"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Book III - The End of Days" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Heavy Metal
Written by Michael Mendheim, Mike Kennedy, and Sean Jaffee
Illustrated by Simon Bisley
2012, 76 Pages
Trade Paperback released on October 31st, 2012
It's the end of the world as we know it. Unlike the catchy song by R.E.M., this is filled with death and destruction and Leonard Bernstein is nowhere in sight. Michael Mendheim's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse comes to a close with the third and final book, The End of Days. Adam Cahill must battle his way out of Hell with the aid of his three partners to defeat the Horsemen and prevent the Apocalypse. Should be easy, right?
The end of the world is practically a weekly occurrence in comics. There are no lack of crazy people that want to destroy everything and there are always a bunch of heroes ready to stand up to them. You always know that the good guys will win and the world will be saved. Sure there might be a casualty or two, but this is the comic book industry, so they'll be back in a few years. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is an end of the world story that matters. There's a glimmer of hope at the end of this tunnel but it's flickering. There are legitimate consequences if Adam fails in his mission and there's a good chance of that happening.
Adam is helped along with his battle with an army of repentant souls led by Cain, who looks a helluva lot like Sayid from LOST. These soldiers see this as an opportunity to redeem themselves. They still have free will, even in Hell, and they have not accepted their fate in damnation. Instead they're going to create a revolution, to reclaim Gehenna, a land of pain where souls are cleansed before their final judgement. This place has become corrupted over the years, destroying the one chance that these sinners had at a better afterlife.
Mendheim expertly weaves his story through these pieces of religious mythology. He does it in a way that makes total sense. Of course someone like Cain would want redemption. At long last he has a chance to achieve it, after spending several thousand years paying for his sins.
Although the story is epic in scale, it would be a fraction of its size if not for artist Simon Bisley. This guy draws his ass off in The End of Days, creating a massive scale in every panel. Bisley makes the comic larger than life and puts the situation that Adam faces in perspective. He is up against enormous odds here. Whether it's against the forces of Hell or the Horsemen themselves, he has a steep hill to climb.
Each of the Horsemen is expertly designed. They're modernized in a way that makes the original depictions of these characters look like garbage. War is a bulky cyborg with a huge gun for an arm. Famine (my personal favorite) looks like a demented scarecrow with a gaping mouth in his stomach. Pestilence is a beautiful woman hiding a diseased husk of a human under her gorgeous skin. Death is fiercer and far more menacing than the traditional long dark robes and scythe that you see in most movies and TV shows. Even the horses that they ride are updated to match up to their style. For example, War rides a robotic steed while Famine's looks like it's almost dead.
Throughout each book, there have been letters that are colored red. They appear almost at random, spread out across all three trade paperbacks. Mendheim has confirmed that there's a mystery to solve with the letters. Now I have to go back and re-read everything to find out what that might be. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
The End of Days is a satisfying conclusion to this epic tale. The ending wraps everything up but leaves things open enough to pursue further if the need arises. Despite the relative short length of the trade paperbacks (each one is less than 80 pages), Mendheim was able to tell a complete story with many moving parts. He updated an old and tired mythology and made it his own. Somehow I think that the Catholic church would be a lot cooler if they taught this kind of stuff during mass.