After serial killer Matt murders twelve people and then commits suicide, instead of the oblivion he was expecting he is instead embroiled in a game run by the sadistic and androgynous soul collectors. Bored with their lives of eternal servitude to the cosmos, they occasionally allow a recently deceased evil soul to escape with the goal of discovering the City of Lost Souls. Should Matt find the place, it would allow those whose lives he destroyed to exist free of him, while at the same time freeing himself from the torment of their endless judgement. Aided by the mysterious dwarf Ki and pursued by Reaper-like demonic hunters, his only problems are that he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing, and the fact that the city might not actually even exist.
What makes Matt such a fascinating protagonist is that despite being a remorseless murderer, he does have a genuine sense of morality, albeit an incredibly warped one that makes little sense to anyone but himself. While it’s a tough sell being asked to empathise with a serial killer, at the same time you can’t help but root for someone who would ram a knife into the chest of a child molester without a moment’s hesitation. Being faced with the souls of those he killed and forced to endure the suffering of both the pain he inflected upon them and the purgatorial limbo he condemned them to has made him appreciate what he stole from them, and will serve to temper his general disdain for humanity. We know nothing of him before he began murdering, although it’s likely he was the proverbial quiet loner (the contemptuous detachment of his internal thoughts remind you of those of Watchmen’s Rorschach, despite lacking their nihilistic eloquence), and what drove him to begin his campaign of bloodshed (“I thought they fucking deserved it”) may well become a later plot point.
Perfectly complementing the grim tone of the story is Janine van Moosel’s artwork. Shining blackness reminiscent of James O’Barr’s art from The Crow, inks varying in shade from jet to onyx to ebony spill across the page, the shadows so heavy that the action looks like it’s illuminated by a tiny spark in pitch darkness, almost as though a reflection of the antihero’s soul.
Small recurring details such as Roman numerals and clock faces seem to vaguely hint at an underlying mystery behind the story’s events, but for now we must remain at the mercy of the comic’s sporadic publishing schedule while we impatiently wait for the next issue.
INFO: CITY OF LOST SOULS #2 / WRITER: JAMES MCCULLOCH / ARTIST: JANINE VAN MOOSEL / PUBLISHER: MOOMAC COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW