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.
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. (A PDF for this review was provided by the publisher.)