Billed as “The Exorcist meets Alien” by AWA Studios, the five-part comic book series Sacrament wrapped up recently. Set in a future where religion of any sort has been made illegal, replaced by a form of militant scientism that requires a “pure faith” in science and human reason, the story centres on a case of apparent demonic possession on a far-flung colony world. This manifestation is outside of a rational paradigm, and to deal with this a Catholic priest and nun working illegally are sought out by the reluctant authorities to see if they can resolve the problem.
In the year 3000, Mankind abandoned Earth and fled into outer space. Now, a disgraced priest, called into action to perform an exorcism on a remote space colony, is about to discover that no matter how far you run, you can’t escape your demons, and the Devil is, in fact, real.https://awastudios.net/series/sacrament/
Of course, the priest is experiencing his own crisis of faith as well as wrestling with his own demons and vocational calling. Failed exorcisms in the past haunt him, as does his sexual desire for his nun companion and the diminishing spiritual experience of the Mass. The young nun is the opposite, strong in her faith in God and her belief that the priest will do the right thing, though that is sorely tested by both the demonic entity and the priest’s actions. Ultimately, both priest and nun (who becomes a priest) find vocational and spiritual certainty, defeat the demonic entity, and then return to their underground service of the faithful.
Sacrament reminded me of any number of science fiction/horror properties set in space, albeit with the additional twist of with any form of religion being outlawed. The Babylon 5 direct-to-DVD short film “Voices in the Dark: Over Here” found on the anthology release Babylon 5: The Lost Tales comes probably closest to this. In the B5 story, an apparent demonic manifestation also finds a Catholic priest seconded to the Babylon 5 space station to deal with the problem. In that case, the “demon” is an alien life form, whereas in Sacrament the implication is that it isn’t alien but a genuine manifestation of spiritual evil. Similarly, Peter Hamilton’s The Night’s Dawn Trilogy has similar themes running through it, though here the demonic forces are the souls of humans and others who have not come to terms with their death and which seek to return to life by possessing the living. Hamilton’s story also appropriates Frank Tipler’s Omega Point eschatology/cosmology to provide the final destination for these souls.
Sacrament is nowhere near the complete package. The overall idea is good (though, as noted, not unique), and it adds in some interesting twists such as the outlawing of religion and the receipt of the host in the Mass through a device that stimulates the religious experience centres of the brain, but the ending feels a little deus ex machina and preachy – almost as apologetic for God rather than letting the mystery of faith sit ambiguously at the end. Given AWA’s financial issues it will be interesting to see if there will be a follow-up series. I was pleased I’d read it, but feel much more could have been done with the story, even in 5 issues.