Top 5 Comics That Get Magic Right

Lucifer

Lucifer: The Morningstar Option: Mike Carey’s seventy-five issue full series custodianship of Neil Gaiman‘s former Prince of Hell is a work of jaw-dropping mastery and often-stupefying beauty. Beginning with the mini-series, “The Morningstar Option,” Carey’s Lucifer finds the title’s namesake tending to his LA nightclub, Lux, in a sort of semi-retirement from the world of metaphysical intrigue and hostile takeovers. When he is approached by an angel of the Thrones of Heaven to complete a job for their shared Creator “under the table,” as it were, he asks what his payment will be, and the angel responds, “I am told that you will name your price.” “Can or Will?” “Will.” “You’d think that part of omniscience would be knowing when to Stop…” Lucifer asks for something called a Letter of Passage, and the stage is set for what can best be described as a story of epic-level strategy and power plays in the most fundamental and abstract levels of reality.

[ad#longpost]Throughout “The Morningstar Option,” Lucifer has to fight ancient, literally nameless gods, make deals with Babylonian gods of commerce and travel, travel to the Navajo site of the Creation of the World and meet Blue Flint Girl, the grandmother of all the Navajo people. He uses the principles of sympathy and contagion to “borrow” the wings of a mourning dove (having previously left his own in Hell), and he opens doors between the minds of people and the physical world via their shared understanding of the significance of certain symbols. Through all of this, Lucifer never has to incant a spell, or perform a strictly prescribed ritual; in fact, the most formal thing he does is to carve a “rune of Finding” into his own palm, and then use the knife and his own blood on it as a lodestone to recall himself home, should he desperately need to. No, Lucifer, being one of the first beings ever created, has a fundamental understanding of how to manipulate cause and effect linkages between people’s minds, concepts, and the entire range of the physical worlds (all of them). And he does it through the thing that has made him legendary: the sheer force of his own Will.

But, while Lucifer is still the Morningstar, and the progenitor and embodiment of the Fire of the Will, he knows that there are certain actions one can take to make life easier. There are certain words and phrases, certain kinds of commerce and communication which, when pushed with enough self-determination, make it possible for gates to be bypassed and rules to be bent long past the point where they should have broken. This is the hallmark of magic, in the Lucifer universe: when we know the rules as intimately as we know ourselves–and we must know ourselves very intimately–we know exactly where to place the lever–or twist the knife–to get exactly the results we’re looking for. There will be twists and turns as our drives and desires run up against those of others, but they’re nothing that can’t be ploughed through or burned down. They’re only obstacles, after all, and what are those to an indomitable drive to attain your goals, but something to be utterly and completely destroyed?

Every principle and drive we see discussed in the first three-issue miniseries is expanded and expounded upon in the regular series, showing readers what magic can do in the “right” hands. A host of angels, archangels, demons, gods, Gods, and human bystanders who refuse to Stand By are all introduced, and each of them displays, in their own way, their visceral, living connection with the magic in the universe around them. A rotating cast of artists makes the whole deeply affecting tale of epic resolve and drive to Become a pleasure and an honour to read. Click here to buy Lucifer books from Amazon.

Promethea

Promethea: It has often been said, in matters of both comics and magic, that “Alan Moore Knows the Score.” In this collaboration with J.H. Williams III, this fact is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt in both fields. Promethea is the story of a young girl who is transformed into an Archetypal story and given eternal life by two of her father’s gods: Thoth-Hermes. The two gods in question are the patron-creators of magic, written language, technology, and communication, and this is but the beginning of the layers of symbolism and meaning that Moore and Williams will weave into this masterful work. Throughout its pages, we are made privy to the behaviours of the Princes of the Goetia, taken through the divinatory system of the Tarot Deck, taken deep into the Jungian Collective Unconscious, taken through the birth, life, and death of Aleister Crowley as told in a joke (“There were two men riding together, on a train…”) and taught the basic rudiments of the Hebrew Language. And that’s just the first two books.

Because Promethea is an archetype, living in the “Immateria,” the only way she can come to exist in the “Real World” is through someone with whom she has a strong enough symbolic, emotional, mental resonance and connection. When Sophie Bangs becomes Promethea, she is the eighth person known to have done so, including the “original.” The others must teach the new inhabitant of this mantel how to use all the magical weapons at her disposal, so that she can do what needs to be done in the face on an onrushing Apocalypse. As Sophie travels, fights enemies, and learns from gods, demons, and other persistent stories and living conceptual patterns, she grows more and more accustomed to her role, and she and Promethea become more aligned. A major arch of the story takes place as our heroine walks along the Qabballistic Tree of Life, searching for a departed friend.

When I say “Qabballah,” don’t think about Madonna and cheap-ass bracelets. What I’m talking about is the Qabballah of Art and of Angels, of deep interwoven, interlocking, intricate numerical patterns, generating meaning and reality itself. And, importantly, on the reverse, it is the Qabballah of the Qlippoth, of Demons and hatred and Howling, dissecting everything you are and leaving you a hollow, brittle shell. In her journey, Promethea learns and experiences each of the sephira–literally “Numbers”–of the Qabballah, coming to a deep and complete understanding of the correspondences between the symbols and words that humans use to clothe their experiences, and the fundamental nature of reality. From the days of the week to the game of chess–or “Mandrake Play”–everything has its roots in conceptual symbolism.

Let us be clear: This book is a work of magic. That isn’t hyperbole or metaphor, but the literal truth. Moore is a self-proclaimed working magician–sometimes shamanic (Voice of the Fire), sometimes hermetic (Promethea)–and he and Williams have inscribed and illustrated every panel and page of this work to resonate on a fundamental level with the reader, such that they cannot but be affected by the events, story, and lessons, therein, sometimes almost to a fault. At times, the characters are somewhat obviously mouthpieces for the lessons that Moore and Williams want you to learn, and the settings are overt symbols to drive those lessons as far home as they possibly can. I mean, the Thrice-Great God Hermes all but winks at the reader at one point. But, with all this in mind, know that it is all intended. Every word, gesture, scene, and conjunction of symbol, syntax, context, and semantics is planned and deliberate. This book is the work of a hermetic magician, intended to teach the reader the basic concepts that they will need to become a practicing ritual magician. To what purpose? Well, if you read the series, I think you’ll be able to figure that one out yourself. Click here to buy Promethea books from Amazon.

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Wolven

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • That was awesome, Wolven. As always, very nicely put. I look forward to more of your writing ;)

  • Solid, solid list. But I’ve got to at least mention Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. While stylistically dated, it’s right up there with liber null or book iv on my bookshelf. Pop Magic was, unfortunately, a letdown, but his disinfo speech is still great listen.

    Be Good,
    Ronin

  • Ronin, gods only know if you’re still getting alerts for this, but I was thinking about your comment, now that I’m re-reading The Invisibles, again. My reasoning for not including it was that it does a lot of the same thing Promethea does, but from the other end of the spectrum.

    Moore’s idea is to guide you step by step through a very particular and prescribed process of initiation and education. He was immersing you in a psychadelic river of mind and magic, yes, but one with definite rules and actions. Morrison’s goal was chaos magic and psychadelia to it’s full extent, erasing the self/other illusion, utterly annihilating any vestige of mind/body, us/them, yes/no, this/that dualism. The rules are there, but they are fluid, and they can be bent, changed, erased, with the right bargain.

    Now, though these seem to be different goals, they both go about it in the exact same way: Using the Comic Medium as a Trance-Inducing Immersive Litany to transform the mind of the reader, as she reads, thus both teaching and initiating the subject, at the same time.

    And I didn’t want to repeat myself :)

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