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Review: The Conjuring: The Lover #5

The Conjuring: The Lover #5

At their core, the movies from The Conjuring universe carry a palpable sense of tragedy through characters being targeted by the demonic. The Conjuring: The Lover is not the exception and its fifth and final issue cements what might be the horror license at its bleakest. It commits to that sense of inevitability that comes with being cursed and it makes this last entry the series’ strongest.

The shunned and involuntarily isolated Jessica has blood on her hands and the Occultist knows it, seizing the opportunity to stick the final daggers in place for her final trick: assisted self-destruction. What makes the setup so engrossing though is how well the pieces that David Johnson-McGoldrick, Rex Ogle, and Garry Brown put together fall into place to amplify the true target of Jessica’s haunting.

Readers know by now that Jessica is a queer character that feels as if she needs to hide her own self to the world. As the horror mounts, she comes to be confronted on this front by the demonic powers of the Occultist, against her will and against her desire to fully express her reality. The Occultist preys on Jessica knowing her secret puts her in a spot that allows for easy social banishment once certain truths are pushed out into the open.

The Conjuring: The Lover #5

In a sense, The Lover’s haunting is made more powerful by the prejudice of others, a thing that nurtures the kind of dark energy that makes the Occultist stronger. In other words, it takes a village to haunt a person and the story makes sure readers are very aware of this as it comes to an end. The Lover is a meditation on that idea, plain and simple. Jessica’s fate hits harder because of this and the team behind the story knew how to tap into that particular kind of horror to produce a memorable finale.

The last backup story we get from The Warren’s haunted artifact room comes courtesy of Domo Stanton, who writes and illustrate it, and focuses on the Occultist’s Chalice. It’s a straightforward story about how an object imbued with dark intentions can influence those who grant it the power to indulge in it. It’s quick, to the point, and fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Conjuring: The Lover triumphs in demonstrating just how a movie’s universe can grow through comics if given the chance. I hope this isn’t a one-off and that we get more Conjuring series sooner rather than later. The source material is too good, and it’s undeniably eager to continue prodding into the things that stoke our fears.

Story: David Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle, Art: Garry Brown
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and keep your peeled for those annoying devil worshippers.

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review


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Review: The Conjuring: The Lover #4

The Conjuring: The Lover #4

The Conjuring: The Lover is reaching its end and its fourth and penultimate instalment puts main character Jessica in the worst possible spot for the devil to do his dirty work. I use ‘devil’ here metaphorically as the comic does have an actual living agent of evil that’s orchestrating the haunting of Jessica’s life and turning her into a tragic victim of satanic power. Watching the third movie of The Conjuring universe, subtitled “The Devil Made Me Do It,” sheds more light on this, making this a great prologue/companion piece to it.

Writers David L. Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle along with Garry Brown on art have already crafted an oppressive and dread-filled environment for Jessica to traverse in, and not to her benefit. Her college life hangs in the balance and last issue’s cliffhangers will seal the deal on that front. If The Lover can be boiled down to a fight for Jessica’s soul, this issue sets up the knockout punch.

The evil that’s operating behind the scenes is making its biggest moves here and all roads lead to oblivion. It makes for a tough read as the main character is basically being tortured at an existential level with no hope of things getting better in sight. This doesn’t mean the story is banking on pain for the sake of it, but I’m curious to see what all this emotional suffering is leading up to in the coming final issue.

The Lover #4’s faux horror ads are still a highlight, this time bringing in some familiar demons into the ghoulish fun. It pays off to be a fan of the Conjuring universe here. There’s a lot to look through and artist Dave Johnson looks like he’s thoroughly enjoying putting them together along with Johnson-McGoldrick, who writes the ads.

The Conjuring: The Lover #4

This entry’s back-up story, from the Warren’s haunted artifact room, comes courtesy of Ray Fawkes and Christopher Mitten and it puts the spotlight square on the strange music box from the first Conjuring movie. It’s a quick but fierce punch of a story that manages to pull as much horror from the music box as possible. The setup is instantly identifiable, but it adds different levels to its mystery to make it a darkly profound story that aims to deceive.

The Conjuring: The Lover has managed to maintain a formidable degree of terror throughout the series and it looks like the finale will leave an impression, or a bloody handprint, once it closes shop. We might need to get used to the idea that sometimes evil can have its way and that we are powerless to stop it. Scary thought, huh.

Story: David L. Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle, Art: Garry Brown
Colors: Mike Spicer, Letterer: Becca Carey
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Read with a bottle of holy water nearby

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.


