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Aghori Book 01 Review

Gritty, gruesome, great!

In a country like ours with an immensely rich and diverse culture spread across its lands, there is no dearth of inspiration or sources to find stories to tell. Among these stories, there’s a vast majority that defies the laws of reality – tales of celestial beings, divine beauties, immortality, demons, the undead, and more. Aghori is a series that brings these elements together in a story that is not only enrapturing but also gritty and unapologetic in its depictions. As the self-explanatory title shows, this story revolves around taking the mysticism associated with the group of ascetic Shaiva sadhus and their post-mortem rituals and turning it into a riveting fantasy story. While more about the story will be explored in the synopsis section, it needs to be said that even with just reading Book 01 of the series, it is pretty evident that this series has a goldmine of lore to draw from, a treasure that is rooted partly in folktales, partly in mythology and mostly in localised perception about fearing the unknown. It is from these roots that Vira’ the protagonist, draws his abilities of blood magic, demonic spells, necromancy and more. Be advised, this book is rated M, so the storytelling of Aghori does not shy from depicting gruesome murders, gore, sexual assault. If that does not sound like something you can stomach, we’d recommend you to keep away from this entire series altogether. However, do know that it would be at the cost of experiencing something that could very well be India’s equivalent of John Constantine – with some work to be done, of course.

The artwork in Aghori is very well done

Synopsis

Aghori starts off quite abruptly. You’re thrust into the success party of Vikram Roy, someone who has landed an impossible contract and is getting sloshed with his colleagues to celebrate. Although, this part of the story is narrated in what seems to be a flashback, and hence maintains a tone of cynicism towards the celebrations. Pretty soon, after a surprising encounter with a stranger at the party, Vikram is dropped home by a friend, back to his family – his wife, their unborn son, and either his or his wife’s parents. That night turns out to be fateful night in this story, as Vikram’s actions, under the influence of an unstoppable entity, kicks off the tale of the Aghori. Vikram runs away and we skip to a point in the story where he has already undergone the transformation into Vira, the Aghori, on a quest to find the answers to that one fateful night 12 years ago.

From here, Aghori Book 01 goes onto two sequential sub-plots that show you what Vira is capable of as the Aghori. Without spoiling much for you, we can safely tell you that both involve demons, celestial beings and a whole lot of occult. But the real clincher when it comes to the story is the small bits interspersed between the main stories that explore Vira’s transformation into the Aghori, some backstories related to the sub-plots and more. These bits cement the intrigue that you feel towards unravelling more of Vira’s journey, while also making his actions in the sub-plots believable. That being said, it would have been better to know a little more about where the main plot is headed. We hope to see more of that in Book 02 and onwards.

Aghori does not hold back its gore

The good

Praising the Aghori title cannot start off without mentioning its maturity. Here’s a comic book that goes all the way to shed the ‘comic books are for children’ tag that is usually prevalent in India. And it does so with finesse. The artwork, save for the initial backstory, is well done. The cover is reminiscent of Attack on Titan (don’t expect to see that particular scene in the story, though). We loved how the character of Vira is explored through his idealistic decisions when he comes across social injustice. It makes him more believable as someone who is out to right a wrong that has changed his life. Some of the panels in Book 01, especially those done by Vivek Goel, are visual delights. The book, as the first title, does the job of hooking you into the story pretty well.

Vira, The Aghori, seems to have powers that range from blood magic to absolution

The bad

The artwork in some of the initial pages, as well as some mid-story panels, could use some work. Coming to the story, there are parts that feel a bit rushed. We would have liked to see the initial backstory explored a bit more, along with some of the parts where Vira is looking for clues to solve a problem. In some places, it does feel like things fall into his lap, although that might be explainable by the fact that there are a number of titles in this series that explore his origins and evolution over the 12-year jump that we see at the beginning of the story.

The detail in some panels is truly amazing

Verdict

As we’ve said, Aghori is a gritty, mature title that does not shy from exploring uncharted territory to tell its story. You’d need to have a stomach for violence and more to be on board with this story. On the other hand, this is exactly what makes it such a refreshing read compared to the usual superhero and mythology fare that we’ve seen in the Indian comic book scene. We don’t mean to say that we’ve anything against those titles – but Aghori’s unique premise, tying in the occult side of mythology, makes it more relatable as compared to the retelling of mythological stories that a lot of us already know of. Another reason that makes it a good hook from the get-go is that the writers have taken a leap of faith and given the protagonist a dark origin, one whose guilt is pretty evident in the way Vira carries himself in the story. If you’ve enjoyed TV shows like Penny Dreadful, and characters like John Constantine, don’t miss this. On the other hand, if you’re interested in mythology and its retellings, check out our review of Ravanayan Volume 1 (Issue 1, 2 & 3), another fabulous title from Holy Cow Entertainment.

Writer 
Ram V
PencillerVivek Goel, Gaurav Shrivastava
ColouristYogesh Pugaonkar
PublisherHoly Cow Entertainment
Rating3.5/5

Buy Aghori Book 01.

Disclaimer: We received this title from Comicclan for review purposes.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.