December 1, 2008

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Lucifer Volume 1

Written by Michael Carey
Illustrated by Various Artists
Vertigo

[My cynicism here has a lot to do with the fact that I'd just read a whole string of crappy Vertigo stuff.]

Wow, a Vertigo book that doesn't suck. I was beginning to think those didn't exist any more.

This is the finally-created spinoff from Sandman of Lucifer, once the head of Hell (retired). Gaiman notes he was trying for years to get someone to do this, and Mike Carey took the ball and ran with it, unafraid of the consequences of writing the Prince of Lies. (I will be honest, I never thought about that having potential risks.)

It's definitely worth the wait as Carey writes a set of stories that mesh well with the Sandman-Books-of-Magic Vertigovserse, combining just the right touch of magic, menace, and manipulation that it seems like DC can't do anymore in its "adult" books.

Lucifer is a man with no wings and a bar. When wishes start coming true, Heaven asks him for help. He reluctantly agrees, and we're off on a journey with the devil as our guide. And we must keep in mind, he's a very unreliable narrator.

The best part about this series is that Carey manages to make Lucifer a likable character while still writing him as a son of a bitch. That's not easy to manage. The tricks that he pulls to get what he wants are completely logical and I love the fact that, despite no longer being the ruler of Hell, he still has the ability to mete out punishment. (A man accuses Lucifer of deviance and is rewarded by losing his sexual prowess, for example.) However, Carey is not tipping the entire hand here--we have no idea at the end of this set up just how much power Lucifer still holds, what his plans are (beyond being a thorn in the big guy's side), and how it's going to play out when the big guy tries to pull one over on the master of deceit himself.

The first issues are the most Gaiman-like, dealing with myth and its re-imagining within a modern context. I love stuff like that so it was my favorite part. But the start of the regular series is also very strong, as Lucifer works out his place in the world and deals with other angels living on earth (apparently, there are more than you might think). The mystical elements mix with a very human story told alongside it in an almost seamless blending and the idea of a sentient tarot deck is inspired. Along the way, Carey's many artists handle the art chores well, making things realistic with just a bit of extra shadowing and good expression. There is of course the obligatory Vertigo nude woman, but this time the rest of the story is good enough to make me not be annoyed.

This one looks like it's gonna be a nice ride, I can't wait to read more.