I can’t say I’ve thought much about the Vatican keeping a secret team of highly trained enforcers to take down mystically charged villains, but it’s a concept that certainly makes sense. After all, what other large organization would have the knowledge, wealth and motivation to do such a thing? Author Jason M. Burns explores this idea in his book Nuns Without Guns.
The story opens with a stereotypical scene of a dark cult casting a spell to summon the Antichrist; while dangerous, they hope it will put them on the short list to be favored in some way when the end of the world comes. The Vatican learns about the cult’s plans and sends in their four best agents: military expert Marie, the technological genius Frances, the acrobatic Wendy, and Bertha, a large, muscle-bound German who lives as much for the action of her job as she does to serve the will of the Church. What’s the twist? These four consecrated commandos are also nuns and do their job donning the full black robes and habits of their order.
Using a mixture of their natural skills and a series of mystical prayers and holy objects, the team breaks into the cult’s conclave. After a quick battle they realize that what the cult summoned wasn’t the Antichrist at all, but a demon named Mammon. If you know your Bible you might remember that Mammon sits as one of the great lords of Hell and is most often tied to vices like greed, lust, and vanity. Mammon uses the confusion to escape and starts his own plan to take over the world.
Although the four nuns in this title lack the wild creativity of the nuns in John Rozum’s Xombi – it really is hard to top a character like Nun the Less who gained the ability to shrink after eating bad shrimp – Burns does an admirable job in handling their distinct personalities in a book that’s only 80 pages long. It would have been easy to make the nuns a team of over-the-top holy crusaders, but he manages to give each one enough personality that they stand out on their own. Sister Marie in particular has to overcome some of her own personal demons as team leader before finding victory on the battlefield.
Erich Owen’s art, unfortunately, doesn’t measure up to the same level as Burns’s writing. With their simplified, exaggerated expressions, Owen’s character designs are a touch Saturday morning cartoon and don’t always match the violent tone of the book. He also shows a real weakness with anatomy. While this doesn’t matter with most of the book (the nuns, after all, are donning billowy black robes the whole time), the final battle occurs on a crowded public beach. While he can draw the individual muscles fine, he often has trouble putting them together in a whole figure, transforming the muscle bound lunkheads and bikini clad damsels into figures that are simultaneously stiff and slightly out of proportion.
It’s not all bad, though. Owen does have a real knack for page layouts, often breaking out of a simple grid design to help carry the eyes across the page. Likewise his colors show an instinct for matching the mood of the tale.
The rest of the volume sends the nuns out across the globe to track down and stop Mammon before he can enact his evil plan. It’s fun, but also a bit predictable and doesn’t hold up well to a second reading. That said, it might serve as a nice diversion for fans of Six Gun, B.P.R.D., or other supernaturally powered action books.