Masks on top of masks on top of masks. How many layers of himself does Detective Clay need to peel back to uncover who he really is?
Writer: Dan Watters
Illustrator: Caspar Wijngaard
Letterer: Jim Campbell
The thrilling conclusion to this mindboggling neon-noir series is finally here. For the past five issues, we’ve been watching Detective Clay get deeper into trouble with The Thumb, the crime lord he’s been trying to take down since the beginning. With each new predicament, however, comes bizarre twists and turns that connect to the real case Clay has been so desperate to solve: Who was he before Dedande City and how did he get there?
We finally learn the answers in last month’s issue. *Spoilers ahead* It turns out Clay is a pawn in a wager between death loas Maman Bridgette and her husband Baron Saturday (deities rooted in Haitian Vodoo). According to Bridgette, the “real Clay” is brain dead and dying in a hospital. The doctors would let him die already if it weren’t for his twitching hand. Unbeknownst to the doctors, he’s haunted by the evil things he’s done, and his hand symbolizes his wish to be a better man before his time’s up. Bridgette believes Clay can change. Saturday does not. Thus, they construct Dedande out of his mind, wipe his memories clean, and wait to see what he does.
While this is a lot of backstory to summarize, it’s important to Limbo’s final issue, which sees the outcome of this wager. In issue #6, Clay is equipped with a truth he doesn’t entirely believe and goes on a mission to save Sandy from The Thumb. His actions will answer the question Bridgette has pondered all this time: Is identity intrinsic, environmental, or a mere illusion?
The end to Limbo will make your head spin. Fraught with confusion and intrigue, your thinking-cap will be put on full throttle. If you’re like me, you’ll sit there asking yourself, “What the heck actually happened to Clay?” Because the thing with Limbo is, the truth is never what it seems. On one hand, the conclusion reeks of futility, on the other, it’s filled with hope. Creators Watters and Wijngaard have set up so many opposing forces and ideologies (e.g. nature vs. nurture, life vs. death, good vs. evil), it’s difficult to know what’s up and what’s down anymore. Though perhaps that’s the point. Everything is an illusion, including Limbo’s conclusion. It’s like what The Thumb said about splicing up a VHS, reordering it, and putting it back together again. Reality is what you want to believe it to be… or something, something.
Still, whichever way you decide to interpret Limbo, it doesn’t take away the incredible fact that this issue and the series as a whole has gone full circle, revealing the true meaning behind Clay’s “limbo’. The parallelism set up between the imagery of Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill for all eternity and Clay’s unwavering determination to uncover the truth—the whole truth—work wonderfully together. It seems to hint that Clay can keep digging for some form of truth, but he’ll never get any deeper if he refuses to accept at least a part of it. Like Dagon, readers see where his path begins and where it ends. But Clay? Clay is stuck in a loop, a state of limbo.
Now this may be a stretch, but based on this final issue, Dedande appears to be a manifestation of all the violence Clay has inflicted in his former life. Additionally, The Thumb and Sandy represent the two opposing forces pulling him apart. The Thumb is the man he no longer wants to be. In fact, Clay has twice said, “Wait until I wrap my hands around your throat.” Taken literally, it’s the thumbs of our hands that does the choking. Considering The Thumb also refers to himself as “the heel”, it can be an indicator that The Thumb is Clay’s weakness as well (a reference to Achilles’ heels). In contrast, Sandy embodies the guilt he has from his past life and the good man he wants to change into. I may be overanalyzing, but it’s something to think about it.
Wijngaard’s illustrations and color continue to astound and inspire awe. The dark purple, orange, and red hues throughout the issue steeps the city of Dedande in shadows and brings forth a sense of oppression. It seems to say, judgment is coming for Clay, and come it shall. With all this talk about “levels of reality” in the series, Wijngaard knows how to differentiate these levels with his art. I especially liked the solemn scene in which Bridgette and Saturday stand over Clay’s “real” vegetative body to determine his fate. It’s set against a black backdrop, with a spotlight on Clay. While it screams judgment day, it also reminds you that Clay is simply lying in a hospital bed with a lamp over his head. Every color choice Wijngaard makes is a methodical one. He gives each scene a sense of urgency and shows that colors alone can set the tone. I like to think that the art too, goes full circle.
Overall, issue #6 was spectacular, if not at times, confusing. With everything wrapped up in ambiguity, readers will have to read it at least twice to understand the significance of each character’s dialogue and the events that follow. Taken as a whole, Limbo only gets that much better and profound. It comes to show that even the shortest of series, with it’s deceptively simple premise, can still be complex and full of philosophical truths, and turn our world upside.
5.0 out of 5.0