The Lightning-Struck Tower : Daniel Hulet – “Morbid State”

Coincidentally, I abandoned Mike Carey’s “Lucifer” right as the Morning Star drew the Tower Card out of a powerful Tarot pack.

ABOVE: Geez, how impatient!

AND here is the Tower Card again, popping up as a central image on Daniel Hulet’s “Morbid State.” (If I was superstitious and on my way to a Tarot reading, I would be prepping myself to pick out a lot of dark towers.)

ABOVE: Remember Tower Records? I miss Tower Records. I miss records, period. I know it’s unrelated, but it bears repeating.

The Tower Card is the 16th trump in the Major Arcana. It’s variably called “The Lightning-Struck Tower” or “The Tower of Destruction” or (in French) “The House of God,” which suggests how flexible these things are: it’s either an ill omen (plans destroyed!) or a good omen (plans destroyed so you can make BETTER plans!). In short, whatever the Tarot reader feels the gullible client can handle.

In the context of “Morbid State,” the “tower” is a roach-ridden Brussels complex near the Cathedral of St. Catherine, where Charles, a comic book artist, goes looking for inspiration. Apparently H. P. Lovecraft hasn’t made too much of an impact in the Brussels market, or else Charles would have taken a look at the place and recognized it for the mouth of madness that it is.

ABOVE: That place better be rent-controlled!

The denizens of the tower are barely glimpsed ghouls constantly testing Charles’ sanity. Odd sounds, odd smells, odd coming-and-goings are the residential norm. This could have been familiar haunted-building material, but Hulet’s virtuosity makes every nightmarish panel seem like a deeply unsettling possibility. Over its three volumes ( “The Lightning-Struck Tower,” “The Avid Passage,” and “Waterloo Exit”), “Morbid State” uses dream logic to tie all its separate strands (metempsychosis, hoarders, Nazi Belgians, the Beatles, Medieval cartomancy, punk-rock, the dead soldiers of Waterloo.) The conclusion is disappointing and does not match what came before, but knowing that it all works best in oneiric terms, how can I fault for providing an ending that is the graphic novelist’s version of “it was all a dream”?


Hulet, who died in 2011, was inspired by the very real black tower in Brussels. Like the Tower of Nesle, it had a shady reputation once, but it’s now a quaint remnant of the city walls, looking harmlessly silly between modern buildings…

Or a treacherous, demon-haunted monument of timeless horror waiting to be struck down by God’s ire. You decide!

ABOVE: Well, “Black-ish” Tower



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