BEHOLD A PALE HORSE: Keith Giffen Talks "The Four Horsemen"

When last we saw the Four Horsemen of Apokolips in DC Comics' "52," they were, in a word, dead. But even Black Adam can't keep the Horsemen down, as the fearsome foursome return later this year in a six-issue miniseries by writer Keith Giffen and artist Pat Oliffe. CBR News sat down with Giffen to talk about "52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen."

The Four Horsemen were created on Oolong Island under the auspices of Chang Tzu and Intergang. One of their number, Yurrd, infiltrated the Black Adam family in the guise of the friendly reptilian Sobek, and before he and the Horsemen were done, Black Adam's queen, Isis, and her brother, Osiris, were dead and buried. In retaliation, Black Adam murdered all four Horsemen and destroyed the nation of Bialya that they called their home.

Giffen confirmed to CBR News that Azraeuz, Rhoggra, Zorrm and Yurrd (or Death, War, Pestilence and Famine, respectively) were "dead-to-rights dead" after their last encounter with Black Adam, but "it's kind of hard to kill Apokoliptian demigods," Giffen said. "You can take care of them physically, but they'll usually find a way to come back." Giffen also said that Yurrd's latest incarnation will not look like Sobek. "That whole Sobek thing was specifically to infiltrate the Black Adam family. He's got a form that we haven't quite seen yet.

"[The miniseries] follows up on the Four Horsemen as the Four Horsemen, rather than just being programmed weapons for Intergang or Bialya," Giffen explained. "When we saw them in '52,' they were manifested on Ooolong island, they were pretty much programmed to fulfill a function. These are the Four Horsemen without anyone calling the shots. They have manifested again, they've got their own heads on, and they've just decide to bring about their four dark ages right here on Earth."

Though "The Four Horsemen" miniseries does pick up where the title characters' story from "52" left off, Giffen is taking pains to make sure it functions as a stand-alone story as well. "I'm not a big continuity fan," Giffen admitted. "Unfortunately, everything that happens in every comic book at DC and Marvel, they all tie in to one another in one way or another. But this is not one of those wherein you have to buy any more than the six issues to enjoy it. It's a six-issue self-contained story. It all picks up on events that took place in '52,' and without being too complicated, just carries those events further. I'm trying to do a book that, even if you hadn't read '52,' you can jump in on the first issue, and by the end of the first issue you're pretty much up to speed and you know what's going on." However, Giffen did confirm that some Oolong Island scientists and Bialyan survivors will make appearances in the "The Four Horsemen" mini."

"The Four Horsemen" marks a first for Giffen, whose influence can be found all over the DCU going back two decades. "It's the first time DC ever handed me Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and said, 'Here, you can use these characters,'" Giffen said. "So it's kind of fun to play with the Big Three, and also kind of fun to drop them into circumstances that might feel more like a 'Swamp Thing' horror story than a DC superhero story."

It was DC who first approached Giffen about doing a "Four Horseman" spin-off of "52." "It was kind of presented to me as, 'We want to do something with these characters, you got anything in mind?'" Giffen explained. "So, you know, I took a couple of minutes, thought about it, and when it all started to fit together, I realized I had a pretty decent story there, at least a story I thought was worth telling."

Giffen is brimming over with praise for his "Four Horsemen" collaborator, "52" alum Pat Oliffe. "He's knocking it out of the ballpark," gushed Giffen, who himself was an artist on "52," creating breakdowns for every single issue. "I think [Pat] did really well on '52.' I think all the artists on '52' did really well, considering what a bear it was. And Pat was one of the guys that, near the end, he was one of our go-to guys. But now he's got a little bit of time to lavish on the work. I mean, there's a big difference between doing a book that comes out weekly, when you're always under the gun, and doing a monthly book where you have a little bit of time up front so you can spend a little time with it. And, I tell you, he's really putting that extra time to good use, it's really stellar work."

In addition to "The Four Horsemen" project, Giffen is also taking over Wildstorm's "Midnighter" series as of issue #10. He's also writing "Starlord" for Marvel, and coming onboard DC's "Countdown" in what he characterizes as a "hands-on capacity" as of issue #43. The first issue of "Four Horsemen" hits stands on August 29th.

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