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Lucid

Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2011
By: Danny Djeljosevic

Michael McMillian
Anna Wieszczyk (p) & Shawn DePasquale (i)
Archaia Studios Press
Even though I'm not too keen on it, I can't help but look at a book like Lucid as exactly the kind of comic book that needs to exist. It's populist genre fare with a clear, welcoming high concept. We have a lot of genius, artistically transcendent comics in the world, and there will no doubt be many more to come; what we need, though, are comics that regular folks will pick up in the same way that regular folks watch shows like Lost and The X-Files. Worked for Brian K. Vaughan, right?

Lucid follows Agent Matthew Dee, a Combat Mage who works for the U.S. government in protecting the country against supernatural threats--essentially a mash-up of James Bond and John Constantine minus the Britishness. Even if the word "Volume One" weren't slipped in under the title on the cover, one gets the sense that Agent Dee's adventures could be sustainable for a while.

Writer Michael McMillian scripts a decently readable comic that's conversational enough to gives the flurry of magical mumbo-jumbo an accessible Hollywood sensibility. There are crazy ethereal creatures, but the whole thing is grounded--closer to 24 than it is to Sandman or even to Fables. As a basic script, it's solid--hitting all the right magical secret agent beats. There's an assassination attempt, some investigation, a bit of undercover work, and a face-off with some ethereal energy things. It's all pretty digestible, if not incredibly spectacular.

McMillian, by the way, is an actor best known for playing the crazy anti-vampire Reverend on True Blood. What's awesome, however, is how little his résumé matters. He doesn't have a simple "story by" credit or even a co-writer, and artist Anna Wieszczyk doesn't draw any of the characters to resemble McMillian.

Wieszczyk's art style is very anime--I'd differentiate it from manga because her panels often seem like animation cels of a particularly stylish Japanese cartoon--something by Madhouse, maybe? Either way, her individual panels are often quite easy on the eyes. However, when put into a sequence, her work never quite transcends the sum of its parts. There's an unintentionally disorienting effect to her illustrations--like reading a unflipped manga left-to-right.

The storytelling from panel to panel suffers from the lack of fluidic movement--characters seem like they're posed in the frames rather than moving between them. Granted, they're not moving, but it should seem like they are. According to her bio, Wieszczyk is still an art student, so she has loads of time to develop her graphic storytelling chops.

While the combination of magic and espionage is strangely palatable--it's not chocolate and peanut butter, closer to tofu and peanut sauce--McMillian and Wieszczyk could stand to ramp it up and go even bigger with the magic stuff and the twisty topoi of the spy genre. Maybe, like in the movies, the sequel will be better than the first one.



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