“The Occultist” is a one-shot from Dark Horse, even though it ends on a very big ‘to be continued’ moment. It appears that if this issue is successful, there is a great opportunity for more tales to be told for this character by this creative team. But for now, we get a tease and a complete origin. I can only hope plenty of people get on board, because this issue is a lot of fun. It feels like a Top Cow Pilot Season book, only better. Seeley writes this in his wheelhouse so as to contain devilish action and humorous dialogue.
Rob Bailey is a quiet college student. He’s the sort of everyman Stan Lee would spend nights dreaming up. He keeps to himself, works in an old book store for little money, is far too nice, has a domineering religious mother, and has just been dumped by his girlfriend of a few years. Life was never great, but it was liveable; Now, even that’s debatable. The charm of this comic is that it doesn’t force these plot points down your throat, it’s subtle in moments, the dialogue real in others. You instantly know Rob and feel for him.
The kicker for this title is when Rob ends up at work with a book talking to him. The idea of a book throughout history that chooses warriors to champion for it is a cool concept, though why it would choose Rob is not exactly certain. It’s probably an opportunity born of proximity rather than well thought out factors. The book is being hunted and its capture is imminent. The idea that this book has plenty of unexplored history is a concept that, much like in “The Immortal Iron Fist,” can be mined for untold one-shots and arcs later on.
The imminent threat to Rob, and his new Occultist power, is interesting, but what is more intriguing is that a tattooed Grant Morrison appears to be in charge of Rob’s future problems. Aiden Beck is a motivational speaker by day and a villain ready to track down the Occultist in his spare time. He’s also completely bald and quite mystical. Coincidence? Probably not. He’s one of those Machiavellian villains that every hero should face, a Dr. Claw or Kingpin type that will send waves of terror in his name but never be able to be defeated directly.
Victor Drujiniu and Jason Gorder do a solid job of making the action flow throughout the story. The best parts are where they delve into the mystic with a different style that makes it look like we are reading this ancient tome. To handle such juxtaposing art styles so deftly is a delight. Andrew Dalhouse does a good job at matching what is on display and he definitely makes the stranger elements pop off the page.
“The Occultist” is a comic you should be checking out. Seeley described it as a ‘first-year Doctor Strange’ and that alone is something I want to read. The fact that this character has already been fleshed out in one issue and the set up given is a brilliant display of being economical and still having quality. The final page offers a brilliant set up for many future tales as Beck has assembled a room full of ‘hit mages’ to track down the book and its new owner. If you want more of a magically fun and yet grounded character tale then put your money in to support this.