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Review: The Conjuring: The Lover #3

The Conjuring: The Lover #3
The Conjuring: The Lover #3

The Conjuring: The Lover #3 has finally put its main character, Jessica, on a straight path to the source of her haunting, and things are getting diabolically tense. The third entry of this horror series seems to be eyeing its endgame quite closely and is thus moving its pieces towards a terrifying finale where evil might actually prevail should Jessica not find a way to rid herself of the mysterious Satanist behind it all.

The Lover has been an immensely fun ride. It thrives on a sense of claustrophobia by keeping the focus close on Jessica and how the thing that’s haunting her further isolates her from friends and any chance of complete salvation from the situation. Issue #3 ramps up the haunting, isolating the character to the point of constant oppression, tricking her friends into believing her behavior stems from good old-fashioned madness.

In this sense, the story reminds me even more of the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), in which a female college student struggles with behavior that her family thinks can be attributed to demonic possession when the evidence more directly points to mental illness (based on the true case of Annaliese Michel, who underwent 67 Catholic rites of exorcism that ultimately led to her death).

While the comic leaves less space open to interpretation as to the origin of Jessica’s haunting, it nonetheless resorts to similar storytelling elements to show just how this haunting disconnects someone from the world. It’s been a steady build to this since issue #1 and it’s paying off quite well here.

The Conjuring: The Lover #3
The Conjuring: The Lover #3

Garry Brown’s art is especially effective in portraying Jessica’s own sense of dread as she gets pulled away from the people that can help her the most by the person enacting the horror that’s latched on to her. Each panel feels claustrophobic, enclosing Jessica deeper within her environment. At points, it feels as if the panels themselves are attacking the character, pushing into even more uncomfortable spaces.

As has been the case in the previous two entries, this issue contains a back-up story featuring a haunted item from the Warren’s Artifact Room, and this issue’s tale might be it’s best yet. It looks at the now infamous Accordion Monkey and it’s written by Tim Seely with art by horror master Kelley Jones and colors by Jordie Bellaire.

It’s a tale that has a 1970’s horror vibe to it in that the inner workings of the haunted object contains a healthy dose of madness, violence, and insidiousness. The horror put on display has no qualms painting a bleak picture for those involved and it savors the idea that darkness tends to have a better chance at prevailing in cases such as this.

The Conjuring: The Lover #3
The Conjuring: The Lover #3

Seely’s script is tight and smartly gruesome when it needs to be, but Jones’ art is what seals the deal on this one. It’s a great reminder of why Jones deserves to be among the best horror illustrators in the business. It feels classic EC Horror to an extent, but it looks to be more than just an homage to horror’s past. It truly is a treat getting this story right after a solid entry of The Lover.

Things aren’t looking so good for Jessica and the next issue is shaping up to be an intense encounter with the dark forces that have decided to torment her. We can only hope the Warrens make a surprise appearance to save the day, but the way things are going, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the case.

Story: David L. Johnson-McGoldrick & Rex Ogle, Art: Garry Brown Color: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy and always have a friend that believes you see ghosts.


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Review: The Conjuring: The Lover #1

The Conjuring: The Lover #1
The Conjuring: The Lover #1

The closest thing Horror has to a Marvel Universe, as of the time of this writing, is The Conjuring universe. It’s a fascinating development, how a horror franchise that claims to be based on true events has carved a space for itself in the crowded shared universe arena. From Annabelle to The Nun, each film adds to the number of evil entities that inhabit its world while showing how they can later influence future hauntings. Naturally, each new nightmare requires its own story, a circumstance that led to the horror series’ first foray into comics in the form of The Conjuring: The Lover.

Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle, with Garry Brown (Babyteeth) on art, The Conjuring: The Lover #1 follows a college student named Jessica that is struggling to make her college grades match her mother’s expectations while also dealing with romantic frustrations, loneliness, and a dark entity that’s taken an interest in her. Clearly, Jessica isn’t having much fun in college.

Whether it’s an actual person conjuring evil spirits to oppress Jessica or an inhuman thing out to make her suffer remains to be seen, but the comic captures that sense of dread horror can excel at by presenting Jessica as an already conflicted character that’s ripe for the taking by someone or something that wants to corrupt her.

The script is smart enough to pace the scares out accordingly, without leaning too heavy on the terror in this first issue. There’s the promise of paranormal activity, but just what it is that’s lurking in the shadows isn’t revealed yet and it makes for a more engrossing read. It helps that Jessica’s own personal demons are ever-present as well. Her fears and anxieties feed into the atmosphere the comic creates and offers a kind of hint as to what will latch onto her very being.

Garry Brown’s pencils prove to be adept at capturing the finer details in horror so as to allow the power of suggestion to guide readers into filling in the dark spaces. It invites close inspection of the comics page. I was always on the lookout for a ghost hand creeping around a corner or a set of yellow eyes dimly glowing deep within the shadows. Brown is flexing all the right muscles here and is letting everyone know he can do horror with the best of them.

