Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Before it was a graphic novel, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse began as a concept for a video game. After years of trial and tribulations, with the project being paused two times, it never saw the light of day. Fortunately it found a new life as a graphic novel, originally published by Heavy Metal as a trilogy in 201l. Now it has been compiled into one complete volume by Titan Comics, filled with concept art and storyboards from both the video game and comic.
Writer/Creator: Michael Mendheim
Illustrator: Simon Bisley
Colorist: Chad Fidler
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse follows Adam Cahill, a blood descendent of King Solomon and one of a handful of warriors tasked with protecting the Seven Holy Seals. If and when these seals are all broken, they have the power to unleash Armageddon upon the world. Led by a sinister soul named Belarios, heretics calling themselves the Nicolaitans quickly and violently retrieve six of the seals, including one of the two that Adam is responsible for. With the end near and his family’s lives on the line, Adam must become the Helldiver, venturing into the depths of Hell to recruit three lost souls who will help him in the fight against the Four Horsemen – Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. Will he succeed, or will the world as we know it fall victim to chaos and despair?
The graphic novel is an interesting and epic take on the apocalypse. While I’m not personally familiar with all the details of the biblical story, writer Mendheim weaves together an exceptional piece that provides all the necessary context without being too imposing on the reader. His explanation of specific terms is easily understood and makes logical sense in moving the plot towards its inevitable end. The story may be grounded in the Book of Revelation, but I appreciate Mendheim’s decision to strike a balance between different religions, namely the Jewish and Christian concept of Hell. There is no dominating belief, rather the focus is on the human concepts of good and evil, selflessness, and redemption.
Though The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a decent read, it had some qualities that were bothersome and prevented it from being an excellent, well rounded story. The four main characters—Adam, Lucas, Jessica, and Jordan—never registered as having distinct personalities worth liking and rooting for. They weren’t terrible, they were just a bit bland. While Adam is supposed to be a badass, I could never fully believe it. This is because there is not much background to back it up with. As readers, we’re only told that he’s the descendant of Solomon and that alone should be enough to acknowledge him as a great warrior. It would have been more effective to see some past tribulations to really understand what he has done for the world up until the point of the apocalypse. In this way, his tragedy and temporarily loss in faith may have been more believable. His motives and determination to save the world also appeared questionable. Though he wavered in his faith in God (who wouldn’t in his position?) and had to focus on being selfless, he came off as being apathetic when recruiting the three Chosen (the lost souls in Hell).
Adam, Lucas, Jessica, and Jordan coming together as a team felt rushed. While the chemistry between Adam and each relative individual character felt right, the dynamic as a whole team never felt genuine. On what grounds would one soul trust the other? Sure they are all lost souls looking for redemption and they must have faith in each other, but it’s a stretch, especially when it comes to Jordan. He is such a distrustful bastard.
Furthermore, Adam’s recruitment of the three Chosen seemed too easy. He knew where to go, strolled to his destination, beat up a few guys, and changed each soul’s mind with a snap of a finger. They all either came with him willingly, or didn’t know what they were doing. And while none of them were fighters or warriors, they were all ready to fight without a clear plan.
It may sound like I didn’t like the story, but overall it was still an entertaining read. I really do like the themes of redemption and free will that play over and over again. It reminds us that we all make mistakes and have flaws, but they can be overcome and forgiven.
Visually, Bisley’s art is fantastic and engaging. His portrayal of the underworld is horrific, monstrous, and grotesque. His take on Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death is frightening and filled with much forethought and detail. In scenes of combats, the splash of colors by Fidler is captivating and surreal.
This graphic novel may not be my cup of tea in terms of the details I would like to have seen, but it is a decent one. I think if it was published as a game as it was intended, the story and characterizations may have been better fleshed out. Still, the turn of events, which led it to become a graphic novel, makes it an ambitious story worth the read if you like apocalypse stories.
3.0 out of 5.0
Author: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Laura is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently resides in Southern California. She drinks too much milk tea, talks too much about Green Lantern, and would marry Barry Allen if he were real.