The first comic from DC’s new horror line will give fans of the sprawling Conjuring universe something fun to chew on. The Conjuring: The Lover is a five-issue limited series that serves as a prelude to the film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. It comes from the film’s screenwriter, David L. Johnson-McGoldrick, and author Rex Ogle (Free Lunch, Death of Wolverine) with appropriately creepy art from Garry Brown.
The Lover is set in snowy Danvers, Connecticut in 1981, where college student Jessica is having a hard time adjusting to life after high school.
In the first issue, we learn that her first semester grades weren’t great, she’s actively trying to avoid a guy she went out with (hooked up with?) once, and she has little in common with her party-loving, though nice, roommate. On top of these common freshman struggles, something also seems to be stalking Jessica, lurking in dark corners the way that spectral baddies do.
The first issue really doesn’t spill too much. The looming darkness moves slowly, not unlike the ghosts in any of the Conjuring universe films. In one particularly eerie page, we see the lights slowly go out behind Jessica as she studies in the library, blissfully unaware thanks to her unaffected desk lamp. Whatever this thing is, it’s patient.
It’s hard to say what’s really eating Jessica, but the main issue seems to be she misses her best friend, Katie. It also feels like maybe Katie was more than a best friend. When Jessica’s roommate warns her that she’ll never meet a cute guy studying in her room, Jessica stares at a photo of Katie instead.
Is that what’s haunting Jessica? She’s queer and unsure how to tell her friends and family? It is 1981, after all. Does this entity sense Jessica’s pain and isolation—whatever the cause—as a weakness, a place where it might seep in?
There’s also a mysterious figure that seems to be performing a ritual involving a photograph of Jessica, but their identity and purpose remains a mystery. The film to which the series is tied may offer a clue, however, because someone that looks suspiciously like the mysterious figure appears in The Devil Made Me Do It trailer (at 2:06—blink, and you’ll miss it).
Is this the same mysterious ritualist?
All this becomes that much more chilling when you realize that The Devil Made Me Do It, which comes out in theatres and on HBO Max June 4, is loosely based on something that really happened.
In 1981, in Brookfield, Connecticut—175 miles from Danvers—19-year-old Arne Johnson murdered his landlord during an argument. His attorney argued that he had been possessed by a demon.
Months prior, Johnson’s girlfriend, Debbie, had contacted demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren—the real-life paranormal investigators portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the Conjuring franchise. Debbie believed her 11-year-old brother was possessed. The Warrens and supporters of Johnson argued that thanks to an exorcism the Warrens helped perform on the child, the demon jumped from the boy to Johnson. Thus, Johnson was under the influence of the demon when he killed his landlord.
That didn’t go over so well in court. Johnson was ultimately convicted of first-degree manslaughter. He served just five years in prison, where he was considered an “exemplary inmate.”
The case has since been the subject of several books and movies, including a made-for-TV film starring Kevin Bacon. This entry into the Conjuring world is only the latest among them.
One would suppose that a supernatural horror film about the Warrens would take the angle that the devil did make him do it, so the question when it comes to The Conjuring: The Lover is…what does this devil have to do with Jessica? Is it trying to get her to do something, or to get someone else to do something to her?
Whether you believe that Ed and Lorraine Warren were real-life paranormal investigators or con artists who profited off of fear, their files have given horror creators a lot to explore. The Warrens’ collection of curiosities, supposedly culled from their many cases, account for another piece of The Lover.
Along with the main story, each issue of the series also features a “Tales from the Artifact Museum” backup comic. The first short, from comic superstars Scott Snyder and Denys Cowan, revolves around the Ferryman, a demon that audiences first met in 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home.
The issue also features Macabre Mail Orders, a twisted nod to the x-ray vision spectacles and other novelties—i.e. useless junk— that was available through mail-order comic book ads during the time in which The Lover takes place. Drawn by artist Dave Johnson, these are really fun. One even takes its cues from a well-known ad about how to become a muscle man and get all the beach babes.
With all three parts together, fans of old-school pulp comics, horror or the Conjuring universe in general should find The Lover a short, engaging mystery with some bonus elements that make it extra spooky. But we’ll have to wait until next month to find out what exactly is haunting Jessica and what happens to her next.
The Conjuring: The Lover #1 by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Rex Ogle, Garry Brown and Mike Spicer is now available in shops and as a digital comic book.
Juliet Bennett Rylah writes about horror comics and the dark side of superheroes for DCComics.com. Check out more of her writing on WeLikeLA, TheLAnd and No Proscenium, and be sure to follow her on Twitter at @JBRylah.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Juliet Bennett Rylah and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.