Full Disclosure: I backed this comic’s crowdfunding campaign and have interacted with the author in the past.
Quick, spoiler-free summation: Soulfinder is like Supernatural if it was much more hardcore Roman Catholic and the demons were more like eldritch abominations. A flawed, but solid freshman effort.
Recommend ages: Teenager and up. Deals with some complicated concepts and has scary imagery.
POSSIBLE SPOILER TALK
I always like to start out with the cons and then finish positively. Though many of the cons in this comic are a result of its pros.
For example, by far my biggest complaint is that I wanted more. The world seemed rich and interesting enough I felt like we never got a good look at anything. I always wanted the story to pause a moment, and let us examine this aspect or that character for another panel. This is a bit of debate in comic writing right now. “Decompression” is the term used to refer to a comic with a lot of “beat” panels – or what you might call padding. Brian Michael Bendis is a comic writer who’s work provides a plethora of examples of positive and negative decompression. Whether decompression is a good or bad thing for comics is quite the debate in some circles and I think it’s quite debatable over this comic as well. The author has the comic quite compressed and things move along quickly – to the point you wonder if an extra page or two squeezed into the issue to allow more breathing room would help with the pacing.
And there’s many points in the story where I could argue on both sides. For example, this issue has a character that I’m going to call “Father Nick Fury” for he’s a priest very evocative of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. On the one hand, you wonder if it would be better for the story’s pacing if Father Fury was introduced at the end of it to set up the next issue. On the other hand, I can understand bringing him in as soon as possible to hook the reader. If he’s not in it, would the story even have a chance at a second issue?
Thus most of the flaws are understandable ones, often a result of limited space and so much being packed into this issue. For example, usually in these “Monster of the Week” stories, I like for them to give the “victim(s) of the week” a bit of character, to encourage me to like them and want them to be saved by the heroes. Here, the victim(s) are so lightly sketched they could almost be inanimate macguffins.
Likewise the villains are fantastic in their evilness and near-lovecraftian natures, but again slightly undercut by a brisk pace that doesn’t allow them to really unnerve you before they are beaten or leave the scene.
As far as a count of art flaws, there were only 3 panels in the entire issue where I could not understand what happened in them (though most I could eventually work out through context).
So what are all the pros?
The art is generally nice to look at and tells the story well.
If you’ve watched/read the “modern fantasy” type of story – like Buffy/Angel, or Supernatural, or Grimm, or Dresden Files – Soulfinder ends up feeling very familiar, yet fresh as you realize we really haven’t had any of these stories with a priest in the lead. You also realize that those other stories sometimes strained disbelief that nobody was aware of what was going on. Soulfinder… has the bad guys playing into the cover up in a very clever way that adds to the novelty of it all.
The heroes are flawed, but realized characters that I enjoyed following and want to see more of. Most importantly, they are likable and their conflicts feel organic and earned rather than pointless bickering to pad out the drama scale.
Plus if you’re a christian, it’s nice to have a story where religion and believers are portrayed with a depth and complexity accurate to the real world rather than a simplistic caricature – either positive or negative. You do not feel like you’re being talked down.
So in summary, the most important question of any comic:
Do I want another issue?
And I’d have to say… yes.
I’d like to explore this world more and see where it goes. Especially if the writer keeps honing and improving his craft.