to exposition.
But the issue also gives up some backstory on Mendeev, who seems to have some sort of healing ability that grants him immortality. The framing flashback takes place in a western-style time period, providing a traumatic look into Mendeev’s past life. His wife and children were murdered in front of him, and his hands were hacked off in a form of torture and experimentation; at first it just seems like a nightmare, but later memories and a miraculous healing cut seem to acknowledge that the events were real. How they tie in with Michael and the antichrist is not apparent yet, but it’s an interesting development that shifts the ideas of this comic considerably.
Suffice to say that despite the lack of Michael in this issue and a move away from the main plot, The Rise of the Antichrist #4 is another successful issue for Géant and Kay. Its subplot offers up new questions and hints at religious elements that go further than Michael’s devout breakdown, and Mendeev seems to be a major player in what’s to come. Right now, The Rise of the Antichrist has me worshiping at its feet and wondering what’s coming next.