S.H.O.O.T. First #1-4 (of 4)
Story by Justin Aclin
Art by Nicolas Daniel Selma
Colors by Marlac
Letters by Amanda Aguilar Selma
Review by Joey Braccino
Today, the final issue of Justin Aclin’s S.H.O.O.T. First hits stands. One of Dark Horse Comics most innovative mini-series from the last year, S.H.O.O.T. First focuses on an elite team of secular humanists hell-bent on fighting back against the Outside Actors—gods, angels, demons, jinn, etc.—that suppress our freedom through faith.
I reviewed the first issue of S.H.O.O.T. First back in October 2013 and absolutely loved it. The stylistic parallels between Aclin’s wry, idiosyncratic characterization and Warren Ellis’ work on Agents of NEXTwave were apparent back then and, by series end, still absolutely apropos. What NEXTwave did with its satirical take on superhero comics, S.H.O.O.T. First does (albeit a bit more seriously) with the occult and religious. Funny, smart, and almost absurdly action-packed, S.H.O.O.T. First is an enthralling read throughout all four issues.
Throughout the series, Aclin holds on to his core of humanism: faith in humanity over deities, doubt, death, and autonomy. These themes run through what is otherwise a highly fantastical action-adventure romp as the five agents of S.H.O.O.T. strive to halt an Apocalypse-event designed by the Outside Actors themselves (because by threatening the end of the world, more people will believe in angels and demons, thereby giving the OA’s more power). Get it? The plot, which admittedly becomes between a bit too complex at later points in the story, ultimately takes a back-seat to Aclin’s exploration of his humanist concepts and how they manifest in his fascinating character creations. From team-leader Mrs. Brookstone’s embattled past with her “devilishly” oppressive “ex”-husband (wink wink) to Infidel’s evolution from Islamic extremist to S.H.O.O.T.’s most fervent (non)-believer to a mysterious traitor in the midst, Aclin takes all of his core cast on an engaging journey over the course of his all-to-brief mini-series.
Nicolas Daniel Selma’s artwork has pretty much gone to the backwall in terms of “crazy, hellspawn, wack-a-doodle kerfuffles” every issue. Full-out battles in the depths of hell, dragons and faeries, angels, demons, and robots: Selma is able to illustrate the most absurd sequence in a stark, dynamic naturalism. Marlac’s wise choice of digital paints helps to flatten out an aesthetic might otherwise be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of phantasmagoria and strangeness. Oh, and there’s a gorram unicorn in issue #3. So watch out!
This series is definitely worth a BUY. I’m a sucker for interesting, engaging, well-executed concepts, particularly those that are able to either a) blend multiple genres together or b) weave complex philosophies into a pop medium like comics. S.H.O.O.T. First does both. Justin Aclin and Nicolas Daniel Selma have one heck of a series going with S.H.O.O.T. First, so check out this four-issue run and keep an eye out for a three-part story in Dark Horse Presents this March!