Continuing from last week’s look at the Horsemen of War and Death, today is all about the two oft forgotten, but equally powerful Horsemen, Famine and Pestilence. In fact, while the other titles have changed hands quite a few times, Famine and Pestilence have only seen four incarnations beyond their initial appearance. But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t presented troubles for the X-Men.
The Famine Horsemen
Unfortunately there are only two notable Horsemen of Famine: Sunfire and Autumn Rolfson. It is a disappointment that the powers aren’t bestowed more often, because as a concept Famine seems much more worse than someone who is fuelled with anger who likes to hit things.
Sunfire (aka Shiro Yoshida), who is now an Avenger, once held the title during the third incarnation of the Horsemen. It was after M-Day and Shiro had, not only lost his powers from Wanda’s hex, but he had previously lost his legs in a battle with Lady Deathstrike. Complicating matters further, Rogue was pushed onto the now disabled Shiro and drained him not only of his powers, but his memories as well. Rogue did eventually end up besting Lady Deathstrike, but Shiro was thought dead by his fellow X-Men. That is, until he was found by the Hand. Neglecting assistance from the hand in the form of mechanical legs, Shiro was approached by Apocalypse, who promised him his powers back as well as his legs. Shiro accepted and was able to use his solar powers to manipulate peoples brain into thinking they were starving. Mr. Sinister ended up breaking Apocalypse’s hold on Shiro, only to lose control of Shiro himself after his death. Shiro then joined the Uncanny Avengers.
Autumn Rolfson is the only other prominent Horsemen of Famine because her mutant powers were already closely tried to the powers of Famine before she was recruited by Apocalypse. Her powers disintegrated food causing her to never be able to eat. Apocalypse recruited her under the guise of getting revenge on her controlling parents, and she ended up being a force to be reckoned with. She has fought Beast and Jean Grey, and won, only to be bested by Captain America. Apocalypse let her loose in the American farm belt and she wrecked massive havoc.
During her time as a Horsemen though, Autumn was sleeping with Apocalypse, and delivered a child in secret. Genocide was raised by her alone, for fear of Apocalypse discovering he might have a potential heir to his throne. This will be expanded on further next week though.
The Pestilence Horsemen
While many have held the title of Pestilence for Apocalypse, the three most prominent characters to hold the title are Caliban, Polaris, and Ichisumi.
Polaris is the child of Magneto (everyone always forgets about her). Having the same powers as her father she isn’t exactly a push over, so when Apocalypse turned her into the Third Incarnation of Pestilence, she was feared. She originally protested the title and was mind-wiped during the process of becoming a Horsemen, but it also restored her powers lost during M-Day. After Wolverine discovered her true identity and Apocalypse was defeated, she sent off to hunt for Apocalypse alone in Egypt.
Caliban is unique because he actually spent time as two Horsemen, Death and Pestilence. He was originally a form of organic Cerebro, able to detect mutants within a few yards, before he became a member of X-Factor. As Death, he fought the X-Men, but as Pestilence he captured both Cable and Nate Grey in the name of Apocalypse.
Ichisumi was one of Apocalypse’s final Horsemen, gifted with the powers of Pestilence as a last resort should Apocalypse fall. As a mutant she destroyed any girl prettier than her in her village using mind controlled beetles, so she fit the bill for Pestilence already. Her biggest contribution to Apocalypse lore though is fathering The Apocalypse Twins with Archangel while he was under the command of Apocalypse’s power.
These Horsemen really drew the short sticks in the lottery of most bad-ass to ever serve Apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t important or to be cast away lightly. In the film coming out this week, Storm fits the bill for either of these two Horsemen, and Psylocke doesn’t really fit in at all. The only logic I can draw with Psylocke is that she will be the Horsemen of Famine because her powers are primarily psionic in nature, and can be used similarly to Shiro’s power to project the idea of hunger.
In the final article in this series, I’ll touch on other aspects of Apocalypse’s influence, such as his offspring, death seeds, and Clan Akkaba.