In 1928, H.P. Lovecraft published the short story “The Call of Cthulhu,” creating the mythos of the “Great Old Ones,” malevolent beings who lie sleeping beneath the sea. Thus he started one of fantasy’s most enduring threads. (Stephen King has called Lovecraft one of the greatest horror writers of all time.)
The tentacled Cthulhu is utterly Lovecraft’s creation, but others have made it one of the first “shared” universes. Michael Alan Nelson is writing new stories being released as comic books. The whole series is good, but the third installment, “Fall of Cthulhu: The Gray Man,” is excellent.
Although the art is clunky and a bit unexpressive, the book has a truly upsetting plot and a tad of the soul-destroying depth of “Hamlet.” Luci Jenifer Inacio das Neves -- Lucifer for short -- is a Brazilian street child and master thief who shows up in an American small-town jail. She’s being chased by the patron saint of human sacrifice, whose knife she’s stolen, so this sniveling 16-year-old teams up with the local sheriff (a heartbeat away from calling immigration) to trap the evil saint. Lucifer gets by with a bit of occult knowledge and the mix of quick escapes and desperation that comes naturally to such children; she wrests the deepest secrets from the supernatural Harlot and gets someone else to pay the price. Where many comic heroes agonize over the “human cost” of fighting evil -- very much a middle-class indulgence -- Lucifer has made a sad peace with necessary loss.
Comics are generally about having special help in solving problems. Real drama is about having none (therefore, comics have to work hard to be dramatic). What’s great about Lucifer is that she’s not the least bit special. She has nothing, she is nothing, yet she takes on great powers -- and wins.