Sunday, September 1, 2002

The Mount - Lucifer: The Best DC Book You Aren't Reading

This month, I look at a Vertigo title that is indescribable in so many ways. Its' stories.. its' plots... and the sheer goodness of it can not be described to one who has not read it. Put it simply? Impossible. The tale cannot be told without telling it. Summarize it? Now that is slightly closer to possible, but would prove nearly as long as telling the story in the first place.

I speak of "Lucifer", a comic that started off as a spin-off of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and has, over the last three years, evolved into a worthy replacement of that legendary series. In time, it may prove to be an equal. Not too bad for a nearly three-year-old comic that boasts the King of All Evil as its' hero.

Well, not quite the King of All Evil. True, good (?) ol' Lucifer was once the most highly placed angel in all of Heaven and got the boot during an attempted management reorganization. He found himself, and those who stood with him, in the most not-nice place imaginable. They took it over, putting his legions and various other beings (not all "demons" are fallen angels) who joined them to work torturing the souls of those who felt they deserved to be punished for their deeds in life.

But in time, Lucifer got bored with running what had become known as Hell and realized that in a way he was still serving God by running his realm of punishment: without Hell, Heaven has no meaning. He also realized that there was nothing that said he could not quit being the Ultimate Adversary of all Good. So he quit, had Morpheus (Sandman and Lord of Dreams) cut off his wings, thus robbing him of much of his power and then returned to Earth, where he moved to Los Angeles (the City of Angels, ha-ha) and opened a nightclub.

This all happened during the run of "Sandman", but it is all helpfully explained in the first issue of Lucifer. So while the book is geared towards those who have explored this wonderful world before (in Sandman and The Dreaming and the countless mini-series) a newbie to the world of Vertigo can easily jump into this series with very little confusion.

The series is very quick to start off. We find that Lucifer has just been given a 'letter of passage' by God in exchange for a favor. The events of this battle are detailed in a three part Lucifer mini-series, now available along with the first four issues of the current monthly series in the ("Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway" ) Trade-Paperback. Coming up with a plan which only he knows the full details of, Lucifer embarks upon a quest (mirroring that of Morpheus in the first arch of Sandman) to find his wings and regain his old powers. This too, is all quickly and easily explained in the first issue.

Keeping track of what is going on once the series gets started, however, can be confusing at times. "The Sandman" got flack from some readers for being too involved and having several subplots that took years to play out, usually connecting together at one major point. Now while some people, Uncle Stars included, just love this kind of spider-web writing, it is not everyone's cup of tea. It is a necessity to have started reading the book since the very beginning, because of these same plot threads. Characters who appeared once briefly will reappear again in large roles as late as two years later. Consider for example The Basanos: a magical living tarot deck which has the power to reshape reality. Appearing in the first story arch as a tool Lucifer uses to divine his potential futures, it appears again after two years as an independent villain out to rule the universe.

Despite being a bit slow to take off and potentially confusing to newbies to the Vertigo Universe, Lucifer does succeed in holding the same tone as its' source material. The epic feel remains throughout the series as Lucifer travels through many unique realms- from the Japanese afterlife realms to the suburbs of Hell, where dead souls are farmed to create drugs for demons and the demons act like characters from a Jane Austen novel. Mythology buffs will also be glad to know that aside from the usual groupings of angels and demons, the story is chalk full of allusions and references to Japanese, Indian and Romany mythology.

More than this, I cannot say. But the first few issues of the series are now available in two trades. The aforementioned "Devil In The Gateway" and ( "Children And Monsters" ) I highly recommend that all of you who didn't start this journey with me grab these horses, that you may catch up.

Until next time, may your clerks be friendly and your comics unbent.