The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 27 | “Lucid” Collected Edition Hardcover review

Leaving Proof 27 | “Lucid” Collected Edition Hardcover review
Published on Friday, June 3, 2011 by
Lucid Collected Edition Hardcover
  • (Archaia Entertainment, 2011; 112 pages, hardcover; reprints Lucid #1-4, originally published August 2010–April 2011)
  • Writer: Michael McMillian
  • Artist: Anna Wieszczyk
  • Letterer: Shawn DePasquale
  • Cover Price: $19.95 US
  • Full Disclosure: This is a review of a press proof digital copy of the book provided by the publisher
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Comic books affiliated with film and TV actors, directors, and producers aren’t a particularly new phenomena. Some of you may remember Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals and Gene Rodenberry’s Lost Universe from mid-1990s publisher Tekno Comix. More recent examples are John Woo’s 7 Brothers and Nicolas and Weston Cage’s Voodoo Child, both published by the joint Branson-Chopra venture Virgin Comics (insert obligatory comic book nerd joke here). In all four cases, the prominent incorporation of the actor’s/director’s name in the series title might raise suspicions in the the jaded reader that the publication may be nothing more than a marketing ploy to capitalize on that person’s popularity in other media. And that jaded reader would be somewhat justified in that suspicion, as Nimoy, Rodenberry, Woo, and the Cages were vaguely credited with the nebulous label of “creators” on their respective books. They didn’t serve as writers, plotters, artists, editors, color separators, or proofreaders on their titles (writing and artistic chores on the aforementioned books were actually handled by comic book and genre fiction veterans). Apparently, they were demiurges empowered with the ability to wring comic books out of thin air by the sheer force of their will.

Lucid is not like those titles. It’s not Michael McMillian’s Lucid. It’s not True Blood’s Michael McMillian’s Lucid as presented by Zachary Quinto’s Before the Door Pictures. It’s Lucid, a 4-issue comic book mini-series in the supernatural thriller vein written by Michael McMillian with art by Anna Wiezczyck.

The book’s protagonist is Matthew Dee, a young “combat mage” tasked by a top secret US government agency to protect an unaware American public from supernatural terrorist and criminal threats. The premise of Lucid will sound familiar to anyone who’s read Mike Mignola’s Hellboy or BPRD comics. This is not to suggest that it’s derivative, of course, just that McMillian’s story covers similar terrain and that comparisons to Mignola’s Hellboy (arguably the critical and commercial touchstone of the bastard supernatural-espionage genre), or even something as recent as Steve Pugh’s Hotwire, will be inevitable. The main plot revolves around Dee’s efforts to uncover what initially seems to be a conspiracy to open the Earth to an inter-dimensional invasion, although the story takes many twists and turns before all is said and done. Informing the story’s background is a secret history of the world involving the Ambrosian Order, the Illuminati, Irish faerie-folk, and the JFK assassination; a collection of mad ideas that wouldn’t be out of place in a Grant Morrison, Joe Casey, or Matt Fraction comic book.

Unfortunately, Dee’s characterization (or lack thereof) is overshadowed by the over-the-top proceedings that drive the book. There are attempts to establish his personality early on as sort of the sullen-cheeky type, but for the most part, he is something of a cipher that I couldn’t really find myself caring for one way or another.

Anna Wiezczyck is a capable artist, although I imagine her highly stylized designs won’t be for everyone. Her figure work shows a dynamic flair that reminds me a bit of Noriaki Kubo’s material and early Skottie Young, although this doesn’t extend to her storytelling, which is more conventional, or her backgrounds, which lack the detail she imparts to her figures. I would have preferred to see her art traditionally inked, in black-and-white, and using actual or simulated screentones instead of the oppressively saturated computer coloring and overlaid Photoshop/Illustrator textures used in the book. Overall, the line art is fairly solid, particularly in the first chapter, but declines somewhat rapidly in consistency and quality in the second half of the mini-series.

My favorite feature of the book by far is McMillian’s decision to employ rune-like sigils in the dialogue balloons to represent the magical incantations that the mages use to activate their powers and abilities. He doesn’t resort to contrivances like the pseudo-Latin from the Harry Potter books, the backwards spell-casting by DC’s Zatanna, or the cheesy verse of Marvel’s Dr. Strange. This is the kind of thing that can only really work in  comics, since it combines meaningful, non-random logograms (the sigils), sequential art, and conventional phonograms (i.e., the letters and words of the English language) to represent an event occurring across time. It’s a media experience that can’t be accurately replicated in pure text (you can’t subvocalize the sigils when you don’t know how they’re supposed to be pronounced) or film (where the logograms would be replaced by spoken gibberish, most likely), and I love it when writers and artists use storytelling devices that utilize the comic book medium’s unique qualities and strengths.

In addition to collecting all four previously published issues of the Lucid mini-series, the hardcover collection also includes a cover gallery, a two-page sketchbook featuring early character designs by Wiezczyck, and a glossary of sigils previously unavailable in print.

Lucid suffers from a number of writing and art issues, although some of them can probably be chalked up to the creative team’s relative inexperience with the medium. It starts off strong, but fails to maintain its momentum towards the end. Despite those misgivings, there’s a lot in it that I liked as well, enough that I’ll certainly be on the lookout for the next comic book project featuring either member of the creative team.

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