Religion is often at the center of stories in the horror genre and for good reason. No matter what your beliefs, the idea of the unknown and the unexplained offers a rich playground for stories that speak to the limitations of the human experience and play with our hopes and fears for what might be and our place within it all. It makes sense, then, that DC Horror Presents Soul Plumber #1 centers itself around a deeply religious man and what he believes is his calling in service to his lord. While it is evident from the start that not only is this a story not for the sensitive or the squeamish nor is it going to be for everyone, this debut promises a horror tale that works both in the terror of the demonic unknown as well as the wickedness of mankind itself.
Soul Plumber follows Edgar Wiggins, a deeply religious young man (one could accurately describe him as fanatical) working at a gas station in Indianapolis after having been kicked out of seminary for reasons not yet revealed. For Edgar, working at the gas station is part of his calling. He sees it as a way to save souls for his god and he is particularly invested in that of Scuzz, the presumably homeless and mentally ill man who heckles and panhandles outside the gas station. Edgar finds a kindred spirit, of sorts, in Elk, a gas station patron who has found his own fervent spiritual path in what can only be politely described as an unsettling fringe online faith making liberal use of the f-word. If the story stopped there, simply watching these characters interact for several issues would be engaging enough.
But, the story does not stop there. Edgar is deeply focused on serving god and when a man arrives at the gas station one night working as a "soul plumber" and invites Edgar to learn more, it's the moment that sets everything in motion as it presents for Edgar the method by which he can "save" souls. What works especially well is that while this is a horror story and the issue never loses sight of that, it's also a tragedy. There is a sadness to Edgar, an earnest pitifulness that is difficult to turn away from. While he's a zealot and the sort of person who will try to save your soul over even the slightest transgression, he genuinely believes and, more than that, cares. And when the Soul Plumber guy invites Edgar to his recruitment meeting, it's difficult to not feel protective of him as the reader is aware this is all a scam. In an age where conspiracy theories and hucksters are preying on the lost and questioning at a truly terrifying rate, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski do a magnificent job of writing Edgar in a way that the real horror feels not like the otherworldly things about to kick off but Edgar's own exploitation.
When it comes to the artwork in this issue, everything has a sort of greasy, sticky, unclean feeling to it and it's brilliantly accomplished. John McCrea and PJ Holden, accompanied by Mike Spicer's colors, really give the world Edgar lives in a visceral feel. You can smell the gas station, experience Scuzz's lack of hygiene, even almost feel the staleness and clamminess of Elk and his weird internet faith. Pairing the art with the writing, Soul Plumber #1 fires on all cylinders for a strange and uniquely immersive experience. The only real drawback to the issue is that it ends right when things are getting "good" as it were, with Edgar trying his own, unsanctioned Soul Plunger device on poor Scuzz. You just know something awful is about to happen, but the comic is going to make you wait uncomfortably to find out exactly what.
It seems a little strange to call a horror comic rooted in religion and populated by uncomfortable characters with art and colors that make one feel like they need to wash their hands after reading them a masterpiece, especially after only one issue, but that's what Soul Plumber is. With a combination of existential questions, pitiable yet identifiable characters, and building scares that work on multiple levels, it's a comic that will make readers think, question their own approach to the spiritual unknown, and maybe even sit uncomfortably with their biases about the freaks and weirdoes among us. It is absolutely brilliant.
Published by DC Comics
On October 5, 2021
Written by Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski
Art by John McCrea and PJ Holden
Colors by Mike Spicer
Letters by Becca Carey
Cover by John McCrea and Mike Spicer