By Edward Gambichler
Helldiver : The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse
Most people can remember reading either Marvel or DC Comics growing up as teenagers. Unfortunately, the young comic book reader must grow up at some point and graduate to subject matter that reflects their own maturing reading habits. For some, ( in the 50’s ) it was consuming the Horror, Science Fiction, and True Crime stories found in pages of EC Comics. Other reader’s found it in the subversive humor of MAD magazine and racy cartoons of Playboy magazines. I was lucky enough to come of age in the mid 70’s early 80’s era that defined Heavy Metal magazine. First released in France under the name Metal Hurlant in 1974, it included science fiction stories with an erotic bent that featured the work of such artists as Moebius, Milo Manara, and Philippe Druillet. It was brought over to the United States in 1977 by National Lampoon publisher Leonard Mogul who was in France trying ( ironically enough ) to release a french version of the Lampoon over in that country’s market. The American version featured the art of Richard Corben, H.R. Giger, Berni Wrightson, and Esteban Maroto. The publication became so popular it even spawned a cult animated movie in 1981 ( with vocal performances by SCTV mainstays John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Harold Ramis ).
When the magazine went up for sale, Kevin Eastman ( co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ) stepped in and became both owner and publisher. Under his direction, another animated movie was released called Heavy Metal 2000 ( aka Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.2 ) with the main animated protagonist based on his then wife, B-Movie actress and model Julie Strain. The plot of the film was based on a story Eastman wrote with Eric Talbot called The Melting Pot. It featured artwork by Eastman, himself, and British artist Simon Bisley. Bisley has always been one of my favorite artists. The first time I’ve ever set eyes on his artwork was when I read the graphic novel, Batman/ Judge Dredd: Judgment On Gotham. I’ve been a fan ever since and i’ve been on the look out for his work. That led me to his work on Slaine, Lobo, his covers for the Verotik imprint, and now Helldiver: The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.
Written by Michael Mendheim, Mike Kennedy, and Sean Jaffee, the story centers around the character of Adam Cahill who is a member of the Order of Solomon. The Order is a religious group charged with the protection of the Seven Holy Seals foretold in Revelations. As a result of an attack on the Order and his family by the group’s ancient enemy, Cahill finds himself thrust into the bowels of Hell. His task is to enlist three corrupt souls, an Addict, a Madman, and a Deceiver, to help him go up against the biblical Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. The outcome of this battle will determine the fate of Humanity.
First off, the artwork. If you wanted Hell, then there is no better artist to serve it to you than Simon Bisley. I have to say that I was hoping this would be one of his painting efforts like Slaine, but I was pleasantly surprised with the mixture of inking and digital rendering. And this is definitely the type of story that is geared towards Bisley’s palette as well as palate. I have to say I favored the inking in this book more than I did his linework on Lobo.
As for the story, I found humor in the Wizard of Oz literary structure in Cahill having to meet up with his potential allies along his journey. Since this is only Book One, I can’t really comment on the overall story until I have seen its entire arc. I’m not familiar with the writers with the exception of Mike Kennedy ( Superman: Infinite City ). Although with a strong start like this, I doubt I’ll be disappointed.
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