Starless Wonders: Tony McMillen's Lumen
A couple of summers ago, I reviewed some books, as I am wont to do. One of them was An Augmented Fourth by friend of the Ladies and local celebrity Tony McMillen. Since then, Tony's written and drawn a comic, Lumen. Since the first four issue arc has just drawn to a close, it felt like a good time to tell you all about it - you can get in on the ground floor of what I hope will be an ongoing series, while still getting a complete story.
The story of Lumen begins with a young man, Esteban Vela, who stumbles upon a suit of armor and a lantern one day after following a falling star. It sounds romantic, except for two things - one, the armor still holds its previous occupant. Two, Esteban lives in the Nocterra, a world enshrouded entirely in darkness. There are no stars, not even falling ones, and being too romantic in a world like this is will get a boy killed. Still, inspired by tales of "the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun,” Esteban decides not only to take the armor, but promptly finds himself embarking on an epic quest.
You see, while the sun is gone, devoured by "the Beast that fell to earth," there is one source of life and light in the Nocterra - lumen, a glowing substance that allows plants to grow. It also provides energy; it's the power source for Esteban's armor as well as the various weapons and mechs designed by his nearest neighbor, Detta the science witch. It's Detta who sends him on his quest, to obtain the lumen horde in the southern castle. All that stands in his way are giant fungus monsters, the Fun Guys, who thrive in the darkness of the Nocterra. No problem for a hero, right?
The story has many of the best elements of a fairy tale - a magical destiny, a witch, a quest, even an animal companion and a pretty girl - while still managing to feel entirely new and unique. McMillen has clearly spent a lot of time on world-building, thinking through the rules of his night universe and how it operates, and he deploys it brilliantly, through the illustrations and actions of the plot rather than through tiresome exposition. Likewise, the characters all have distinct voices and personalities - I could hear Esteban's cocky bravado (and its undercurrent of doubt and fear) in my head perfectly.
McMillen's art is likewise wholly unique, loose and smudgy, yet sharp and distinct when it needs to be. The use of color is amazing in a book about a world cast in darkness, and book three has a multi-page sequence that manages to be clever without being gimmicky. And the Fun Guys - well, no one draws a monster like Tony. Each are named after actual mushrooms - there's a great single page shot of different types in issue that looks cool AND had me reaching for google to see what a "Gristly Domecap" looks like here on our Earth.
All told, Lumen is an impressive debut comic from a writer I know is only getting better, and I can't wait for the next arc.
If you want to read Lumen, the first copies are sold out in print but available online at McMillen's Etsy shop, and the later issues are available either online or here in Boston at Comicazi and Hub Comics. Even more exciting, the first issue is up for FREE over at Tony's website. So get on over there and check it out!