Tony McMillen’s elevator pitch for his one-man, small-press miniseries Lumen name checks Michel Fiffe’s Copra. Not only does the first issue follow Fiffe’s lead in being written, drawn, lettered, inked and coloured by McMillen solo, and being self-released through Etsy, it also scratches the same ineffable itch that ongoing Suicide Squad tribute does.
While McMillen’s art doesn’t draw from the exact same pool of inspirations as Fiffe — if anything, his brushwork and bold colour use is even looser and more impressionistic than Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, late Ditko et al — his storytelling is just as pulpy, and all the better for it. The true titans of crime genre fiction, from Chandler inheritor Robert B. Parker to present-day Lee Childs, know the power of eliding flowery prose in favour of boiling their writing down to the bare essentials of action.
Not that Lumen is a crime book, or even a traditional superhero story. It’s more like a myth, our wild-haired narrator Esteban struggling to survive while chronicling the expected return of “the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun and bring it back to us.” The reason for that AWOL hero’s quest is because Esteban lives in a world of eternal darkness, his journeys around this dystopia illuminated by a small lantern.
Living in such circumstances must suck for those trapped in it, but works out just fine for us reading at home. McMillen’s action scenes, which owe more than a little to John Romita Jr. in their placement of bodies in space and the chunky weight of said bodies, are blurs of brushed ink and bright red slashes of light and gore. Lumen #1 is at its best as it follows the Parker/Child/Fiffe model of lean action, the moments of dialogue-heavy exposition between Esteban his fellow survivor the “Science Witch” bogged down in generic worldbuilding which belies the individuality of its imagery.
Tony McMillen (W/A) • Bounce House Comics, $5.00
Available to buy online here.
Review by Tom Baker