I have a confession. I don’t know that much about art. What’s good, what’s bad, it’s all a complete mystery to me. But I don’t get paid for my understanding of art…
Just my ability to steal it.
Lucifer Jennifer Ignacio Das Neves—just call her Lucifer (not Lucy)—is a very gifted thief. Gifted in the sense that she can wield supernatural power and cast hexes in order to get the job done. Under the wing of mother figure and art gallery owner Val Brisendine, Lucifer steals powerful artefacts that have the ability to pierce the fabric of reality, hold a powerful and potentially dangerous entity in a painted prison, and so on.
Her latest job goes sour, however, when she tries to steal an elaborate frame and ends up accidentally giving a security guard a heart attack. In the process of trying to keep him alive within the stolen framed painting, Lucifer unintentionally ignites a supernatural showdown between two very old, very powerful siblings. Ypres—the entrapped soul within the painting—wants his terrifying sister, Cymbeline, and her crown. And Cymbeline, of course, will do everything in her power to protect herself, including killing Lucifer, burning down the city, or whatever it takes to keep Ypres from getting stronger. What’s a thief to do when the fate of the world is in her hands? Rely on the help of her friends, Ms. Brisendine and intern Raina, and try not to think too closely about what her mentor and supernatural predecessor, the Harlot, has to say....
Collecting issues #1-4, The Harlot and the Thief marks Michael Alan Nelson’s return to the world of Hexed and heroine Lucifer (but can easily be read as a stand-alone graphic novel). This time around, the intrepid art thief shakes up the aether in a major way and nearly has her own soul eaten in the process. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the other Lucifer/Hexed stories before, although the series initially caught my eye in book format: Hexed was also published in novel form and penned by Michael Alan Nelson. And while I haven’t read that book (yet), when I saw The Harlot and the Thief,I was immediately drawn in by the gorgeous and grotesque cover art (and the awesome variant covers), the idea of an art thief named Lucifer, and the supernatural shenanigans that would ensue.
And you know what? The Harlot and the Thief does not disappoint. Lucifer is SO Buffy Summers, with her quippiness, the nonstop action, the nonstop attitude and “whatever, I can handle this” mentality. Also awesome is the unexpected but completely welcome cast of almost completely female characters. The Harlot and the Thief is all about the relationship between Lucifer and the other people in her life. I loved in particular the relationship between her and Raina—whom Lucifer calls simply (to her face) “The Intern”—and the gradual, budding friendship and relationship of mutual respect that blossoms between them. By issue 4, Lucifer is calling Raina by her name and the two are showing the early signs of a beautiful friendship (they both save the other’s life and are bonded and indebted in a serious way).
Beyond Lucifer and Raina, the other fantastic standout in this particular graphic novel is the relationship between Lucifer and the two mother figures in her life: Ms. Brisendine (art gallery owner) and The Harlot (aka the Keeper of Secrets, aka the role that one day Lucifer will inherit through her curse). These women play very powerful and influential roles in the business of the supernatural, and have their own opinions and plans where Lucifer is involved. I don’t really know what The Harlot’s ultimate angle is, just that nothing she does comes without incredible foresight and intent, and I can’t wait to see what her plans are with Lucifer and her approach to Val Brisendine.
My only qualm with this first volume is that the overall conflict is somewhat forgettable—Ypres is predictable and easily handled by Lucifer, who is then of less interest to Cymbeline (or is she?). But…now that I think about it, maybe that just reinforces the “monster of the week” Buffy-ness of the series. And that’s not a bad thing.
At its heart, this series is urban fantasy mixed with horror in a very pretty (albeit very bloody and decaying) package. If you’re looking for a new comic to get on board with that’s zippy, bloody, and with just the right touch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll probably get a kick out of The Harlot and the Thief.
In Book Smugglerish, 6-and-a-half gross eyeball iris bouquets out of 10.