When curate Billie Baker is sent by her bishop to help in the beautiful seaside town of Tredregyn in Cornwall, she anticipates aiding the community in their time of spiritual need. What she doesn’t expect to find is Reverend Penrose fighting the forces of Hell for 25 years, nor a local branch of the Church of Satan. Dost though get thee in my behind, oh Devil? Take the jump for our review of Steeple #1 from Dark Horse Comics.
Writer: John Allison
Art: John Allison
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 18th, 2019
Previously in Steeple: Tredregyn, a tiny seaside town in Cornwall, Britain, isn’t the sort of place you’d expect to find the forces of Satan massing on a nightly basis. Thanks to the efforts of the doughty Reverend Penrose, those hellish hordes have been fought off night after night for nigh on quarter of a century. But the burden is becoming heavier and heavier, and with help difficult to attract, let alone keep, he makes one last plea to his bishop to send someone who can assist. Cue – Billie Baker!
I adored Steeple #1. It’s a fun book with a cast of appealing characters, and a premise that owes a touch to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with an appealing lead in the naïve and stubborn shape of the new Curate, Billie Baker.
Writer and artist John Allison does very well to sketch out the shape of the story in this first issue. The town of Tredregyn is given a distinct feel, with enough of a backstory to make it as much of a character as the people that live within its bounds. The characters that we do see Allison gives life to in a series of well-crafted scenes include the dauntless Reverend Penrose, laboring under his nightly duties in the field, watched over by his devoted housekeeper, Mrs Clovis. There’s a neat scene in a diner as Billie Baker is introduced, as well as the spookiness of the town she will shortly call home.
While Steeple #1 trades in horror, it’s a sort of YA horror that won’t offend anyone, while offering a few chills here and there. Allison’s artwork assists, as it doesn’t have the hyper real aspects of other noted horror comics in the field today, like Gideon Falls. It is no slight on the art to describe it as cartoonish. It takes an artist with real skill to put aside the instinct to portray places and people as real as possible. Instead, we get a broad-brush version of the same in artwork that looks appealing and feels fresh.
Allison has also done well to set up the stakes in future issues. While the nightly demonic visitations are clearly going to be a staple, the members of the Church of Satan threaten to be an interesting complication. Monsters are one thing, but when the members of a Church who worship your Church’s enemy are humans like Billie and Penrose, there’s a requirement to deal with them in a less terminal way. Billie’s friendship with Satanist Maggie Warren, who is a part time bartender at the local pub, threatens to be a complication that powers any number of storylines going forward.
BOTTOM LINE: LIGHT AND FUN
Steeple #1 isn’t doing too much different in the field of horror. It’s concentration on the people in Tredregyn, against the backdrop of an ever present demonic threat, will be the aspect of the story that gets the most attention, as it should. As we saw with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s not the monsters that take center stage, but the human drama and conflicts that were a large part of its appeal. Steeple #1 feels that way, and if Billie Baker isn’t Buffy Summers, then her urge to help those less fortunate than herself comes from the same wellspring of inspiration and humanity.
YA horror with the edges shaved off, Steeple #1 is a fun and engaging read populated by a series of interesting and captivating characters. Billie Baker is young woman who will appeal to a younger female audience; an identification figure for girls seeking a heroine who looks and acts just like them. This issue might pleasantly surprise people of faith, as it treats religion with a respect scant other works of fiction provide today.