Written by Guest Contributor: Jason DiGioia Things are royally messed up in the Catholic Church. I can say that because it’s what Roman Ritual #1 is all about: possessions, exorcisms, disturbed patriarchs, and priests with shady pasts.
Let me start by getting the ugly out of the way: The only way you’re not comparing Roman Ritual #1 to The Exorcist is if you’ve never seen or read The Exorcist. There’s no getting around that. In fact, there are points in the book where I felt like El Torres was paying too much homage to the film. While Torres does try to raise the stakes in this first issue to differentiate his story from the one most of us are familiar with, the fact remains that I can’t not compare it to the classic horror film.
Case in point: early in the story, our protagonist, Father John Brennan, makes his way into the bedroom of a possessed young girl named Luisa. The demon controlling her calls Brennan a cocksucker and projectile vomits at him in a spider-walk position. Sound familiar?
What separates this scene from The Exorcist is that Fr. Brennan isn’t moping around D.C. having an existential crisis. Having been nearly excommunicated, he’s touring the Amazon as exorcist. Think of him as a member of “exorcists without borders.” It’s a cool concept supported by the backstory that in this universe, possessions are on the rise, demons are very real, and the Catholic Church houses exorcists to handle the problem.
Another point of comparison between Roman Ritual and The Exorcist is the complete lack of struggle Brennan has in calling the demon out of Luisa. He sprinkles some “dirty fluids” (demon speak for holy water), says a few prayers in Latin, and it’s over. In one panel the demon claims to be raping Luisa’s soul in hell, and in the very next panel, Luisa is back to herself, giving the padre a big, tear-filled hug. It feels very rushed and too pat. Maybe we’re meant to believe that Brennan is just that damn good, but that wasn’t how I felt while reading it.
Eventually Brennan is called back to Rome to face what I’m assuming will be his toughest challenge yet. Without giving too much away, let’s say that he’ll have his hands full in issue #2. The book ends with an interesting plot twist that takes any comparison to the film and spits pea soup all over its face.
Despite the book’s overall failure to spider-walk out of The Exorcist's shadow, I’ll be reading issue #2, if only to see how Torres handles Father Brennan’s next challenge. There’s definitely promise here; hopefully the story continues to become something unique.
Writer: El Torres Artists: Jaime Martinez, Diego Galindo Publisher: Amigo Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/29/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital