The Occultist Volume 2: At Death's Door by Tim Seeley is a comic series centered on a young man who wields The Sword, an ancient book of spells that binds itself to him (available July 8, 2014).
The second story arc of the on-going series, The Occultist, veers away from the criminal mayhem of the first volume to explore in more depth the backgrounds of our main characters, as well as the occult responsibilities of our hero, Robert Bailey. Unwittingly earned when he was selected to be the living embodiment of the ancient artifact known as The Sword, these powers allow him to patrol the line between the living and the dead. As this volume opens, Rob and the police officer who knows his secret, Detective Anna Melendez, are investigating the disappearances of local pets and small livestock. Their successful closure of the case causes a moment of closeness, but when Rob tries to express his romantic interest, Anna abruptly changes the subject, sending him off to meet his mentor, James Charles, instead.
Unknown to Rob or Anna, James is actually dead and gone. His body, however, is kept together by rejuvenation sigils, as it has become the latest in a long line taken over by a technomancer now hellbent on supplanting Rob as the next wielder of The Sword. The technomancer, John Quint, was originally a snake oil salesman during America’s Westward Expansion. While dying of cancer, he sought out any means to prolong his life, though he drew the line at selling his soul:
I found dark arts that extended my life, spells, sigils. But each new faith asked for my soul in return for my body, and, despite the pain and desperation, I would give my spirit to no one. I had heard tell of those who believed as I did. A new faith, spurred by the Industrial Revolution… the steam engine… innovation… They called themselves technoshamans. They manipulated ancient powers with modern science and innovations. They stank of oil and iron. They put faith in intelligence. Revered change. And though they couldn’t defeat death, they could abate it without selling their essences into servitude. It was a process they called ‘upgrading.’
When Rob confides his ongoing failure to connect with Anna in his supposed mentor, John concocts a plan to wrest The Sword that is far more subtle than the direct assaults that failed to work before. John reaches out to a nearby coven of college students who in turn reach out to Rob. Led by the sexy Luka, the group offers him companionship and, more importantly, enlightenment through new experiences, showing him what their shared powers can do in scenes such as this:
Rob: Holy— where are we?
Rob: Neptune?! Like, eighth planet from the sun, Neptune?
Luka: I think that’s the one. What, you’ve never been?
Rob: I—I didn’t know I could. No, it’s not that I didn’t know. Jesus—it just never occurred to me. God, that’s pathetic.
Luka: It’s okay. That’s what we’re here for—to broaden your horizons.
Unfortunately for Rob, his newfound happiness is shattered when John, desperate to leave James’ failing body, begins to turn the screws on the coven, leading to sudden but inevitable betrayal and more demonic mayhem than anyone was quite prepared for.
The Occultist Vol II: At Death’s Door is a great look into the occult background of The Sword and of those willing to do whatever it takes to wrest its powers from our hero. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also talk about Mike Norton’s art and how well it works here. His lines flow so beautifully, and are deftly capable of accompanying a story that takes us from modern-day New Hampshire to the astral planes to the Wild West to outer space. By turns bloody and transcendent, his art makes him a great addition to The Occultist’s creative team.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
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