I’ve always been fascinated by religious mythology, particularly when it comes to creation stories. Greek cosmogony is always awesome, with Gaia and Ouranos, the Hundred-Handed Ones and the Kyklopes, and every little story about why our world contains the creatures it does now. The torah (or, the Old Testament, if that’s what you’ve always known it by) is another rich vat of mythology. The early bits of Genesis are filled with fascinating pieces of never mentioned “history”. You get a fleeting mention of the Nephilim—those children born of male angels who had fallen in love with human women—and all sorts of life-giving followed by merciless smiting. Fallen angels are my favorite topic, and Luci’s Let Down follows the best known one of them all: Lucifer.
Chmiel’s tale has Luci as the creative director working under God’s regime. It’s a cubicle-style work environment, although Luci’s office has some impressive drawing boards and boxes filled with her prototype creatures. Shes’ recounting her final job working for the big man, in which he has picked out a little planet that he’d like to stuff full of life. Chmiel portrays God as a laid-back kind of guy who gets really fired up about new ideas only to lose complete interest in them soon after. Luci, it turns out, does all of the heavy lifting, designing everything from the stars to platypi. (Fun note: Lucifer means “light-bearer” in Latin, which makes it all too fitting that Luci is the architect of the stars. The story designer clearly did her research.)
Just as Milton sought to make Lucifer a romantic character (not in the relationship sense, but in the sense that people could sympathize with him), so does Chmiel. Luci is poised for burning out from all the work she has done, mostly because of the emotional toll it takes on her. As the Earth fills up with life, she comes to a terrible realization that in order for the planet to work, there must be an equal force at work to balance it out. The concept of death rattles her and nags at her conscience, while the rest of the angels could clearly care less.
Sandra Lanz handles all of the art and she truly excels at drawing sweeping, starry landscapes (or should they be called space-scapes?) I found the most arresting drawings to be the ones where Luci is adrift in the universe, catching stars or reclining on their surfaces. There are some nice, subtle touches, too. When Luci reveals her plan to make life on Earth able to reproduce, the panel borders are double helices. When she feels like she’s being ignored, the others become silhouettes filled with starry dots.
My only gripe is that Luci doesn’t have that much personality. I kept waiting for her to spark up and it doesn’t really happen until the last page. Instead, she’s mostly detached and mopey. Luckily, Chmiel’s narration moves from mundane to poetic at just the right times, dropping lines like “Here you are, willing to struggle so much to exist. Set up for failure from the very moment of your creation. A day will come when you’ll close your eyes for the very last time.” It turns Luci’s ever-present ennui into something that grabs your lungs and crushes the air out of them. At least, that’s what it did to me.
Luci’s Let Down is the debut project from these two young ladies, first released this past weekend at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. Right now, it looks like the only place to purchase it is from the publisher itself, so check out the link at the very top of the page or the one right here. Or, if you’re looking to try it before you buy it, head this way to see the first 13 pages for free.
—Written by Grant Goodman
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