The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – written by Michael Mendheim, who worked in the video game industry (Mutan League Football), and illustrated by the fan-favorite fantasy and sci-fi artist and storyteller Simon Bisley (ABC Warriors, Lobo, Slaine) – is a collection of Heavy Metal graphic novels which tells the story of Adam Cahill, a Hebrew professor who was raised to be the high archon of a secret society called The Order of Solomon. They’re a sect of highly trained warriors bound by bloodlines and tasked with guarding the holy seven seals – the same biblical seven seals which once broken will release the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and usher in the End of Days. Right of the bat this is a very dark graphic novel, as we’re introduced by a flash forward of our main character questioning his existential beliefs and eventually committing suicide by shooting himself under the chin.
We then flash back 6 days later, where we’re given a quick glimpse of Professor Cahill’s normal life with his wife and child before he’s called in by the Order. We begin to see the conflict in Cahill as he chooses his duty to the Order over his devotion to his family. We’re led through a series of events which has the Nicolaitans- an evil order led by a demon- Lord Belarios, who uses humanity’s greed to curry favors and empower his cause, obtain 6 of the 7 seals (Cahill hides the 7th on his daughter as she’s whisked away to the Vatican for her protection).
This leads to the flash forward where Divinity is telling Cahill that he must kill himself so he can go to Hell and recruit the chosen: three human souls consisting of Jessica Grace, an ex-rocker who sells her body to feed her drug addiction; Lucas Hand, a former preacher who lost his faith and turned serial killer; and Jordan Osbourne, a corrupt politician with a golden tongue. Along with Cahill they’re foretold to face-off with the four horsemen in a no-holds barred fight for the fate of humanity.
So begins Cahill’s quest (and the audience’s journey) into hell to find the Chosen, lead them to a path of redemption and ultimately prepare them to fight the four horsemen. And that path of redemption for the three chosen “heroes” is where Mendheim writing hooks you in as the Chosen are anything but heroes, as each one is laden with a burden of guilt that ties in to the Horsemen’s power. They’ll have to overcome not only their own deepest, darkest fears, but the physical manifestation of the four horsemen themselves.
Michael Mindheim’s story is entertaining, with great pacing that moves swiftly from scene to scene with no wasted panels. The story takes place over many different places, but at no time do we feel disoriented. Adam Cahill is very much a Badass – think a present day Solomon Kane with a black trench coat styled after Spawn’s Cape.
But also with a soft heart as Adam Cahill is an anti-hero we care for and wish to succeed. In the brief scenes with his family you start to care for his character and feel his dilemma as he’s forced to choose between the Order and his family. In the scene where he has to send his daughter away for her safety, you can actually feel his heart breaking as his daughter is crying and pleading because she doesn’t understand and thinks she’s being punished. But it’s not until we get to hell that the fun really starts.
Simon Bisley’s art is breathtaking. Gritty to the nth degree. His bad guys ooze evil and his version of hell is dank, surreal, and feels different than our mortal world.
The artwork in visceral, brutal, gory and violent. Gore-geous panels grab you with its miasmic gothic-ness and entices you to examine every inch for its overtones. Each page allows the story to naturally progress and reveal the character development and the grief-stricken, and eventually redemptive, story.
One small nitpick is the way some of the action shots are depicted because they are so busy and so much is going on in a single shot, it’s easy to lose focus and have difficulty parsing out the action. Again small nitpick, otherwise the artwork is top-notch and a highlight.
Interestingly, this story started out as a game over 10 years ago by 3D0 studios, which was then put on hiatus when 3D0 filed for bankruptcy in 2003. In 2008, a deal was struck with Vogster Entertainment to produce the video game, but eventually was cancelled when, due to financial hardship, Vogster was forced to shut down its external gaming division. Heavy Metal eventually picked up the graphic novel and released the first one, Helldiver, in 2011. As you read through the pages you can feel the hard work and preservation that was put to these pages and if you, like me, enjoy stories based on the end of times and you like shows like Sleepy Hollow or Supernatural, then I readily recommend this graphic novel.