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Cult of the Lamb #1
Oni Press

Comic Books

‘Cult of the Lamb’ #1 makes a weird and joyous case for worshipping the old gods

Are you ready to join the Cult of the Lamb?

Maybe I underestimated “cute cults” as a genre, or I simply didn’t play through enough of the actual game. But I was more than hesitant when it was announced that Oni Press would be releasing a comic version of Cult of the Lamb. It didn’t help that I was alone — the Kickstarter obliterated its goals — and that made this schism between myself and Cult of the Lamb more apparent. Maybe I was just playing too much Far Cry 6?!

Now, having actually read issue #1, I can call myself a true believer of Cult of the Lamb.

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OK, I’m not participating in any blood sacrifices just yet, but writer Alex Paknadel and artist Troy Little are absolutely onto something that respects the existing game and its fans and still does something new and specific for the comics medium. It all centers around a comment Paknadel made in our Q&A, where he said that you can’t satisfy or even grapple with the stories that every fan’s created from the game, and you can only “match the fans’ passion and enthusiasm.” That’s exactly what makes Cult of the Lamb #1 successful: it’s very much the game and very not, and the trick is to fill the gaps and extend things (where possible) with love and devotion.

That begins from a visual standpoint, and Little has done a ton of work to balance the game’s singular vibes and aesthetic to make something even ardent fans can deeply appreciate. It feels like Little studied the game’s rather intricate look (sweet, cartoony goodness mixed with big pops of darkness and more harder-edged fantasy) and found a way to manipulate and massage it so we understand the connection without feeling like we’re getting a boring rehash of sorts.

Cult of the Lamb #1

Main cover by Carles Dalmau. Courtesy of Oni Press.

The end result is like the game but a little more playful in parts and brooding and chaotic in others. A world that moves from feeling very much like a 2D scroller or the like into a world with more obvious shapes, angles, etc. — a translation of what made the game so great but that now leans into the strengths of comics while also letting us see this existing world in fresh perspectives.

There are certain design decisions made — like adding to the lore and symbolism that defines this world, or making the fight scenes feel more “real” and heaps more intense — that gave Little heaps of wiggle room to flesh things out as opposed to rethinking Cult of the Lamb outright. But what really matters is that the personality of this book feels very much the same, and the art nails that tenuous balance between the sweet and cute and the wholly dark and bloody. It’s done in a way that emphasizes the humor and joy of it all without trying to overhaul a world where this kind of balance is perfectly baked into its very DNA.

Oni Press Preview: Cult of the Lamb #1

Courtesy of Oni Press.

Maybe there’s more blood, or more pronounced gothic undertones, but at the end of the day this is about the ratios, and by nailing that, this version of Cult of the Lamb gets to be weird and intense all on its own as to play up the passion that we need to make this a believable adaptation and not just a cheap money-grab.

If there’s any more notable or perhaps significant changes, I think it comes with the narrative and the storyline. On the one hand, it’s the same dang structure overall: a Lamb is sacrificed to the Bishops of the Old Faith only to be saved by the One Who Waits in exchange for forming a cult back on earth. And the storyline here tries to use that structure to its advantage, repeating the same beats because 1) if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and 2) it’s a nearly perfect hook regardless of the respective medium.

Cult of the Lamb

Courtesy of Oni Press.

The story, like the art, did its best to fill the gaps in a really subtle but effective way — Lamb moves through the early work of trying to build his cult, and we even get dialogue and moments that feel like they’re very much tied to the game. And the kind of “obviousness” of this approach isn’t just about placating game fans, but it’s also about giving a framework that really works, and using that kind of mission-oriented approach because it’s another way that the game is very much comics-esque in how it pulls/moves the audience along and presents really solid beats to delve into.

At the same time, though, I think Paknadel goes deeper into fleshing out and developing this story (and not just with really great, fantasy-centric dialogue and narration). Whereas the Cult of the Lamb game is all about jumping head first into the battling and the sacrificing and all that fun stuff, Lamb here is presented as being uncertain, and he moves a little more slowly through this process. That approach, then, makes the comic feel like it has more agency, and really tries to add layers and nuance and texture to the larger story. It makes for a more engaging lead, and when something happens at the end of issue #1, it feels more like a proper event with heaps of ramifications both morally and emotionally.

Cult of the Lamb

Courtesy of Oni Press.

Similarly, that subtle but deeply effective shift opens areas for a slightly subliminal theme about community and equality. While they’re clearly not as vital to the game, their presence here is another way the narrative grows significantly without bashing us in the head. It also makes a story about a dark cult feel all the more relevant and perhaps slightly uplifting, and that’s such a nice vein of energy to inject into the fold.

Would I like to see more games get turned into comics? Sure, especially I’d 1,000% be on board if they could figure out Ocarina of Time. But I think we’d be hard press to find two creators like Paknadel and Little who have the thoughtfulness, playfulness, and overall attention to detail to do something like Cult of the Lamb already has: innovate without irritating. (Or, build upon without bothering.)

And while it is still early on, with heaps more room to maybe muck things up, Cult of the Lamb started off strong by staking its own claim and being exactly the right levels of authentic, funny, intense, and endearing. Now, does this cult membership come with the robes or do I gotta buy ’em myself?

Cult of the Lamb #1
‘Cult of the Lamb’ #1 makes a weird and joyous case for worshipping the old gods
Cult of the Lamb #1
Despite my own hesitations, 'Cult of the Lamb' is both hugely faithful and a more thoughtful and impassioned take overall.
Reader Rating1 Votes
The book balances a faithful approach with just the right level of additions and tweaks.
The art feels similarly wonderful and playful even as it's also more well-rounded and robust.
There's some great new ideas and thematic exploration bubbling just under the surface.
No matter the work put in, you may still need a love for the game to get the most out of this comic.
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