This week’s entry from (or, as you will see, into) the Astro City universe is the Pale Horseman.
He is a spectral character whose imagery is somewhat reminiscent of Ghost Rider from the Marvel universe, but their back stories are quite different.
Like something out of the book of Revelation in the Bible, he comes riding through an interdimensional rift to invade Astro City in The Dark Age series. He rides on a skeletal horse surrounded by fire as they gallop through the air and up the sides of buildings.
Invisible except for the hooded cloak he wears, the Pale Horseman seeks out transgressors and eradicates them in shafts of fire. His bent toward retribution is one more similarity he shares with the Ghost Rider. The main problem is that his judgment of sin is not tempered with mercy. He indiscriminately punishes the smallest offenses along with the greatest. There is no chance for rehabilitation of the offenders. There are no second chances.
I am intrigued by this character because he has the citizenry of Astro City questioning their own motives and actions. Everyone becomes paranoid and aware of his or her own faults until the inner beast is unleashed in all. Christians and philosophers alike can reflect on what this says about human nature and the fallibility of both saint and sinner. When it comes to assessing ourselves and others, where do we draw the line of distinction? Is it valid to draw it at all? My father used the term, “purity barriers” to describe the criteria by which we try to elevate ourselves above others, and Jesus warned against judging the faults of our neighbors while ignoring our own.
Let me conclude by quoting a common saying:
“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”