I think it's safe to say that we've all read a comic or two where people fight demons or magical monsters, right? It happens a lot, especially if you're into those Dark Horse horror comics like Hellboy. The thing is, all of those fights happen on the monsters' terms, working on the idea that all of that stuff is 100% real. Now, writer Justin Aclin and artist Nicolas Selma are bringing back their story of a team that operates from a more Scoobydoovian foundation: S.H.O.O.T First, the story of a task force that battles myths and monsters with the power of atheism.

Well. Atheism and laser guns.




The Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce first appeared in the digital Dark Horse Presents anthology a few years ago, but the return will see them expanding into a creator-owned four issue mini-series, complete with an apocalyptic plan that one hopes will be foiled. And according to Aclin, it's both an epic adventure and a very personal series that looks at how losing faith changes a person, through the medium of robots punching things.

I asked Aclin what we could expect from the series, and he mentioned that he's cramming as much as he can into four issues:

You are not going to find decompressed storytelling in this comic. I probably could have (should have?) stretched this story out a lot further than four issues, but I'm still having a hard enough time believing that these are actually going to come out - I wasn't about to assume I could finish up the story in a second mini-series. There is a lot of story in these four issues.

One of the best things about working on this so far has been seeing the creature designs coming in from my co-creator Nicolas Selma. Some of the creatures S.H.O.O.T. fights are "stereotypical" creatures, meaning they look like what we'd think they would look like when we think of that creature. But sometimes I'd ask Nico to create a creature and I had no idea what it should look like. Like, a Jinn is a being made of fire from Arab and Islamic mythology, usually westernized to genies. So instead of a genie coming out of a bottle, in the first issue the team battles Jinn that are bottles - they use their bodies to store humans. I had no idea what they should look like, though, and Nico did an amazing job of making them look both recognizable and totally new, and also really creepy. And as a giant monster fan, there's a giant monster in issue 2 that he just knocked out of the park. I don't want to spoil what it is, but it's fantastic. I love that every issue takes us to a different location and has the team fighting wildly different Outside Actors.

And he also addressed the response he's gotten from the book's unusual premise:

When the "prototype" short story came out a few years ago I expected it might cause some controversy among religious people. But actually whatever dubiousness it encountered came from the Internet's very vocal atheist community, who seemed to think that I was setting the team up as stooges because they didn't believe in the creatures they were fighting. Well, that's basically all dispensed with in the first issue. There's not much hand-wringing about whether or not the team is doing the right thing or whether maybe the angels are really agents of God after all or anything like that. The team is right, and they have science to back them up, and the whole conspiracy and apocalypse plan that they're up against are laid out very quickly. The twists and cliffhangers - and there are many, and they are awesome - are all character-based. So, atheists - I'm not going to pull the wool out from under you in issue 4 and reveal a secret Christianist agenda. This is what I believe. But I'm more interested in how the experience of losing faith affects someone, and in examining what you gain and lose when you go through this experience.

S.H.O.O.T. First is out from Dark Horse Comics on October 16.

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