In what apparently began as the development for a to-be video game, Michael Mendheim’s passion project, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, became a graphic novel instead. As we learn in the creator’s introduction to this book, when he hired Simon Bisley to do the artwork, all intents and purposes were to develop this into a video game, but financial constraints ultimately prevented that goal. As Mendheim says:
We decided if we couldn’t deliver the content through a videogame, we would create a graphic novel.
So after they were picked up by the team at Heavy Metal to publish The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in issues, the saga began. And therein lies a brief history for what became quite a gruesomely beautiful graphic novel, collected as a hardcover complete edition by Titan Comics (which is the edition this review is based on).
The story revolves mainly around Adam Cahill, and begins with his suicide. It then backtracks a few days and begins the story with Cahill’s pre-death existence leading up to and explaining the reasons for his suicide. Turns out, he’s been tasked with entering hell to seek out a team capable of preventing the release of the Four Horsemen, and ultimately the demise of humanity. So the majority of the book takes place in worlds outside of our own and existences beyond our understanding. And that’s a damn good excuse for fantastic and gory action if there ever was one.
At times the story can get a bit confusing, seemingly getting muddled down in its own ambition. The basic premise is easy enough to follow, but I did find myself getting lost at times and having to backtrack a few panels to retrace the developments. Still as a whole it’s an enjoyable story, with a team of well-developed main characters that each bear some connection to one of the horsemen.
Bisley’s art is simply astounding, brutal and beautiful at the same time, imaginative and gritty. The creatures he creates are truly hellish, which is quite appropriate considering the setting, and the action is intense. Mendheim certainly made the right choice in recruiting him. And his strengths aren’t only in the two or three character panels, but also in the expansive scenes, creating vast settings to give the closeup action more context.
As a video game, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would likely have bared a lot of resemblance to EA’s Dante’s Inferno. It contains a similar system of acts, in this case dealing with each of the four horsemen, whereas the aforementioned game dealt with physical manifestations of the seven deadly sins. As a fan of that game, I wish we would have seen this story come to its original goal. The resulting graphic novel, however, is just as enjoyable of an experience. It’s visually astonishing and owed at least one or two rereads. For an over-the-top action-packed gorefest, it actually has some good depth to it as well. In fact that’s one of the chief reasons for a reread (which I will assuredly be doing soon myself). To all you fans of gory fantasy horror comics, don’t miss this one.