Hi, everybody. It’s Delta-v back with another webcomic I like, and this time I’ve gone back to my “Wilder is better” premise selection. Author and artist Melissa J. Massey gave me permission because she’s such a nice person, so let’s explore the arcane and dangerous world of Vatican Assassins.
The story rests on three concepts: Demons are real. Certain people (The Blessed Children) are chosen from birth by the Saints themselves, and have been given the means to deal with these demons. The Catholic Church has enlisted every Blessed Child they can find into the Assassins.
Each Blessed Child has a Saint who will empower them through a process called “Resonating”. This gives each Child a unique ability in battle. Each Child also has a weapon or weapons that are effective against demons. It’s serious business, losing means not death, but being eaten by the demon, which gives it terrible power to destroy.
We meet quite a few Assassins–some quite “colorful”–most of whom are teenagers with all the “drama” that suggest– and get a taste of how they fight. The group we see the most of, however is the Trainee team of Fife, O’Reilly, Xy Phobus, and Viola di Largolinio
Fife is an earnest young fellow, fourteen years old, and Irish. The poor lad has a communication problem, since he can barely speak Italian and has a thick accent. The saint he Resonates with is (who else) St. Patrick. His weapon is a hand sickle with a chain attached. and his special ability allows the chain to stretch to any length, which makes it more formidable in battle. Fife is also the only one in his group who has actually performed a miracle.
Xy, quiet and more serene, is also fourteen, and has an even greater communication problem–he’s stone deaf. He Resonates with St Gabriel (yes, that Gabriel). His weapons are a short sword and a shield, and his special ability? As long as he’s Resonated, he can hear!
Viola is irrepressible, and feisty, the undisputed leader of the group, fourteen also, and Italian. She Resonates with St.Bernadette of Lourdes, and is the most heavily armed of the group with seven pistols. Being a Blessed Child is supposedly not hereditary, but Viola is third-generation on her father’s side, and second-generation on her mother’s. She displays abilities that confound her superiors.
The Assassins are overseen by a sour, cranky, impatient nun named Sister Rain, who is attempting to do the impossible task of keeping everyone in line while dealing with more emergencies than she has personnel to cover. Here’s an example of her charm and diplomacy.
How I Found It:
Last year The Webcomic Underdogs did a Halloween crossover event where the characters from one comic dressed as the characters of another. I followed the link from melaredblu’s Princess Chroma, and found Vatican Assassins. You can also follow VA on Facebook.
Why I Like It:
The characters are engaging and well thought out, even the villains. The premise is intriguing and well developed, and the interplay between characters is realistic, even to the point of discomfort. When Sister Rain is part of the interaction, it can even be funny–at her expense, of course.
Each character has a full, detailed backstory, which MJ weaves into the story so that nearly every page reveals new fact about someone, explaining a quirk, referencing a tragic situation, giving insight into motivation–it’s not easy to do, but MJ manages it nicely.
I have also enjoyed watching MJ’s delivery, pacing, and artwork get better and better page after page. She obviously puts lot of effort into doing her best, and I really appreciate that in a comic Creator.
She’s also constantly experimenting with new techniques, layouts, backgrounds, perspectives, and poses. She stretches herself to do the things that are hardest for her, and it pays off in newfound ability. As you can probably tell, I greatly approve of that attitude.
There’s even some information in Vatican Assassins that I can get all geeky about. you see, MJ has been to Vatican City, and has toured Rome, so she knows whereof she draws. If there’s a landmark in her comic, she was there–including the churches. If you were so inclined, you could use the comic as a travel guide. Last December, she did an Advent sub-comic where she posted a new scene every day from the 1st to the 25th. The story was set in St Peters, so you got an up close look at the whole building. Very cool. Don’t bother looking for it, though, because it isn’t in the Archives. You just had to be there. (Dan here. Delta-v lies ;) I found it in the archive, and you can read it starting here.)
Vatican Assassins is a story well told–sometimes graphically, always unflinchingly, always honestly, mu doesn’t draw back from things just because they are unpleasant. She doesn’t gloss over anything, either. Life is messy, life is gritty, life is hard–and MJ covers it all.
Things I Think Could Be Better:
Once again, MJ’s working really hard to improve every aspect of her creation. She even revamped her website so it looks cooler.
Since I’m still pretty illiterate about the whole place-where-you-post-stuff-you-wouldn’t-tell-your-parents-about sites, I can’t tell you how they are doing, but the regular stuff looks good.
If you like a very interesting treatment of a thought-provoking concept, then Vatican Assassins is for you, and if you like reading bout a (very) young woman who can face things that would make many cower in fear, then this is doubly so. Try it.
Now would be an excellent time to start reading the Archives, because you’ll be all caught up by December, and there’s a strong rumor that MJ is planning to do another Advent sub-arc. Don’t miss this one.
If you really like the comic, please vote here, because MJ could really use the boost–oh, and put it on your Favorites, too, would you?