Seekers Into the Mystery

Seekers Into the Mystery reprints the first third of the 1996 comic series written by J.M. DeMatteis. That may sound like a while ago, but since “The Pilgrimage of Lucas Hart” is set in 1987, it’s almost become timeless. The content, revolving around the search for meaning in the face of death and self-abuse, is certainly applicable in any year. The majority of this tale of a washed-up screenwriter finding spiritual recovery is illustrated by Glenn Barr. The last chapter of the book, with art by Jon J Muth, shows him meeting a dying author further along on a similar path.

Seekers Into the Mystery cover
Seekers Into the Mystery
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The characters are familiar: Lucas Hart is an alcoholic, drug-abusing Hollywood dweller who once had promise but whose ideas are now too cliched even for the most by-the-numbers cop show. He depends too much on his ex-wife. His girlfriend, Rhonda, is an “actress” known for her topless victim scenes in slasher flicks. Lucas is contemptuous of the world he wanted so much to be part of, burned out and wasting space.

Even his background, once he begins having recovered memories, may seem over-used. What draws and keeps the reader’s attention is DeMatteis’ passion for his material. He clearly feels Lucas’ transformation, and he wants us to understand it so that we can be similarly happy, our problems resolved.

The universality of Lucas’ career path — confusing seriousness with being dull, being absorbed in the magic of the movies — makes him well-known to us. We can fill in the background ourselves, which allows DeMatteis to concentrate on his more philosophical narrration. The character’s voice is strong and consistent, the thread that keeps us involved in what happens to him, even though much of his hell is self-indulgent and of his own making. He pushes people away and then wonders why they’re not there for him. The story follows his journey to comprehend why and ultimately change his behavior, inspired by a guru-like Magician symbolic of any great teacher.

As a boy, Lucas dreamed of flight, a powerful metaphor for escape shared by many. It’s also a wonderful visual expression of one’s place in the universe and quest to reach for big ideas. Barr’s art, although asked to support much monologue text, never feels cramped. It’s impressive how he’s able to convey the often-depressed moods of the character with such variety. His art significantly contributes to building empathy with Lucas in the reader. Comics are a wonderful medium for these kinds of stories, because the metaphors and images the writer uses to convey the protagonist’s emotions can be shown to the reader without it seeming too strange or exaggerated.

Lucas’ story isn’t unusual. He’s the center of his universe, convinced that he’s the only one who feels such pain, but ironically, it’s the commonality of his complaints that allow us to understand him so well. People aren’t either evil or good, but a mixture. Your life isn’t fixed through one significant event, but change is a path and a journey. By offering hope for rebirth for even the most washed-up and jaded of individuals, DeMatteis inspires us all to think that we, too, can simply be happy.

Labeled Volume 1, there’s hope that the remaining issues of the series will be reprinted in future months. There are a few preview pages at the publisher’s website. (A PDF for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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10 Responses to “Seekers Into the Mystery”

  1. Ray Cornwall Says:

    THANK YOU! I knew this was coming out at some point, but I missed the solicitation. I loved this (and Brooklyn Dreams, another project by DeMatteis and Barr), and I’ll be rushing off to Amazon to buy a copy now! (And I hope that sales are good enough to continue this!)

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oh, good, always nice to have a satisfied customer!

  3. Sonic2nd Says:

    It’s finally out?! I’ve been waiting for a graphic novel of this series for over a year now. J.M. Dematties is my favorite comic book writer and I’m so happy to see that more of his work being available in the trade paperback format.

    Seekers into the Mystery is a special series to me. It’s the time I ever saw religion being treated with respect in a comic book. In the past I had mostly seen religion being used on some evil one dimension straw man who would stand for everything that the writer was againist.

    I hope they publish the entire series. I’m missing the last issue so I never did get to see how the comic ended.

  4. Mage Says:

    You’re going to give me crap all weekend if I admit that I wound up really hating this series, aren’t you?

  5. Johanna Says:

    I hope they keep going, too, Sonic, since I’ve never read the series and would like to continue with it.

    Mage, you’re welcome to think what you like. If I’d read this when it came out, I think I would have been bored by it, since I wouldn’t have been looking for that kind of content.

    Curious: was it the ending you disliked, or was your opinion formed looking back on it?

  6. Dave Says:

    I really loved this series when it was originally published. I’d only been back into comics a year or so following a 10-year break and was excited about the range of subject matter being explored. I still have the complete run but haven’t read it in over 10 years. Honestly, I don’t think it would stand up real well for me today but that is mostly due to me being a very different person today than I was in ’95.

    The series was well-structured for TPBs: IIRC, There were essentially 3 5-issue arcs comprised of a 4-issue main story and a done-in-one coda/epilogue that set the stage for the next arc.

    I would just say that most readers could probably be excused for being unhappy with the ending. I think Dematteis had a really big epic with lots of arcs planned but Vertigo pulled the plug. They gave him a double-sized issue #15 to wrap it up but it all seemed very abrupt and dissatisfying. But I enjoyed it immensely up to that point.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Isn’t it interesting how differently we can relate to works depending on who we are at the time?

  8. Mage Says:

    I think it was the overall type of the story. I’m not very spiritual, and I have little to no tolerance for unresolved mystery. I like my universes – standard or magical – to follow explicable rules and ultimately reveal all to the reader (to the characters is optional). The longer that story went on, the more ethereal and ambiguous it got.

    Plus the main character brought most of his problems on himself, and I usually prefer my conflicts to be more external than internal.

    Ultimately, the book was just totally Not For Me.

  9. Johanna Says:

    I just read the remaining issues and I can see it being problematic for people who weren’t comfortable with the spiritual aspects. I did like the way it could work for both Christian and less traditional beliefs.

  10. BOOM! Studios Blog » Blog Archive » SEEKERS: “impressive” Says:

    [...] “By offering hope for rebirth for even the most washed-up and jaded of individuals, DeMatteis inspire….” — Comics Worth Reading [...]

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