THIS REVIEW OF ‘EXORSISTERS’ #1 IS SPOILER-FREE.

by Brendan Hodgdon. One of the great trends at Image over the past decade is the embrace of new and distinct art styles, and a willingness to diversify the type and tone of the stories that they publish. In the beginning, Image’s work leaned towards the dude-friendly, the violent, and the “mature,” but in recent years they’ve found room for (and success with) the light and the humorous. That shift, a sign of growth and flexibility, has led to some really tremendous new books and helped to expand the popular understanding of comic books overall.

Exorsisters is one such series, and with it creators Ian Boothby and Gisèle Lagacé have provided another winning example of why this evolution of Image’s brand was so necessary and so welcome. The title, following demon-hunting sisters Kate & Cate Harrow, is the sort of imaginative and seemingly-lighthearted romp that with any justice will inspire a television adaptation and tons and tons of loving fan appreciation. It immediately has the feel of another Image sleeper hit, the kind where you’ll turn around one day and suddenly it has fans everywhere.

Of course, it’s not just the aesthetics of the book that make it seemed destined for such success: this debut issue is a damn good story on its own. As far as comics go, I might say that Exorsisters #1 is the ideal of what a first issue of a series should be.

Exorsisters #1Exorsisters #1

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Ian Boothby.

Art by Gisèle Lagacé.

Colors by Pete Pantazis.

Letters by Taylor Esposito.

Proper Tone. As one might expect of a comic with such a punny title, Exorsisters is a frothy and fun adventure. Boothby’s script is quick-witted and energetic; it’s never afraid to mix humor into any scene, but it’s also careful to never undermine the story itself in the process. There’s plenty of jokes and chuckle-inducing ridiculousness, but there’s also an honest melancholy that exists just underneath the story. Kate and Cate’s rapport is classic buddy-cop banter, and in being funny they give us a glimpse into who they are as characters in the classic Whedon/Sorkin mold.

The humor is not limited to dialogue or characters, though, as even the world itself is played for laughs. The demonic mythology that Boothby is establishing in this issue is go-for-broke absurd, and there are great concepts that demonstrate just how open-ended and unpredictable the world and the humor are. The plight of the demon Azphedel is a microcosm of this, something that is unexpected as a concept, funny on a visual level, but also unsettling and revealing of the stakes in this world. It’s truly inventive stuff, presented in such a quick and fun way that you almost take it for granted.

Style to Spare. Besides the careful balance between quirky tone and real emotion, it’s the style of Exorsisters that makes it stand out. Lagacé’s art matches the more upbeat elements of the script, at times almost lending a classic-Archie-esque vibe to the proceedings. Her designs for the demons are bold and uncomplicated and leave a firm impression on the audience, often revitalizing classic approaches to these sorts of creatures (again, I direct you to Azphedel).

But the real winner here is the fashion. Lagacé’s designs for Kate & Cate’s outfits are fantastic, each of them distinct from the other but still clearly stemming from a similar sense of style. These looks are striking and yet so accessible that I have no trouble imagining a cosplay scene chock-full of Cates and Kates within a year or two. Lagacé has already created something iconic here. We just need to wait for fandom to catch up to it.

One and Not-Quite-Done. Exorsisters #1 is a particularly good debut issue, as it’s almost completely a one-and-done story. The sisters take a case to find a groom-to-be who’s been abducted by a demon; and by the end of the issue they’ve solved it, taken us on a tour of their world, and established their relationship and personalities for the reader. Just on these elements, it serves as a great primer on what the series as a whole will be like.

And then Boothby and Lagacé drop a major plot twist at the end of the first issue, one that raises tons of questions and lays solid groundwork for a longer-form story. That the creative team is able to do this without making the entire first issue feel like an extended prologue is a testament to their talent. And the possibilities that are suggested by this last-page reveal reinforce the understated melancholy and darkness that had up to this point quietly permeated the issue.

Exorsisters #1 is a hella-fun comic, and yet it doesn’t skimp on emotion or forget how to tell a functional story. There is so much possibility in what’s set up in this issue, and I hope that Boothby and Lagacé can find the balance between case-of-the-week and longform narrative as well as they did in this chapter. And by next NYCC I expect to see more than a few pairs of Harrow sisters on the convention circuit.

8.5 out of 10

 

Check out this 4-page preview of ‘Exorsisters’ #1, courtesy of Image Comics!

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