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The Occultist Volume 1: Advance TPB Review


The Occultist V1Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Dresden Files, Dr. Strange, and about half a dozen other modern-day supernatural and superhero stories, put them in a blender, run it for five minutes, and then drink.

The first thing you’ll taste in The Occultist smoothie is the tangy taste of Buffy, where the protagonist, Rob Bailey, is chosen to a sacred duty to be the wielder of the book known as the Sword (why the book is called the Sword, I have no idea, though an actual sword is part of it.)  While he’s learning his abilities, The Occultist takes on elements of the magic-gone-awry plots common to the Buffyverse.  Much like superhero origin stories, watching the protagonist figure out his powers is amusing with everything from a love spell to a memory spell gone awry, making Rob’s life a little more difficult.

The second thing you’ll notice is the sour taste of The Occultist’s superhero influence. I’ve seen The Occultist described elsewhere as Dr. Strange during his first year of training.  I’m aboard with that description, but it felt like The Occultist was trying to become more seeped in the superhero world but doesn’t quite get there.  The setting has some superhero influences, but I couldn’t get on board with Rob as the hero type, even if he does have a fancy costume.  What’s stopping me is the bitter taste of Rob’s romances, which make him overall an unlikable character.  The intention is for him to be the everyman, someone sweet but likable, but his relationships with the book’s two main female characters, Valerie and Detective Anna Mendez, fall flat.  Valerie is more plot device than character, meant as part of the demonstration of how Rob’s life sucks and what the Sword can do for him.  Detective Mendez is better handled, showing a little bit of characterization by the end of the trade, but she still feels like Rob’s love interest more than her own person.  The Occultist sidesteps the will they/won’t they aspect to most detective and supernatural person teammates but does so for the wrong reasons, which ultimately makes Rob seem like he’s on a mission to stop evil just so he can get laid.

For all the things The Occultist gets wrong, it does a fine job of creating a unique world worth exploring and ultimately makes this blend of elements filling.  While Rob relies on the old school magic of robes and tomes, other characters demonstrate an affinity for technology with one mage wielding a cell phone in place of a wand and using it and his laptop as the basis for all his magic.  Other magic users are introduced, each with their own little twist, including some reimaginings of characters from myth, like Pandora.  The demons and enemies in The Occultist are not the tried and true creatures (excepting vampires who even manage to feel different). I don’t want to give too much away, but Rob’s first encounter with demons is one of the most unique and entertaining portrayals of such an entity I’ve ever read. The Occultist takes common plot set-ups and turns them on their head, and, in case you were wondering, there is a “big bad” introduced, and, yeah, he’s pretty cool.

Overall, I’m happy with The Occultist.  It’s not the sort of thing I would want to drink . . . er . . . read every day, but it gets enough right that I’m willing to come back for seconds.



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