Sunday, June 12, 2005

Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway - Friends of the Devil

Today's "You Decide" is Lucifer, specifically the first trade collection, "Devil in the Gateway" (the pick is courtesy of Fabian).

One of the most striking things about this trade collection (which collects the three issue mini-series Sandman Presents Lucifer and the first four issues of the ongoing series that spun off from the mini) is not so much Lucifer himself (although he IS a striking character) but rather how writer Mike Carey uses these three stories (the three-part mini, illustrated by Scott Hampton, the first three issues of the ongoing, illustrated by Chris Weston, and the one-shot story illustrated by Warren Pleece) to introduce and develop brand new characters who work off of Lucifer - the aforementioned "friends of the devil," as it were.

The first story, which got everything started, shows Lucifer on a mission for Heaven, and he enlists the aide of a young half-Navajo girl, Rachel, who is trying to atone for a granted wish of hers that wants to take back.

Lucifer is suitably manipulative and anti-heroish in the story, and Hampton's moody artwork does the job quite nicely.

Lucifer took the mission for his own purposes, and all that matters to him is that he gets his way. If some people are helped by him achieving his goal, so be it, but that is not his concern, really.

Rachel learns this the hard way, and is changed by her meeting with Lucifer into a well-rounded strong foundation for future stories still to come (although she sadly DOES get melodramatic at the end).

The opening arc of the ongoing series is illustrated by Chris Weston, who is much more character driven artist than Hampton is (Hampton is more concerned bout creating a mood, not going in deep with character design), which works, as Carey introduces us to a pile of characters, from a conflicted German militant to an angel obsessed with human ideas to a Europe-by-way-of-Pittsburgh magician's assistant with a chip on her shoulder so large that can be seen from outer space (whose role is going to be bigger than any she ever dreamed for herself on the stage).

The intertwining of all the characters evokes the careful placement of dominoes, and we know what a masterful player of human emotions Lucifer can be, but in this instance, it is not Lucifer who is concerned with these mortals lives, but rather the unforeseen result of an angel trying not to help Lucifer.

For Lucifer is continuing the plot began in the mini-series (which involves his reward from heaven for helping them in the mini-series), and I think that is a bold choice by Carey - choosing to have stories with beginnings, middles and ends, but still telling an overarching plot.

These interactions with the "friends of the devil" are great in and of themselves, but they all work towards a futher future storyline.

Finally, the last story in the trade is a one-shot tale of two best friends (two young girls - one dead and the other a witch) that might be the strongest work of the collection (I always think Carey shines best in one-issue stories). The innocence of the little girl communicating with her dead "grandmothers" is handled well by both writer and artist (I am a fan of Pleece generally, but I think he does a particularly fine job with this story).

In addition, the way that Elaine is able to deal with the fantastical surroundings (even meeting Lucifer!) is both cute and intriguing.

Heck, even the murder mystery is fairly interesting.

All in all, this is a fine start to the Lucifer series, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and really, to anyone who likes good comic writing period.

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Anonymous Fabian said...

I'm glad you liked it and I almost cringed on the last line. I thought you were going to end off saying that it's a good comic for those who liked the Sandman because when I came into Lucifer, I didn't read one bit of Sandman. In fact, this was my first Vertigo stories.

I also would like to see your review of book 2 (children and monsters) because it focuses more on Mona who only had a one shot here

6/13/2005 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger naladahc said...

Yup. Lucifer is a great book and I love Mike Carey's work.

Funny. Lucifer and Fables are the only books that I seem to make required reading ever month.

The superhero titles come and go for me and I feel as if I've read them all before but Lucifer delivers every month.

6/13/2005 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

This one kinda sucked, IMO, but Lucifer got waywaywayway better with the next few trades. (That thing with the Snake in the Garden of Eden... Perfect.) As it stands I'd probably still call it the best written monthly mainstream comic.

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