Pullbox Reviews The Devil That Wears My Face #1- “Send more priests…”

The year is 1740, and the Vatican is in turmoil. Grappling with a profound crisis of faith, outcast exorcist Father Franco Vieri is dispatched on a mission of grave importance — to rescue a Spanish nobleman from the clutches of the sadistic demon known as Legion.

Ringo Award-winning writer David Pepose (Moon Knight: City of the Dead, Savage Avengers) and Bram Stoker Award-nominated artist Alex Cormack (Sea of Sorrows, The Crimson Cage) conjure a harrowing tale of terror, action, and intrigue that will leave comic readers at the edge of their seats.

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I ran across Mad Cave at Wizard World (now Fan Expo) Chicago back in 2016. I fell in love with a wicked cool title called Battlecats, and have been consistently impressed with both their quality and their output ever since. The Cave has been racking up titles in every genre you can think of and has attracted an impressive level of talent along the way.

Among that talent is another personal favorite of mine, David “the trope killer” Pepose. From the start with Spencer & Locke (think Calvin & Hobbs meets Sin City), Pepose hasn’t found an expectation he couldn’t subvert. The twist this time is that he’s putting together a straight up horror comic in the spirit of the classic from William Peter Blatty. Pepose ups the unsettling by placing his story during uncertain times for the Catholic Church, still adjusting to a post-Reformation world. And as it takes place in Spain, keep in mind that the Inquisition (good times) didn’t end there until 1834. As Pepose digs into this story of deception and possession, the political turmoil adds a layer to the supernatural horror.

Alex Cormack takes Pepose’s script & doubles down, turning the creep factor up to eleven. The predominant shades in this issue are ichor greens & viscera reds. The shadows are deep and the arterial sprays are impressive. It goes without saying, but this is a comic for mature audiences (I’m saying it because I went to see The Watchmen in the movie theater, and some lady had brought a couple of boys who couldn’t have been older than ten… they left shortly after Rorschach tracks down Gerald Anthony Grice), and Cormack’s visuals reinforce that rating. He is that brutal in his portrayal of sudden, vicious slayage.

Justin Birch is, as always, on point with the lettering. There’s quite a bit of exposition in this comic as everything gets laid out for the reader, and Birch does a fantastic job of arranging the dialogue without interrupting Cormack’s work. What’s more, his sound effects are outstanding, taking the place of those sudden outbursts that deliver effective jump scares in a good horror movie. Without the benefit of actual sound or a soundtrack, it’s the touches that Birch delivers helping to make up for that lack.

In terms of horror, stories involving possession and religious undertones seem to hit the hardest. I really do think that the adage “You don’t have to believe in the Devil, because he believes in you” should carry a lot of weight, even for those of no particular faith. With that in mind, I’ve gotta say, The Devil That Wears My Face is a fantastic entry into the genre. The creative team has achieved one of the most difficult feats in comics: concocting an effective horror story, delivered without the benefits that come with a motion picture.

For all of my rambling, I think the highest praise comes from my wife. She doesn’t read comics but holds The Exorcist as one of her all time favorite movies, and when she saw me writing up this review she asked about the book. She sat down to read the issue, and getting to the end she exclaimed, “What the hell, that’s it? Where’s the rest?”

I told you, she doesn’t read comics.

Final Score: 12/13

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