The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Helldiver Book 1
graphic novel review
Date Stamp: June 3, 2012
Publisher: Heavy Metal
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
Helldiver is your classic black & white, good vs. evil story. You have the Order of Solomon wearing the white hats, an ancient brotherhood tasked with protecting the Seven Holy Seals, which, if broken, would usher in the End of Days. Wearing the black hats are the evil Nicolatian Cultists, led by suave businessman Andrej Belarios and his hideously disfigured lieutenant Inimicus, who have launched a crusade to obtain the Seals and unleash the Apocalypse. Adam Cahill, an elite warrior of the Order of Solomon, finds his loyalties stretched between the Order and his family when his wife and daughter are caught in the middle of the war. Cahill is your typical broody video game-style hero; equipped with long black hair and equally long black trench coat, a talented swordsman and lethal marksman who can clear a room with a few well-placed shots but turns into a big teddy bear around his young daughter. Belarios is your typical Antichrist figure, cold and domineering, while Inimicus is your typical bloodthirsty, psychotic henchman. Nothing terribly new here.
But it’s great. It’s great because it’s Heavy Metal, and it’s everything you would want from that distinctive skewed logo. I’m a huge fan of the original film, of its so-over-the-top-it’s-campy sex and violence, and early ‘80s rock score, and while Helldiver doesn’t have the musical nostalgia, it offers up a lot of insanely graphic gore and full-frontal nudity. Simon Bisley’s art is gorgeous: brutal in every bloody detail of the war between the Order and the Cult, and elegant in every curve of the many, many unclothed females who appear as both minor and major characters.
However, what really elevates Helldiver above its somewhat worn-out themes of spiritual warfare are the little details, the quirks of character and story that writing trio Michael Mendheim, Mike Kennedy and Sean Jaffee have woven into it. I thought it interesting that Cahill is not a Christian warrior but a Rabbi; when God speaks to him through a crucifix, Cahill casually states: “You’re not my god, Nazarene.” God doesn’t take offense (you get the distinct sense that the deity in this story isn’t nearly as preoccupied with religious allegiances as human beings are). There’s also Jessica Grace, one of the broken souls Cahill meets when he descends (dives, that is) into Hell and my pick for the most interesting character in the story. She’s an ill-fated rock star who doesn’t know she’s dead, condemned to relive her mistakes and her torments over and over until Cahill recruits her into his war.
It’s a good read. It isn’t perfect (there is one point in the story where Adam does something that struck me as kind of…well, incredibly stupid, given what he knows) but it’s faithful to the Heavy Metal name, the art is beautiful and never boring, and the story has a lot of potential to become more than the sum of its parts.