Review: Faust: Love of the Damned
David Quinn and Tim Vigil are mad geniuses. That’s really the only way to explain the twenty-five year odyssey that is FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED. David Quinn’s writing is exceptional and you can see the evolution over the years of both his writing and Tim Vigil’s art, each one becoming better and better at their craft until they simply dominate the comics medium. Seriously, if you have never read FAUST, now is the time. The entire series is out and deserves a second look if you gave up on it or a first look if you never started. So many elements make FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED amazing that it becomes hard to single out parts of it to incorporate into this review.
Starting off with Quinn’s writing we are treated to a masterful superhero version of the Faust tale, told through a lens that is distinctly Goethe but has enough of the twists that Quinn and Vigil bring to make it new. If you have never read Goethe’s FAUST, then this should certainly encourage you to do so. The final issue even references Goethe and M (the Mephistopheles of the series) fulfills his role as the power of negation that Mephistopheles fulfills in Goethe’s version. Quinn adeptly combines horror and superheroics, mixing the two in a masterful blend of genres that is pulled off so well by the addition of Vigil’s amazing art. The attention to detail and anatomy displayed by Vigil is nothing short of stunning and, as I stated earlier, you can see throughout the series how he evolves, becoming one of the best artists out there not only in comics but anywhere.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the fifteenth issue so wonderfully wraps up the story while still leaving it open for further exploration of that world that it leaves me wondering if there is another parallel to Goethe’s FAUST that would open it up to a PART II just like Goethe’s. The state in which Jade DeCamp is left at the end of the series certainly echoes Gretchen and her situation (which I will not spoil) at the end of Part I of Goethe’s Faust when Faust goes away with Mephistopheles, leaving her behind. The celestial chorus of Goethe is mirrored in the smoky apocalyptic DJ voice of Libra as well as the chorus of souls that John Jaspers and, later, Balfour, sees. There are so many connections to Goethe that it would take an entire paper just to list them all. Yet, the story remains so uniquely original that it would be a mistake to view it simply as a retelling of the Faust story. It is certainly enjoyable outside of those parameters as well, but if you are well-versed in classic literature, you will find your enjoyment heightened.
Of course another clever little trick that Quinn used throughout the series was tying it into music, sometimes lyrics he himself had written, sometimes lyrics from songs like “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” by James Brown for the debut issue and Glenn Danzig’s “Pain In the World” for issue nine to Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” in issue six. The lyrics serve to frame the story and give it a much more ethereal feel in places. Quinn also adeptly includes such diverse literary allusions and quotes that tie the entire story into the human condition that it becomes obvious the work was extremely ambitious from the start. He uses Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” as well as quotes from Goethe (and not just FAUST). The most controversial issue of the series was probably issue five and that issue frames the story with the “Allegory of the Cave” and sheds light on the plight of the enlightened man as he struggles to bring that light to the world. Those who shrugged the book off as superhero slasher pornography are missing a truly wonderful read. An omnibus collection of LOVE OF THE DAMNED would be great so people could sit down and read it from cover to cover, experiencing the entire story. It is very much a novel in graphic form and reads best when experienced in such a manner.
When the story began back in 1988, it was edgy and controversial, especially given the graphic amounts of sex and violence that were present. Vigil’s art brought out the blood and sex in ways no other artist had even dared to examine before then. His mastery of anatomy was spot-on. Unfortunately, this also led to Quinn and Vigil becoming somewhat blackballed by the rest of the comics industry. FAUST was a hard sell and obviously a labor of love, but it was clear that neither creator would back down from their vision to attain more mainstream success. Quinn, as the writer, was the less visible partner and so also had stints writing Dr. Strange, Purgatori, Carnage, Lady Death and others. His run on Dr. Strange is, in my opinion, criminally underrated. Vigil. However, bore the brunt of the impact of the controversy and never got the mainstream credit he deserved. The end of the series is just as controversial and it doesn’t end well for many of the characters, but that also fits within the theater of Romanticism and Tragedy that Goethe’s FAUST was also a part of.
Quinn and Vigil’s FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED is not just a work of art, it is a literary classic that deserves just as much recognition as Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN or Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or even Rick Veitch’s BRATPACK. It takes the comic book genre and the literary genre and meshes them both, turning them on their heads and creating something truly amazing that has to be experienced, not just read or looked at. Hopefully, the world recognizes the genius of these two creators and FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED becomes not only the comic book classic it deserves to be, but the literary classic it deserves to be as well.