More Things In Heaven And Earth Are Revealed In Lucas Stand: Inner Demons #1 Through #4
by Hannah Means Shannon
For the past five months, I’ve been following the four issue release of Lucas Stand: Inner Demons written by Sons of Anarchy writer Kurt Sutter, oftentimes horror comics writer Caitlin Kittredge, illustrated by Jesus Hervas and colored by Alex Guimaraes. This follows on a hefty first series, now collected, that witnessed a story with “more things in heaven and earth” than are dreamt of in our philosophy. Lucas Stand is a story with a big “cosmology” (meaning the arrangement of a particular universe, whether in scientific or religious terms). The configuration of its universe is pretty interesting, certainly dramatic, and always expanding to reveal new details.
To the best of our knowledge in the first series, there were demons, and there was Hell, since the war vet now addled by drugs and depression makes a deal with a demon after taking his own life and becomes resurrected as a heavy for hire under a demon’s employ. But if you were wondering what the even bigger picture might be for Lucas’ world, the recently concluded “Inner Demons” teases you with more.
Sutter and Kittredge make it complicated, because everything in a Lucas Stand story is complicated by the man himself. And in some ways the point of the story is not to get a bigger picture of the universe in which Lucas lives, but rather to get a glimpse of humanity’s own small stature, but unusual significance in the bigger picture.
But let me circle back and say that Hervas’ artwork on the first series of Lucas Stand was very interesting and compelling. I always felt I could spot elements of comic tradition popping up in his linework softened by brushed ink, but in “Inner Demons”, the artwork is flat-out fantastic. It seems to have really found itself, and Hervas clearly hit a kind of groove in taking up historical threads.
Since much of “Inner Demons” is set in a pre-Christian Viking period and a Northern European landscape, you’re going to particularly notice how the art channels some of the best Conan comics produced as inspired by the work of Robert E. Howard. In fact, there’s a whole pulp feel to “Inner Demons” which is very impressively updated by the choice of electrifying colors by Alex Guimaraes, particularly to pick out the influence of magic.
The cover for the final issue of “Inner Demons”, illustrated by Adam Gorham, is a lurid, turquoise blue, colored by Mike Spicer, a blue which is one of the key colors in the issue. We also get a tremendously psychedelic fight scene as well as hot pastels when characters use the “compass” to jump through time and space. I wanted to point out the accomplishments of the artwork on “Inner Demons” because it contributes so much to the off-beat mythology that the story weaves, convincing you of the strange, underlying tensions in its universe that bubble up, and finally burst onto the surface in the finale of this series. In a story featuring an anti-hero, someone walking a somewhat dark path in the employ of demons, we get used to noirish elements, so these color choices in “Inner Demons” really stand out.
Lucas Stand’s life had a fair amount of darkness anyway, and yet he seems to be using his time as a resurrected being to try to “find himself” internally, even if externally, he’s been bound to a job he accepted. Fighting the demon Penemue took up a lot of the previous series. She pops up in issue #1 again, but for the most part the subtitle “Inner Demons” tells you about the theme of this series. Stand’s narrative internal monologue forms an important part of the story and the action in this series, as we hear him reason out his connections to others. By the end of the series, those definitions have taken shape as certainties. He cares about the two women who end up helping him on this series’ quest, and if he’s seeking some kind of personal redemption (to himself, for himself), then that’s a good step.
[*Spoiler warning for Lucas Stand: Inner Demons #1-4 below!!]
The bigger picture is that someone or something else is pursuing Lucas and offering him another kind of redemption. It’s a redemption by extraction, so to speak. If he can let go of his more “human” attributes, and become purely a cold-blooded killer and survivalist, he’ll become very useful to someone or something with a lot more power than he has previously encountered. The being we see in issue #1 is cast in outline against a purple background, and something like a pentagram spreads from it in thin lines. Lucas is, in fact, so horrified by this encounter that he runs from the being, with the goal of making sure it doesn’t make contact with anyone who he cares about. He leads it away. And the chase makes up “Inner Demons”. When I interviewed Kurt Sutter at the beginning of this series, I asked him about this being, and he was rightly vague about what this creature might represent. When I asked if things were getting “darker”, he asked, “If those archaic or entrenched values can’t be trusted, what’s the fabric holding all that shit together?”
As the series unfolds, you begin to associate the creature with Lucas’ own “cold” tendencies, his instincts to survive, his ability to kill without remorse. And that, in the end, is what the being wants. Sutter and Kittredge begin to refer to this other entity as “the competition” to the demons’ side of things. At that point, the reader might begin to wonder—are there bigger, badder demons? Demon factions? Aliens? Who knows? I mean, this is a book that doesn’t get entrenched with rules and prohibitions. Trying to figure out who this being stalker Stand is becomes tangled up with another really compelling and ingenious factor in the story: there’s more than one Lucas Stand.
So, Stand in the “present” eventually encounters a version of Stand in the future, who appears to him magically while in the Viking past. Read that sentence a few times if necessary. There’s a wonderful speech where you can’t tell if this future Stand is a good guy or a bad guy, and even he admits as much, warning his earlier counterpart that any version of himself he meets from even further down the timeline is going to be even more corrupted and ambiguous.
I see what they did there. Because Sutter, Kittredge, and Hervas created a story in the first series of Lucas Stand that’s so heavily built upon the role of timelines, that by the time you get to series two, OF COURSE there can be multiple versions of characters. And yet, somehow we don’t really expect it when it happens. That’s good storytelling. And if you thought one Lucas was hard to weigh as good or bad in the scheme of things, try figuring out multiple gradients of the guy. This redefines relative thinking. Nevertheless, if you thought fighting himself was the worst of Lucas’ troubles, that’s not quite true. There’s that bigger pressure coming down on him to give way to his killer instincts and leave his former self behind. Why?
The competition is revealed to be some kind of contingent working for “Heaven”. One “angel” we see revealed to Lucas in Viking times is pretty scary, and presumably that first entity he encountered was one of these beings, too. Having defied demons and taken to the hills, Stand now finds Heaven has a target on him and, well, he defies that too. But not just for the sake of it, as he might have done in the past. He defies this mandate in order to hold onto the progress he’s made—to Zoe and Dylan and the idea of actually having people in his life. Things he’s being asked to give up.
Funnily enough, it’s possible that the more heartless version of Stand would have given Heaven some Hell, too. I mean, he’s the kind of guy who’d just resist being told what to do, presumably. But he might not have won as that version of himself. It’s the version of Lucas who’s undoing his own “shitty decisions”, the version who can admit he’s different now, who has a fighting chance. In his own estimation, it’s because he’s rendered himself “unpredictable” in doing so.
So where does that leave the cosmology of the Lucas Stand comic series? We have a hell and demon-kind who are a wide range of obnoxious and evil, but on a kind of spectrum (just like human beings), and now we have, not an opposition, but a “competition” who just might be more controlling, less inclined to grant “free will” to lesser beings, and more inscrutable than we’ve previously encountered. And don’t let those wings fool you. They are probably not playing harps up there. Making big plans, more likely.
Sounds like the set up for another series to you? Interestingly, if or when a new story surfaces for Lucas Stand, we’ll be starting with a character closer to hero than anti-hero than he’s possibly ever been before. That’s progress.
Lucas Stand: Inner Demons #1-4 are currently available from Boom! Studios, and it looks like we can expect a Lucas Stand Vol. 2: Inner Demons around September 2018.