Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chronic Review: The Occultist!

The Occultist (one shot)
Dark Horse Comics
Script:      Mike Richardson/Tim Seeley
Pencils:     Victor Dujiniu?
26 pages for $3.50

According to the back matter, The Occultist is an attempt for Dark Horse to expand their line past the Gold Key/Valiant properties.  The issue identifies itself as a one-shot, and my interpretation is that this is sort of a "Pilot Season" audition to generate interest for a potential ongoing.  If that's the case, I would think that the Occultist failed.

This is yet another in a very, very long series of "average bloke has monumental powers foisted upon them" type riff.  Rob Bailey is a complete loser mama's boy. His girlfriend dumps him, (and her name is introduced in a really awkward piece of exposition to the right) she's cheating on him, his mother dominates his life, he works part time at a book store, and he sucks.  His book store job allows a mystical book to intersect with him, and he unwittingly becomes a focus for all kinds of arcane power/knowledge, and the obligatory band of ominous bad guys that comes with such power and knowledge.

The idea, of course, is that we see Bailey as somebody we can relate to, tap into his Campbellian Heroes Journey of "little fish thrust into scary new pond", and invest ourselves in watching him rise above the fray.  The problem with that is when the formula is so utterly well trodden and transparent, its difficult to fall prey to the intrigue of it.

I think the book could still work if there were anything to like about Mr. Bailey, or anything fresh in the execution of the plot.  The boogeyman Aiden Beck is an Evil Grant Morrison, which was entertaining visually for a few panels, but there was nothing the character said or did that justified any continued fascination.  The "Crows" weren't strictly ciphers, but they weren't particularly compelling, either.  They gathered my interest only when one of them did a spot on Vlad impersonation and said "Hrrrm.  Bad."  But of course all that really served to do was remind me that I would rather be reading Hack Slash.

No, the villains aren't great, you'll loathe the "hero" of the story, which means that the only place left to find any intrigue is with the book's unique mythos regarding "The Sword".  I don't believe that works very well, either.  I don't see how that mystery can have any draw unless you care about the people involved, or unless you do something like "The Da Vinci Code" and twist something familiar if not iconic.

I don't see where that interest would come from.  Bailey dispatches the Crow lackeys with a blast of mystical energy that he had nothing at all to do with.  Surely the plan is to get Rob more deeply ingrained in the "Sword" culture, and maybe someday there's something to the character.  But as it stands, he's a walking annoyance with the ability to make all his troubles go away with a subconscious whisk of his hand via his internal Deus Ex Machina.  Hard to imagine how it could get more boring than that.

If you want your Seeley fix, I highly recommend Hack Slash or Colt Noble.  I'm taking a pass on any further adventures of The Occultist.

- Ryan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review. I think you nailed it on several points. "Evil Grant Morrison" as the villain, and references to Joseph Campbell were nice touches.

As I read the Occultist, I found myself wishing that it was more like Marvel's 4-part Druid series. Even DC's The Chill was probably marginally better.

Still, this so-called "One-Shot" ended with a "to be continued..." tag. (I think you nailed it there, as well. "Pilot Season," indeed. I'm willing to check out the next issue here, though, just to see if Spider-Man, er... the Occultist can pull it together.