The Conjuring: The Lover #1

The Conjuring: The Lover #1 also includes a back-up story written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Denys Cowan centered on one of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s old cases, titled “The Ferryman.” It’s a brief but well executed homage to classic horror that follows a boy that steals a coin from the corpse of an old woman during a funeral service. By violating the unwritten rules of an ancient practice that secures a dead person’s passage into the afterlife, the character goes through the motions of a lifelong haunting that stands as a lesson to readers on the dangers of messing with the business of the dead.

And then there are the short fake ads for haunted and possessed items. They resemble the ads found in old horror magazines, but they’re given here a darkly comedic twist in which the punchline lies not just in the sales pitch but also in the fine print. They’re illustrated by Dave Johnson and are so fun to read that I wish Johnson would make an entire book based on these fake ads.

The Conjuring universe has a very successful first outing in its hands with “The Lover.” It comes off as an organic extension of the franchise and its own brand of horror. There’s a lot to look forward to in each issue knowing just how much is squeezed into one comic. It’s quite the horror package and it feels as if it can’t wait to show us even more terrible things for our viewing pleasure.

Writers: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Rex Ogle, Scott Snyder
Art: Garry Brown, Denys Cowan, Dave Johnson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and pray that demon Nun doesn’t go to the same church as you do.


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The Conjuring: The Lover #1

The Conjuring prequel comic will usher in the new ‘DC Horror’ label

The Conjuring: The Lover

With The Conjuring having its feet firmly planted in its own universe, it’s only natural comics got the opportunity to flesh out the franchise’s particular brand of terror. DC Comics has answered the call to do so with the launch of a new imprint called ‘DC Horror,’ which will premiere with a prequel comic to the latest entry in The Conjuring franchise subtitled The Devil Made Me Do It.

The series, titled The Conjuring: The Lover, will run for five issues and will set up the events that lead into The Devil Made Me Do It. It’s co-written by the film’s screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and author Rex Ogle (Death of Wolverine: Life After Logan), with art by Garry Brown (Babyteeth) and colors by Chris Sotomayor.

The story follows Jessica, a college freshman, returning to campus after winter break, that’s dealing with the anxieties of mounting schoolwork and grades, a sexual encounter with a guy she’s now regretting, and the odd feeling she’s being watched by something.

The idea shares some elements with that of The Exorcism of Emily Rose movie, in which the titular character starts manifesting “possession” symptoms while in college, throwing every single aspect of her life into disarray. In a sense, it’s fitting that the story echoes that of the aforementioned movie given its basis on real events, something it shares with The Devil Made Me Do It.

The Conjuring: The Lover

The third entry in The Conjuring series is based on the first legal case in American history to have a defendant claim innocence due to demonic possession at the time of the crime. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, on the other hand, is also based on the true story of Annaliese Michel, who underwent 67 exorcism rites in a year, which eventually led to her death. The cause of death was attributed to malnutrition. Her parents and the priest that conducted the exorcism were convicted of negligent homicide in the case.

How much of this case actually inspired (or not) The Conjuring: The Lover remains to be seen, but the premise promises a story worthy of the name that graces its cover. Additionally, The Lover will feature short back-up stories written by some of horror comics most popular creators, including Scott Snyder, Juan Ferreyra, Che Grayson, and Denys Cowan. These stories will focus on the haunted objects that resided in Lorraine and Ed Warren’s infamous artifact room (which is where they kept the Annabelle doll).

It bears mentioning that this new horror imprint might be riding on the shoulders of Joe Hill’s own recent horror imprint, Hill House Comics, which was headlined by Hill’s own Basketful of Heads comic, illustrated by Leomacs. The series that were published as part of the imprint received mostly universal praise and felt as if they belonged in the same habitat as DC’s classic House of Mystery comics.

The Conjuring: The Lover

DC editor-in-chief Marie Javins seems to be aware of this connection. In a statement she released on the new horror imprint, Javins said that “DC has always been the home of great horror comics and characters. DC Horror continues this tradition with new frightening tales from both well-known and new storytellers that will keep fans spooked and entertained.”

With The Conjuring possessing a well-established horror universe and DC recognizing the weight horror carries within its company’s history, it looks like this year is shaping up to be a good one for both veteran and emerging horror fans. The potential behind the new imprint for pulling in new readers, especially in the wake of Hill House’s success, seems to lean favorably towards success.

One thing’s for sure, if this move inspires other publishers to invest in their own horror imprints, they’ll be able to say ‘DC made me do it.’

The Conjuring: The Lover arrives in comic book stores and on participating digital platforms the same day as the U.S. release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It—Tuesday, June 1, 2021, with issue #2 available on July 6, 2021.

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