"S.H.O.O.T. First: Volume One – Angels and Infidels" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Justin Aclin
Illustrated by Nicolas Daniel Selma
2013, 114 Pages
Trade Paperback published on May 7th, 2014
There are a lot of crazy government agencies in comic books, all of which are designed to protect the world from dangers that may arise from the likes of alien invasions, zombie uprisings, and super villains of all shapes and sizes. The Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce (S.H.O.O.T.) is the latest addition to this group and in S.H.O.O.T. First, they're ready to call bullshit on whatever you may believe in.
S.H.O.O.T. has an interesting setup. It exists to ensure that mankind is free to create its own destiny. Beings called “Outside Actors” (O.A.'s for short) have been trying to manipulate matters to work in their favor for ages. They can manifest as angels, demons, or even elves. That's right. The God you believe in is just some crazy supernatural creature that feeds off of your faith. S.H.O.O.T. steps in when those O.A.’s get out of line and try to bite off more than they can chew.
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The crux of S.H.O.O.T. resides in faith or the lack thereof. The Outside Actors feed off of it while the weapons that the Taskforce use can only be fired in the complete absence of it. As Seth Hersch, the head of S.H.A.R.D. (Secular Humanist Applications Research and Development), puts it, “...our doubt is our greatest weapon.” The first chapter begins with a man later called “Infidel”, who is suffering a crisis of faith at a mosque when it is attacked by what appear to be Bottle Jinn (think a scarier version of the genie from Aladdin but a whole group of them). In a moment of adrenaline, he picks up a fallen weapon and shoots off a bullet of physic energy to save the day. As a result, he's offered a place on the team.
The group itself is varied with some clichés in the bunch. There's a tough-as-nails Brit, a geeky Asian, a badass blonde with a tortured past, a stoic leader, and...a robot. The core of the group is Mrs. Brownstone. She's the central thread for S.H.O.O.T. First as her young son plays a central part in the overall story. She works so hard to protect the boy from anything that could hurt him (of which there are many) while struggling with the questions any child would ask, such as “What happens when we die?” How can she tell her son a fairy tale about heaven when she knows firsthand that it's all full of crap?
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Nicolas Daniel Selma's artwork took a little getting used to. His characters look a little flat, as if they were cut from paper and placed on the page. This makes some of the action scenes appear stiff. Where he really excels is in the different Outside Actors that appear throughout the comic. There are the basics like angels and demons, which look immense and terrifying, and then there are more creative designs such as a golem created from one of the Egyptian pyramids, towering above the Taskforce like a bizarre version of Godzilla. There's even a whole group of fairy folk with a dragon. The creatures really stand out and no two look alike.
S.H.O.O.T First creates an entire mythos by throwing out everything that modern (and ancient) religion stands for. It doesn't do it in an insulting manner, although I'm sure that there are people that will be offended by the nature of the book. Instead, it's handled in an intelligent way that easily explains all of the different belief structures that have developed over the years. The Outside Actors grow and evolve over time to fit the needs of the people and to continue to feed and gain strength from their faith. Sometimes they get a little uppity and that's when S.H.O.O.T. swoops in to put a stop to them.
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