When I first saw the art and concept for Jarred Luján and Matt Harding’s All The Devils Are Here, I literally leapt out of my seat and punched the air in an overflow of glee. One of my favorite writers and a personal inspiration that I’ve been following since he scribed Dry Foot was tackling horror! I can only remember the feeling of excitement rushing through my veins as I stared at the announcement within my Twitter timeline. But, upon further inspection, I became vastly more interested in the way he was tackling something as somber-based and religiously-enhanced as exorcism horror. It seemed like an odd combination, considering Luján’s stories typically took on narratives of adrenalized action and quick pacing, something traditionally out-of-place in the cinematic and literary tales of exorcism storytelling. And, from the artwork side, most of what I’d seen of the small glimpses of Matt Harding’s work in this story could only be described as the visual personification of Weird Fiction excellence. I was thoroughly interested and absolutely needed to see where this age-old genre was going to be escalated to from a mind built on action fiction and the illustrations of bonkers and unnerving demon types.
And, after reading it, it’s safe to say that I am a huge fan of the route they took… It’s not only one of the most wholly original takes of the exorcism subgenre that we’ve gotten in several years, but also an undeniable love letter to the toybox that genre fiction is as a whole.
A NEW AGE OF EXORCISM HORROR IN ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE
Gone are the days of having a Father Karras/Ed Warren-type waving a crucifix and attempting to damn the evil out of a demonically-mutilated adolescent. We are now met with the age of Luján and Harding’s creation of Juan-Carlos Garcia A.K.A The Eater A.K.A the Ethan Hunt of the occult. We no longer have to subject ourselves to the Latin-infused priest’s speeches to evict the Devil out of the soul, instead we’re treated to a Latine-led story where Juan-Carlos projects himself into the demon’s victim and tells the possessors that his hands… erm, demonic head morningstar, is Rated E For Everyone and engages with the demons in direct melee combat to defeat the evil. And, although the narrative of a dementia-laden person is possessed by a demonic presence isn’t necessarily a new idea (The Taking Of Deborah Logan), but the way Luján tells his version of it feels completely new and previously-unseen. It melds the worlds of physically destroying the demonic presence in a Winchesterian way, the globe-trotting (or in this case, memory-hopping) excitement of spy fiction seen in things like Mission: Impossible, a bonkers creature design ideology reminiscent of Frankenstein’s Army, and a small dash of the atmosphere/religious romanticism of exorcism films like The Conjuring. It seems like this smoothie of narrative has high potential to be a steaming mess, but a story like this in the hands of these two not only feels right, but they’re 100% breathing fresh air into a genre gone-cold, a genre that once felt like each installment feeling like a carbon copy of the last. I simply can’t believe a narrative like this wasn’t done sooner.
Jarred Luján’s has a grand ability to come up with characters and worlds that feel like they would be a natural extension of our very own, while still maintaining its own mythology and in-universe rules. No place is that better showcased than All The Devils Are Here. Jarred gives himself and his audience forty-six pages to consume the world and root for a lead they’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before opening this book, and there’s no doubt that he’s successful in every measure. There’s no unnecessary bald exposition explaining who Juan-Carlos is, we’re dropped into a world commonplace for him as he’s led through a church corridor and immediately goes to work as he performs a blood ritual on a man with dementia. We’re given everything we need to know in a quick and conversational manner, whether that be the central premise that the entire book rides on or the magic rules prevalent within this world of demonic dangers.
Within every panel, Jarred seems to completely understand that the audience for this book is well-aware of the genre conventions that plague exorcism horror, and while still being a 40+ page love-letter, subverts any ideas they have buried in their brain. When Juan-Carlos is introduced, we aren’t given an older white man entrenched in a cassock, instead it’s a younger Latino with fashion-sense and noise-cancelling headphones. We aren’t treated to a lead that the Catholic Church has sanitized with their blessings as Juan-Carlos is a protagonist fighting with his own internal and external demons. Jarred retains an absolute refusal to retread on well-worn ground by enhancing the stakes and pushing Juan-Carlos to magically manifest in the memories of the one he’s helping to physically fight off machinations of malevolence. Surely enough, if anyone could breathe fresh air into the exorcism horror genre, it’s absolutely Jarred.
