Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seekers Into The Mystery

Reading Dr. Fate made me want to go back and reread Seekers Into The Mystery, the 15 issue 1996 series by J.M. DeMatteis and various artists initially published by DC's Vertigo imprint. Unfortunately, I no longer had copies of the series.  Then Sunday, on a trip to Yellow Springs, Ohio, I picked up the first four issues--I'd forgotten that #5 was an epilogue to the initial story arc-- at a place called Darkstar Books, and reread them over the next couple of days.
In a way, Seekers Into The Mystery is comparable to Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" series, not in content, certainly, but in circumstance. Each was meant to be its author's magnum opus, a vast, sprawling epic that would go on for many years and thousands of pages and encompass all the various themes and ideas that had bubbled under the surface of their various other works throughout their entire careers.  Likewise, both came to a premature end after less than two years.  However, unlike the beloved and oft-reprinted "Fourth World" comics, Seekers was, until recently at least, almost forgotten.  That's a shame, as while this may not be DeMatteis finest work, it certainly ranks high among his best.
Seekers Into The Mystery is the story of people on a spiritual quest for enlightenment.  The key to that enlightenment seems to be an enigmatic guru known only as the Magician. The first arc introduced Lukas Hart, a burned out, washed up, divorced, substance abusing  screenwriter forced to confront repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse by his father as the first step on his pilgrimage to universal mystery and enlightenment.  Taking place in 1987, "The Pilgrimage of Lukas Hart" is narrated by the "present-day", a.k.a. 1996, Lukas, who at times breaks the fourth wall to address the reader directly.
The biggest drawback of Seekers is that DeMatteis spreads on the New Agey mystical psychobabble a little thick at times.  Despite his intention, stated in an "On The Ledge" column which ran in all Vertigo books the month of the first issue's release, not to lecture the reader, sometimes DeMatteis, through Hart, does just that.  I've no problem with DeMatteis expressing his personal views and philosophy through his work.  It's part of the reason I like his writing, in fact. Still, I'd prefer he let it emerge organically through the narrative rather than have his lead character look us in the eye and hit us over the head with it. Perhaps he knew on some level that this series would fail to find an audience and he wanted to get in as much of the philosophy of the series as he could in whatever time he was allowed.
When DeMatteis lets the story tell the story, it's a really good story. DeMatteis' gift for creating fully rounded and interesting characters is on full display, as is his ability to craft a compelling story that will make the reader want to follow these characters wherever it takes them. 
For the most part, this series remains uncollected, though the first five issues were recently reprinted in trade paperback by BOOM! Studios, though they currently have no copies for sale.  You can, however, order it on Amazon.

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