Justin Aclin’s “S.H.O.O.T. First” #1 is an Angels vs. Demons vs. Atheists tale that articulates the author’s ideologies, which — for clarity’s sake — seem to be congruent with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry’s, particular brand of secular humanism. This is demonstrated through his incorporation of viewpoints that are specific to the right of mankind to develop freely, the importance of utilizing science as a means for explaining the universe, as well as the risks of using religion as a tool of manipulation.
WRITTEN BY: Justin Aclin
ART BY: Nicolás Daniel Selma
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
RELEASE: October 16, 2013
Aclin presents an intriguing approach to atheism in comic books, in that the four-part miniseries follows a Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce (S.H.O.O.T.), which defends humanity from the religiously mythologized supernatural creatures it doesn’t believe in. The weapons S.H.O.O.T. uses to kill these monsters are fuelled by psychic energy derived from their doubt and anger. On its surface it seems a bit bizarre considering the universe the team functions in, but the distinction lies in their stance on the nature of these creatures. While possessing a disbelief in ‘God’, they seem to accept that angels, demons, and other supernatural forces exist, but as ‘Outside Actors’ (dimension hoppers) that gain power from feeding off the devout and faithful. The problem is these Outside Actors are aware of the continued advancements in science, and are gearing up to stage a global apocalypse, a là end times, in order to ensure mankind’s belief in organized religion.
This book will not only focus on S.H.O.O.T.’s ongoing battle with these creatures, but on the emotional ups and downs of characters living life without faith. The first issue offers a very basic introduction to a fantastically diverse cast of monster fighters, led by an African American woman named Mrs. Brookstone, and a newly recruited Afghani man, who calls himself Infidel. The latter ironically finds himself in a state of disillusionment while praying in a mosque. In the process of rejecting God by way of alluding to multiple ‘Cynicism Catalysts’ and some other trauma tropes, things take a turn for the violent. Aclin, along with artist Nicolás Daniel Selma, draw upon Islamic mythology to produce their interpretation of evil, fiery jinn (genies), wreaking havoc in the mosque and feasting on believers. Infidel is caught in the conflict when S.H.O.O.T. arrives, and the narrative takes off from there.
Selma’s artwork for the series fits the story well. His creativity shines through his take on various supernatural creatures and certain characters. Most interesting of whom is Lord Byron, an aging British punk with a rainbow died mohawk, and Kenshin, the Japanese tech guru on the team. His monsters are exceptionally large and menacing, and are brought to life through Marlac’s scorching oranges and yellows. His detailed and clean line work in his illustration of the Vatican near the end of the issue is also worth mentioning.
While ‘The End of the World as We Know It’ trope is probably one of the most common aspects of Speculative Fiction, a full cast of ethnically diverse atheists is not. In fact, Aclin’s “S.H.O.O.T. First” might be the first of its kind. The first installment ends on an unexpected cliffhanger, but not before dropping a major plot twist on the readers to ensure their continued interest in Part 2.
Reviewed by – ShadowJayd