Working in tandem with Jarred’s writing is Melanie Ujimori’s lettering, which is pretty exquisite in almost every way it’s applied throughout. You first get a glimpse of this from the opening creator credits page, which features a scratchy and irregular font and composition that promotes an unnerving feeling as you enter the world of this book. But, even after that, the way that each speech bubble is positioned and how they’re framed within the panels never caused me to have to reread to understand my position in the narrative. The ballons are largely accessibility-friendly and easy to read, without having to strain yourself in any regard. I’m also a fan of the “dueling balloons” that we’re shown with many of the human characters having the traditional white balloon with black lettering, but the main antagonist is given a black balloon with white lettering and a purple outline which is a great identifying feature between the heroes and villains. The dueling balloons aren’t necessarily new within comics storytelling, just a feature I found enjoyable and helped enhance the antagonist into a more dangerous threat.
Lastly, one of my personal favorite things with the lettering and the book overall is that Ujimori’s onomatopoeic structure within the combat sequences feels like an organic part of the comic’s environment, as most of the onomatopoeias are closely color-coded to the objects producing them, which helps the audience follow the action and “hear” it taking place.
If there was a person made to illustrate a new and bonkers take on exorcism horror, it would absolutely have to be Matt Harding. I was originally introduced to his work through his stuff on Bazu-Ka Nightmare which featured all sorts of gonzo character designs and artwork that really promoted the need for comics to just be a little more silly and a little more insane. I adored every page we got of it, and have reread it multiple times because I dig experimentation with the medium and ideology of wanting to keep comics wacky. So, when I saw he was working with Jarred on this upcoming horror book, I just knew the designs in this book and the surrounding world were going to be chock-full of incredible visuals.
And, boy, was I right.
From the get-go and working with colors from Warnia Sahadewa, we’re transported into a world of magically-infused blood rituals that throw you into the minds of man through memory portals. We aren’t treated to the stock ideas of red horned gremlin-styled demons, we’re gifted skeletal soldiers armed to the teeth, a giant many-toothed demon rivaling a pyramid’s height dressed in Egyptian garb, and the primary antagonist with half-a-head and a gross floating eyeball. My words simply can’t do these things justice. You just have to read this story for yourself to truly understand how eclectic and incredible the design-work within this story is.
Working in tandem with the narrative, the art never feels muddled, and clearly paints the picture that Jarred wants the audience to consume and enjoy. Even during fight sequences, I don’t find myself stopping and wondering what’s happening or why a hit happened when it did. Everything flows with such a rhythm that I found myself deeply entrenched in the world of Juan-Carlos and mystical shenanigans of ATDAH, and desperately wanting more as I reached the final page.
There’s no muting of colors, we’re given vibrant coats of paint and a world that feels mystical in the ways its visually portrayed. It’s chock full of life, and the ideas that only a brain prepared to create chaos could even begin to illustrate. Matt seems like he was given free reign in every little visual detail, and it propels this mystical, action-thriller horror fest into a monster-laden wonderland that any creature-feature lover can gawk at and enjoy. It’s clear this story is a celebration of genre-fiction wide and far, and Matt Harding definitely understood the assignment.
If you have the chance and you’re a fan of action comics, creature features, exorcism horror, or you just love a good comic. I can’t help but 100% recommend you pick this book up when you can. Truly a masterclass in what makes comics great.
ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE
Writer: Jarred Luján
Artist: Matt Harding
Letterer: Melanie Ujimori
Colorist: Warnia Sahadewa
If you’d like to read more of Gabe Gonzalez’s work, you can find it here!