An Exorcism begins simply enough with a man lying in a bed that is walking away, escorted by a bunch of tiny demonic pigs, but once a strange-tongued demon and some little ghost things join in to see the man tossed off his bed into the dark vacuum of Hell, it all goes a little haywire. Theo Ellsworth takes great care with his frenzied mind-bending, unleashing something that’s like a cross between Hieronymus Bosch and Basil Wolverton, the latter of which Ellsworth’s cartooning bears quite a resemblance, which is furthered by the preoccupation with the bizarre and the predilection for grotesque but comedic figures. So fast paced and unending as to be like a fever dream, Ellsworth chronicles this psychedelic journey with meticulous patterning in his backdrops that begin to form as mosaics taunting the man’s grasp of reality even as it shoves him inside big strange mouths, forces him to climb a mountain of body parts, ties him to a brain, and has him assaulted by a number of bizarre monsters. Does it add up to anything? Well, sure, if you allow that it actually does make a linear sort of sense, but for the most part, this is what it is, and if you like the idea of a hapless guy careening through a surrealist Hades, providing laughs of both the easy and uneasy variety, this is definitely something for you to throw yourself into. At the very least, you’ll be impressed by the manic cartooning, which makes reading this a no-lose situation.
This first installment of Hellman’s tale of struggling porn king Harry Homburg takes the reader through Harry’s day, first in a television interview and then at a business meeting in a restaurant, both scenes providing an introduction to Harry’s personality as well as his personal history. Harry is a pornographer as throwback, a low rent Bob Guccione-type that looks like he just entered the room after spending a week in 1975, and with the old show biz huckster attitude to match. His is a porn empire run by old people who seem to have not even one foot planted in the modern world, huddled inside the booth of a pricey steakhouse and trading barbs as they talk shop, clueless to how to turn around the business. For the hundred-plus pages, Hellman takes a while to get to any actual story, opting for free form conversation to dominate before the plot actually begins and then abruptly ends just as things get interesting. We’ll all have to wait until the second book to see if they stay interesting, but it’s not exactly that what comes before is boring or bad — far from it. Hellman has a good rhythm for the dialogue, a good feeling for this kind of character, and his clear cartoon style captures the situation and the era it evokes well. I wish the book were double the size and therefore more story unfolded at once, but as it stands, Resurrection Perverts is at best amusing and at worst intriguing, and that’s not a bad thing to be at all.