The Allure Of “Lure”


“There is another world. There is a better world. Well, there must be.”

Or so The Smiths — and, a few years later, Grant Morrison — would have us believe, but if there’s one thing the billionaire space race has taught us, it’s that these assholes are looking to commodify everything, Earthbound and otherwise, in their dick-measuring contest writ large. One of the most remarkable things about Lane Milburn’s new full-length hardback graphic novel, Lure (Fantagraphics, 2021), though, is that he started work on it some five years ago, long before Bezos, Branson, Musk, and their ilk decided the stars were their destination.

Okay, there’s one wrinkle in that it is Earth’s fictitious twin planet of Lure (hence the title) that the story’s Amazon stand-in has set its sights on for capitalist exploitation, but other than that you’ve gotta say that this is an eerily predictive slice of sci-fi, in addition to being a thoughtfully-written and gorgeously-rendered one. Our main protagonist, Jo, and her friends/co-workers are very much like people you and I know (if you’ll forgive the assumption that your social circle isn’t entirely dissimilar to my own) in that they’re artists making ends meet by voluntarily conscripting their creativity in service of “The Man,” but the stakes here are higher than than those attendant with, say, building a sculpture garden on a Silicon Valley corporate “campus”: if their 3-D holographic show goes off as planned, the world’s business and political leaders will be “all in” on a plan to let the Earth go to rot and kick off a new era of economic imperialism all over again under the unsullied (for now, at any rate) skies of our largely-aquatic neighbor world. So, yeah — it’s fair to say Milburn’s cosmic playground is equal parts eminently relatable and decidedly less so.

As you’ve no doubt picked up on, the allegorical value of this book is in no way subtle, but Milburn eschews heavy-handedness by making it a character study first and foremost — in fact, if there’s one (admittedly minor) criticism I’d level here it’s that the fluidity and ease with which he draws us into these people’s lives is almost too successful for its own good. The pacing is naturalistic, unhurried, even bordering on the lyrical for the first 95% of the story and then, bam! We get an out-of-left-field ending that’s admittedly effective, but nevertheless both sudden and open to all kinds of interpretation. I’ll be the first to admit that the more I thought about the story’s final act the more I liked it — and the less rushed it seemed in retrospect — but at the same time, I could’ve happily spent another hundred pages (at least) immersed in the various trials, travails, and tribulations of Jo and her friends.

Still, it’s always better to leave readers wanting than it is to overstay one’s welcome, and Milbun is first and foremost a highly intuitive artist : he knew when he’d said all that he had to say with these characters and proceeded to give his narrative a jarring, but entirely apropos, finale rather than belabor any of the points he was making. I respect the hell out of that even if it means a more concise book than I might have wanted personally — but seriously, how many readers other than myself are going to consider 192 pages to be “too short” in the first place? I don’t know much, it’s true, but I know when I’m standing alone.

One thing everybody is going to love about this comic, though, is the art. As lush, rich, and expansive as the planet upon which it takes place, Milburn’s illustrations are absorbing enough to lose yourself in for hours, and likewise add a layer of intrigue to the proceedings in that there are instances in which he deliberately obfuscates or even omits certain facial features for reasons that are known only to him, but offer fertile grounds for speculation for us. Again, repeated explorations of the material offer some clues — I would advise readers to pay special attention to the mythological backstory of the planet’s creation — but when it comes to firm answers, both narratively and visually, it’s going to be on you to divine a number of them for yourself. Fortunately, the art is so gorgeous that you’re not going to feel like putting the book down, anyway.
Also worthy of note is Milburn’s decided lack of cynicism, which is remarkable when dealing with subject matter that offers so damn much to be cynical about. The triumph of, as my friend Aaron Lange recently put it, “Starbucks neoliberalism” is a depressing enough prospect to be staring in the face, as is the grim political reality that rabid, conspiratorial, racist and fascist nationalism is being widely embraced as the most viable pseudo-“response” to it, but Milburn seems to hold out hope that people can still throw a wrench in the works and prevent, to one extent or another the “Alternative 3” (speaking of conspiracies)-style future the captains of industry are planning. I don’t know if I share such an outlook myself, but Milburn made me believe in its possibility, if not probability, for at least a moment, and shit — in these dark times, that’s a solid achievement in and of itself.

As is Lure on the whole. As we make our way inexorably toward the end of another calendar year and the onslaught of “Top 10” lists come part and parcel with it, you can expect to see this book near the top of many of them.

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Lure is available for $29.99 directly from Fantagraphics (fuck Amazon) at https://www.fantagraphics.com/products/lure?_pos=1&_psq=lur&_ss=e&_v=1.0

Also, this review is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the world of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

One response to “The Allure Of “Lure”

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 11/15/21 — 11/21/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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