Most stories that attempt to forge a degree of moral ambiguity show their characters as having contrasting aspects of good and bad to suggest that nobody is one or the other, but rather a mix of everything in between. City of Lost Souls, however, is far too cynical for that, its contrast instead being between bad and worse, with neutrality being about as close to a positive moral absolute that anyone is capable of.
This is a story that literally begins when its protagonist kills himself after murdering twelve people and, after being sucked into a purgatorial quest, subsequently grows into an avenging force righting unpunished crimes. Meanwhile, a Soul Collector, someone supposed to be the epitome of unfeeling impartiality, attempts to hijack the strength of a concentrated evil for his own selfish desire for power.
The five previous issues of City of Lost Souls gradually weaved a tale written in darkness, where base humanity is capable of just as much horrific depravity as the immortal abominations populating a world of blackened limbo. With this, the final issue of the series, it somehow manages to feel as though it has been holding back, swiftly launching into something akin to a zombie apocalypse, except with demons.
A pseudo-medieval otherworld becomes choked by an oily darkness as though life itself is surrendering to the evil unleashed, while you swear you can hear the writhing hiss of the damned as the spreading infection of pure evil contorts them into nightmarish parodies of humanoid form.
The story demands that everyone involved takes responsibility for their actions, and despite the varying levels of culpability it’s revealed some of them possess, it suggests that regardless of how hard they may wish to work at it, for some people there is no true redemption. There may however be something resembling peace, so long as it’s earned and not demanded.
A fitting culmination of a consistently high quality series, City of Lost Souls ends on another high that draws its blood-soaked, shadow-wreathed narrative to a satisfying conclusion that stays true to its misanthropic tone, while also injecting a note of something akin to – as much as a story like this is capable – hope.
CITY OF LOST SOULS #6 / AUTHOR: JAMES McCULLOCH / ARTIST: JANINE VAN MOOSEL / PUBLISHER: COMICHAUS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW