"The Occultist: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Victor Drujiniu
2012, 136 Pages
Trade Paperback released on July 18th, 2012
Life wasn't great for Rob Bailey. His girlfriend just left him. His mom is an annoying religious nut. His boss at his dead-end job at the local used book store can't pay him. Needless to say, things couldn't get much worse. That's when a strange package starts calling to him. Upon opening it, he finds a magical book known as the sword and is imbued with the power of the Occultist. Now his life doesn't suck as much but there's a price on his head a bunch of mystical bounty hunters aiming to collect.
The Occultist, created by Tim Seeley and Mike Richardson, takes the simplest of ideas for a hero -- an unknowing young man stumbles into unexpected, but massive power -- and puts a fun, supernatural spin to it. Yes, this has the same basic premise of characters like Spider-Man, but there's a bit more mystery here. Every page of this trade paperback makes me want to learn more about the sword and where it came from. Just like Peter Parker, Rob is an unwilling hero at first. He uses his powers for fun and to get his girlfriend back. It isn't until he experiences a bit of trauma before he realizes the depth of his new responsibilities. He didn't have an Uncle Ben to guide him.
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The sword works in mysterious ways that Rob doesn't entirely understand at first. It's designed to protect the user at all costs using a variety of spells. It reacts automatically, often without Rob's permission. The situations that it responds to are more than just attack or physical danger. It jumps into action and erases the memory of Detective Melendez who comes in to question him about some strange murders discovered at the book store.
Rob's reckless and carefree attitude is at first balanced by Detective Melendez after their initial encounter. She brings a bit of structure to his journey and she's the first person he confides in about his newfound abilities. Melendez can't help him control the sword, but she can definitely help keep him alive. This puts her in a weird spot in the police department as any case that's remotely out of the ordinary lands on her desk. There's a definite sexual tension between the two, but considering that Melendez is at least a few years older than Rob, she has a maturity level that he can't hope to achieve any time soon.
Victor Drujiniu delivered some pretty beautiful art in The Occultist. His work has an almost painted quality to it, creating a very smooth set of panels. This works best in larger scenes, especially where Rob is fighting some of the creatures that come to try and kill him. The design for the main character is a simple one. The sword exists as a green glow on Rob's right hand. He has to wear a glove, giving him a Michael Jackson look to cover it up. When he goes into battle, he dons a large red cloak that flows out behind him. This reinforces the mystical feel of the book, making Rob look like an old wizard.
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As much as I dug Drujiniu's interiors, Steve Morris gives him a run for his money with the covers each individual issue, featured as chapter breaks in this collection. I've been impressed with Morris' covers for Angel & Faith lately and this is no different. He manages to pack so much into each image that you can just get lost in them. The cover for the collection is a perfect example of this, showing Rob reeling backward as a horde of bounty hunters of all shapes and sizes rampage towards him. The types of creatures in this bunch include a giant, a Vegas showgirl, and what looks like a cartoon vampire. I want the story behind each of these characters. How did they get to this place at this time?
That's my only real problem with The Occultist. It's too short. You get an origin story and a bonus adventure that was included in Dark Horse Presents, but I want more. There are so many unanswered questions and a ton of potential with the concept. I want to find out everything I can about it. The Occultist is a perfect blend of the supernatural with the modern technological world. There just needs to be more of it.