There’s a certain sense of inevitability in the Mays Brothers’ Catching Lucifer’s Lunch, a gothic, graphic tale of love, betrayal, and redemption by way of The Outer Limits. Higgins Lark, the book’s “hero,” takes a journey into Hell, a la Dante’s Inferno, to save his son who has been taken prisoner by demons to serve to Lucifer for a soul feeding. Higgins’ girlfriend, Jackie, “sacrificed” in the middle of the book, is found in Hell, as well, as a lost soul Higgins thinks he can trade for his son’s.
But all the while, there is this gnawing feeling that all of this had been predetermined: Higgins’ son was destined to be eaten by Lucifer; his bitchy girlfriend was destined to be hooked-up with Beelzebub as his queen; and Higgins, himself a whiny character, was destined to take this redemptive journey to save his son. This certainly makes for an interesting story, and at 56 pages it’s efficient, too, with sparse dialogue and minimalist, eerie, and foreboding art. The Mays Brothers, though, never root the reader in any sort of identification, rendering the aesthetic pleasure a mere superficiality.
At the beginning of the book, readers are tossed right into the action: a demon has kidnapped Higgins, Jackie, and his son, putting the story in motion. This is an effective technique for a horror tale because it keeps readers off-balance. Unfortunately, the Mays Brothers never right readers by giving them background on the characters and who they are; it’s one thing to never reveal the reasons for an event happening, but readers need to understand who a character is in order to become emotionally vested in them. Page after page, readers find Higgins traversing the perils of Hell to reach Lucifer’s den and save his son. And page after page, readers are never given much insight into who Higgins is.
When Higgins finally reaches Lucifer and finds his girlfriend’s soul enslaved to Satan, there is an extended moment where it seems like some substantive amount of character background will be revealed. Instead, in an effort on the Mays Brothers part to redeem the character, Higgins’ girlfriend offers her soul to Lucifer for consumption in place of Higgins’ son. But we never know enough about the character to feel anything when she makes this sacrifice. We see Jackie being a jerk at the beginning of the book, then later a double-crosser, but that’s about the extent of it—and even these things aren’t substantive actions.
Catching Lucifer’s Lunch is wonderful to look at. Its art is a macabre kind of beautiful. Faces, places, and bodies are defined just enough to be recognizable but undefined enough to be anyone or anywhere. This is wholly appropriate for the sense of dread and the inevitable that the Mays Brothers effectively pump into the book—the events here were meant to happen, and they could happen to anyone, anywhere.
Unfortunately, the Mays Brothers take this lack of definition too far and never allow readers to develop a sense of connection to the characters. Without this, the book is merely eye candy.