The Lucent a Bright Spot on the Indie Comics Scene

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The Lucent, Michael Bancroft

The Lucent, written and drawn by Michael Bancroft, takes readers on a compelling journey not just into the life of the main character, Ella Forsythe, but also the invisible world around her. It's our world, and yet it's occupied by the otherworldly.

When we first meet Ella, she's a mere six-years-old. A fearsome hunter, seemingly human but perhaps much more, pursues her, but settles for her father when the girl is mystically hidden.

Fourteen years later, Ella is a young woman who has all but forgotten the events of that night. But she's starting to awaken to the fact that she has different realities open to her. Her dreams are vivid and lifelike, and in them she can do amazing things: defy gravity, leap tall buildings, etc. But in the waking world, her mundane existence is spent employed cataloging books in a small shop. But when the man who raised her gifts her with a ring, her dreams transport her into someone else's life, in a distant past. And with that, the solid and ephemeral begin to have their first collisions.

It's easy to see a Neil Gaiman influence in The Lucent, beyond the superficial aspect of the book being driven by dreams. The coexisting worlds evokes memories of Neverwhere, while the tales of a stone man with chalk white skin and eyes of obsidian accurately describe Morpheus himself in Gaiman's graphic novel series, Sandman. In fact,The Lucent is very much what The Matrix might have been had Gaiman realized it twenty years past instead of The Wachowskis.

Bancroft's pacing is deliberate, his characterizations separate and unique to each player. The readers are not spoon-fed, not given any easy answers to explain the wild swings from one reality to another. And yet despite this it is very much evident that there is reason and rationale behind all of it; the reader acknowledges it intuitively rather than accepts it upon some blunt delivery. It's not a story that grabs you by the throat and forces you along, but rather takes its time setting little hooks into you before you realize you're snared and must now follow the narrator to the end.

As for the illustrations, Bancroft's pencils are nothing short of exquisite. In a day where it's almost too much to ask for a character to at least be recognizably the same from panel to panel, Bancroft's characters are unique and consistent throughout the story. The anatomy is on point, and the backgrounds are filled with details. There's a bit of an Easter egg hunt in the young protagonist's bedroom, filled with British literature and pop culture items, along with -- I'm going to assume -- a full-length looking glass that is surely a callback to Carroll's Alice. The colors are bright without being garish, with a vivid pallette used expertly so that the characters don't appear "flat" as happens in so many independently produced comics.

As a backup piece, Bancroft includes something I've often recommended as a writing exercise to others, but never seen done in comic book form. Rather than reproduce rough pencil scenes with text walls of character description, Bancroft fully illustrates interviews between himself and each character, giving two pages to each. It's a technique for writers to get to better know their characters and chip away at temporary writer's block, but Bancroft proves it's more than capable as a vehicle to take the readers inside the personalities of the dramatis personae.

All told, The Lucent (subtitled Waking Dream) is 80 pages of perfect-bound high-quality comic book goodness that transcends the medium in much the way old school Vertigo books used to be lauded for. Initially offered through crowdfunding, copies of the book are available to the general public through some online outlets as well as eBay.

5.0 / 5.0