Damn Them All #1
In this new dark supernatural thriller for fans of We Have Demons and Something is Killing the Children, meet Ellie "Bloody El" Hawthorne: occultist-for-hire.
Following the death of Ellie's uncle, an infamous magician and occult detective, the 72 devils of the Ars Goetia are mysteriously freed from their infernal realm.
It's now up to Ellie to track down each of these exiled demons and damn them right back to Hell by any means necessary... holy water, conjuration, or just her trusty, rusty claw hammer.
Legendary The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard teams up with Step By Bloody Step scribe Simon Spurrier to introduce your favorite new occult antihero since John Constantine!
The magic system is one of fantasy’s most difficult worldbuilding elements, whether it be urban, epic, or even gaslamp fantasy. A too-rigid system reads like the instructional manual to a tabletop roleplaying game, while a too-loose system comes off as magic as a spamming of deus ex machina. A good creator treats magic like music, in which they establish a foundation (chords/scales/progressions) and then manipulate those foundations, like improv jazz, to showcase something new and exciting. It becomes an application of those foundational of that baseline (or bass line, to follow the metaphor) and then the twisting of them that makes for an engaging sense of magic in fiction.
Damn Them All #1 – written by Simon Spurrier, with art from Charlie Adlard, colors by Sofie Dodgson, color assistance by Shayne Hannah Cui, and lettering from Jim Campbell – is a series that captures the balance of a well-established and interesting magical system. The issue focuses on Ellie “Bloody El” Hawthorne burying her uncle, one of England’s top occultists for hire. Rumblings of a change in the demonic hierarchy and rules of magical summons have changed in the wake of this wake. This occurs along with shifts and bolder moves in the criminal underworld, with those demonic entities being used as powerful weapons. Running in parallel to El’s investigation into these demonic entities is a mysterious cop from New Orleans looking for El and her uncle, with some unseen connection to this situation.
Spurrier’s script is an excellent introduction to this world and its magic, working to establish both the criminal and occult elements and their interwoven relevance. Structurally, this issue is like a cross between Spurrier’s work on Hellblazer, and his more recent tenure on X-titles like Way of X. The issue combines the prose panels that were common in his Hellblazer run with Aaron Campbell, while also employing datapages from the X-books, detailing information about the demons with lore collected by El’s uncle. The use of the former gives the issue the feeling of a pulp mystery story, aligning it with the urban fantasy genre, while the latter work to flesh out and provide a foundation for the magic system worldbuilding that can be utilized at later points in the story.
These elements together give the issue a strong sense of plot, character, and setting, entrenching the story into a changing world. Not only does Spurrier’s script showcase a somehow even more twisted England than his time on Hellblazer, but El is an even more on-edge mage than Constantine. Her “big fuckin’ hammer” is a great way to root the character in something new and original, with the weapon being treated as a Schrödinger’s magic item with plenty of heft still in it. Spurrier never makes clear in the issue if the item has a curse to it, or if its just your garden variety tool, but in either case, it helps to nail the tone of the series. It’s a necessary item as El works for hired muscle for the Wax family, one of the older crime families in town. It’s just one of the concrete examples of what the scripting goes to establish a rich world that takes common fictitious elements and twists them into something new and unique.
Adlard’s art is just as killer as the scripting in this debut issue, delivering a perfect balance between gritty crime elements and cosmic horror. The style calls to mind the original run of Alias from Michael Gaydos, which gave a more realistic look to a superhero universe. Instead of the superheroics, the linework gives a grounded look into the world of mages and the occult. Adland’s harsh linework combined with Dodgson’s colors gives the series a gothic quality that reflects the harshness of the book’s setting and provides a powerful contrast to their depictions of demons.
Those demons are the element of the issue that lingers long past the last page, bypassing the recurring images of snakes and pitchforks to instead illustrate something more primordial. The issue features three images, one in the book’s cold open, and then two that are summoned to attack various Wax family members. These forms occur as more abstract figures compared to the physical solid lines of the regular humans that summon them.
The second demon, Andromalius, appears in the world with a pulsing effect, and Adland’s pencils illustrate this by creating an effect similar to blue/red 3D. It’s disorienting both on the page and in the world of the story, as though the being is vibrating on a discordant frequency as opposed to the physical world. Each of the demons has a different effect or styling that sets them apart and brings a new dimension to the urban fantasy format.
It’s in those moments with the demon summonings that the book’s coloring gets to break from its established look and experiment. The bulk of the issue lives in blacks, browns, and grays, giving the sense of London a bland and muted look, worn down by the passage of time and politics. In many instances, pages are broken up by the use of white backgrounds for the prose panels. The issue breaks from the typical neo-noir palette when the demons appear, still playing in the dark colors for the first demon, a sword-wielding owl/wolf creature (which might be my favorite visual from this issue) by using a prismatic effect that makes the colors flash across the page, illuminating an outline of the being. Then, the second demon breaks up the monotony of England with its almost blinding form, shocking coloring into an otherwise drab pub. These moments of color give a texture to both the world and the magical elements within it while establishing the genres the story is straddling.
Damn them All #1 is a great book for those missing Spurrier’s much too short time on Hellblazer, delivering an interesting story at the intersection of crime and magic. His scripting paired with the synthesis of time on Hellblazer and his various X-titles gives this book firm feet in both the new and familiar. That conjecture with Adlard’s art and Dodgson’s colors takes what could have been a by-the-numbers story of crime and demons, and elevates it to something distinct and original. This is a book for fans of noir and urban fantasy stories, and those interested in rich magical systems that read as straightforward but interpretive. It doesn’t hurt that every magical drawing is mindblowing and brilliant, and El is a lovable bastard of a protagonist.
Damn Them All #1: Hell on Earth
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
User Review( votes)