What happens when you’re reacquainted with a cult you founded decades ago? Luna and Val explore the Church of Luna for their next adventure in Hollow Earth. Our review will contain minor spoilers.
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo
Colored by Ivan Plascencia
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Have you ever felt alone? Lost? Like you needed a friend? If so…join the Cult of Luna! Started in the heyday of the cult movement, the Cult of Luna follows the words of the great Antonio Luna. Every single word. No matter how random or insane, the Cult of Luna treats them as an eternal gospel. He is their God. And he will be your God, too. So, come on down and join us! Bring the kiddies! Journey to the center of your inner mind. Meet exciting people who want to meet you! Find out what you’re really made of! Share yourself with our hungry followers! And most of all…have fun!
It’s easy to see how Luna, a larger than life adventurer, could conceivably be exalted as a god. Using his unfathomable narcissism, enduring confidence, and skill in weaving a good story, Luna has achieved apotheosis, at least in the eyes of his flock. Welcome to The Church of Luna, where Luna’s crackpot theories about the world from the ’70s have somehow persisted into modern day. It’s a fitting chapter for the ultimate narcissist. Sure, it’s absurd, but absurdity is this series’ bread and butter.
The first page quickly establishes the Church’s drug-fueled origins in a ’70s club. Warped panels of various substances float above clubbers’ heads in a psychedelic pink haze. You can always count on Ivan Plascencia to nail the scene with perfect hues to match the time period. Given Luna’s various flashbacks to previous decades, color choice is crucial, and Plascencia delivers.
Impressive splash pages showcase the thrilling bombast “Deathbed” excels in. The Church of Luna’s Hollow Earth complex is revealed on one double page spread. Clothing is optional in this underground paradise where colossal nude statues of Luna grasp the moon and sun. On the full bleed credits page, Luna stands on a bloodied piano like some long lost god, a flaming pig head dangling from his arm and sexual symbols shining like a radiant sun from behind his head. It’s a ludicrous image that sets the madcap tone, perfectly encapsulating the dedication Luna has inspired in his believers. Riley Rossmo is able to capture the delirium of Luna’s adventures, often straddling the line between semi-realism and cartoon.
Rossmo’s turbulent page layout takes readers on a wild ride. Panels are arrayed like scattered photographs or run diagonally up and down. It’s as if we’re on a roller coaster: rising up, crashing down, and rapidly accelerating in unexpected directions. It’s a suitable layout for the frenzied nature of Luna and Val’s adventure and it keeps the momentum going fast and strong. One instance of inspired page design comes when Val realizes the horrifying truth behind the Church. We get a hideous close-up of a cultist’s face as the page’s background. Fourteen canted panels overlay his revolting face: close-ups of the fleshy composition of the cultists’ clothing and Val’s changing expression as the truth dawns on her. Each successive page just escalates their cannibalistic conundrum at a humorous velocity.
Three issues in, and “Deathbed” seems to be settling into an episodic structure. Each issue is mostly standalone, though reading them in order is highly advised. This formula suits the series well, giving Williamson and Rossmo insane new concepts, vistas, and characters to explore with every issue. The sky is truly the limit with Luna.
At this point, Luna isn’t much more than a caricature. He’s great fun to be sure and his antics never fail to amuse, but the true driving force of Luna’s life continues to prove elusive. In order for Val to truly tell the story of Luna’s life, she’ll need to expose the core motivation of this living myth. If the cliffhanger is any indication, we’ll be traveling down memory lane next issue to hopefully explore some key memories that truly drive Luna. Valentine Richards, on the other hand, undergoes some minor character progression. It’s easy for someone of her nature to be dwarfed by the living legend that is Luna, but she displays some real agency here, rescuing Luna with the creative use of a decapitated head. Her purpose in “Deathbed” as a shell-shocked sidekick to Luna’s life of insanity can only go so far. It would benefit her character arc if she more often played an active role rather than reactionary.
In the end, Luna fears he’s become an unreliable narrator in his own story. It’s an intriguing proclamation given that: 1) he isn’t the narrator, 2) he’s speaking to someone hired to write his memoir, and 3) there is a third-person limited narrator of “Deathbed.” For this story, the idea of an unreliable narrator is a suitable trope given the comic’s penchant for exploring the power of narrative and how it ties into legacy. We’ve seen living proof of Luna’s mad claims, but how much can we truly trust of what we’ve seen so far? Luna understands the importance of endings, and until we get there, it’s hard to say what this will all mean.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – Bombastic, fast-paced, and creatively wild, the next chapter of the Antonio Luna story is worth a read.