"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Titan Comics
Written by Michael Mendheim, Mike Kennedy, and Sean Jaffe
Illustrated by Simon Bisley with Ivan Khivrenko, Joel Boucquemont, Vince Proce, and Dave Devries
2014, 272 Pages
Graphic novel released on September 3rd, 2014
There have been all sorts of interpretations when it comes to the various aspects of the Bible. It's safe to say that the coolest ones have to do with Revelations and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Michael Mendheim seems to agree as he's created his own take on the horsemen in an epic, world-ending saga that has been collected in one big hardcover by Titan Comics.
Titled simply The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the comic centers on Adam Cahill, a member of the Order of Solomon, an ancient bloodline sworn to protect the seven seals of Hell. When a dark force begins attacking the Order and breaking the seals, Adam must make the ultimate sacrifice and venture into the underworld to protect the planet from Armageddon. He's joined by three lost souls to stop the Horsemen before they can lay waste to the world. No pressure.
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The beauty of this book is that it deals with some heavy religious undertones without ever getting preachy about it. I didn't feel the need to rush out and go to church after reading it. Mendheim weaves aspects of Christianity and Judaism into the story between some intense action scenes of biblical proportions. He quickly builds the mythology of the comic in a very organic way that is never confusing and easy to jump right into.
Adam Cahill is everything you'd want from an action hero. He's a family man with a strong sense of responsibility to the Order. He will do anything to keep his wife and daughter safe, even if it means killing himself to travel to Hell and fight a war. He's like the Punisher mixed with Blade and Wolverine. As he makes his way through the underworld, he quickly dispatches of anyone that stands in his way with a pair of might swords and guns that seem to never run out of ammo.
Cahill's quest is not an easy one. He has to find three lost souls in Hell and convince them to take up arms and join him against the Horsemen. These include a punk rock prostitute, a serial killer, and a corrupt senator. A big part of the book is spent getting this group together, providing backgrounds for each of them. You ultimately feel sorry for them and instantly want to see them succeed. This brings him through Gehenna, a pseudo-Purgatory where people would hope to one day redeem themselves and get into Heaven. Unfortunately, the land has been corrupted by evil throughout the years and it's a twisted version of its former self.
All of this sounds pretty cool on its own, but what really makes The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse great is the artwork from Simon Bisley. If anyone was ever meant to draw the end of the world, it's Bisley. He brings the book to a new level of terror and really cements the epic tone of the story. This is big. When Cahill first enters the gates into the afterlife, Bisley puts it all into scale, showing how small the man is when compared to the massive doors of bone, blood, and sinew that keep the dead in.
The title characters almost outshine Cahill once they appear on the page. Pestilence alternates between a beautiful woman and a decrepit creature falling apart from disease. Mendheim explains in the back matter of the book that the "perfect metaphor for her horrific state was a venereal disease", and that certainly comes through in the design. War is everything you'd expect from the Horseman in present day. He's a hulking monster of a man, weighed down by guns, swords, and armor. There's something very American about him. Death gets an upgrade from the classic shroud-and-scythe look to make him appear way more metal than any rock band covers have ever depicted him.
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The real standout Horseman is Famine. Designed by Michael "Rusty" Drake, he's looks like a distorted Mad Hatter crossed with a scarecrow. A giant mouth filled with jagged teeth opens from his stomach, taking up his entire torso. It's terrifying but looks awesome. He's by far the coolest looking of the group and has a sense of humor to make him an easy favorite.
This collection also includes a hefty amount of back matter that includes original designs of the characters, shots of the action figures, shots from the video game, and a breakdown showing how the comic was built from the script to the final page. There are also two puzzles that will encourage readers to go through the book again to find hidden messages spread throughout the pages.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is perhaps the most inventive version of Armageddon that you'll ever read. It makes the end of the world look pretty awesome. It would be the biggest and most elaborate action movie ever made.