A young woman gains extraordinary powers when a divine artifact is accidentally embedded in her back, and finds herself reluctantly battling demons on Earth in Warrior Nun, a new Netflix series based on the comic books by Ben Dunn. It sounds like a cheesy premise, but this adaptation is anything but. It's a fiercely fun, entertaining, occasionally thought-provoking series that will have you hooked and eager for a second season.
(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)
As we previously reported, the first issue in Dunn's manga-style comic book series, "Warrior Nun Areala," debuted in 1994. The series largely features Sister Shannon Masters, a modern-day crusader for the Catholic Church's (fictional) Order of the Cruciform Sword. In the series mythology, the Order dates back to 1066, when a young Valkyrie woman named Auria converted to Christianity. Renamed Areala, she selects a new avatar every generation to carry on her mission of battling the agents of hell. Sister Shannon is the Chosen One. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer got religion.
Dunn has said he was inspired to create the series after learning, via a New York Times article, about the Fraternity of Our Lady, which established a chapter in Harlem in 1991 to run a soup kitchen. One of the nuns (the fraternity has both nuns and priests), Sister Marie Chantel, trained in the martial arts (judo and Tae Kwon Do), and many of her fellow nuns also practiced self-defense, albeit mostly for sport. Dunn envisioned a world with nuns as superheroes, where heaven and hell are real dimensions.
Sister Shannon isn't dominant in the Netflix adaptation—she only appears in a couple of episodes, played by Melina Matthews. Instead, the show focuses on a young woman named Ava (Alba Baptista). Per the official premise:
Caught in the middle of an ancient war between good and evil, a young girl wakes up in a morgue with inexplicable powers. Her search for answers brings her to The Order of the Cruciform Sword, a secret society of warrior nuns sworn to protect the world from evil. While juggling her responsibilities as the chosen one with the normal obstacles of a teenage girl, this mysterious fantasy drama is full of mystery, action, adventure, and teenage romance, proving our main character might fight in the name of good, but shes no angel.
We meet Ava after she has just died in a Catholic hospital, having been there since she was crippled (a paraplegic) in a car accident at the age of seven. Her body is laid out in the church morgue by Father Vincent (Tristan Ulloa), when his crew of warrior nuns returns from what should have been a routine mission. Sister Shannon has been mortally wounded and they must remove the angelic halo from her back that grants special powers, and insert it into the next "Halo Bearer."
But they are interrupted by a supernatural beast intent on retrieving said halo for itself. As the sisters scatter, one of them slips the halo into Ava's body. The halo's power brings her back to life, and also restores her mobility. But Ava is not a nun, nor is she particularly devout, and honestly, after a lifetime paralyzed in a hospital bed, the 18-year-old just wants to live a little. This rankles Cardinal Duretti (Joaquim de Almeida): "How did our greatest weapon against evil end up in an unbeliever?"