Monday, May 26, 2003

Lucifer #38 - A Review

Written by: Mike Carey
Penciled by: Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly & Dean Ormston
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: Daniel Vozzo
Lettered by: Comicraft
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

The biggest problem I have with turning people onto the merits of this title is one of complexity. Lucifer is perhaps the most involved comic published today and may even surpass Neil Gaiman’s original “Sandman” series in terms of foreshadowing, building on minor past plot elements and tying together that which is seemingly unrelated.

This attention to detail makes the book a joy to read for all those who have been following it since Issue One and an exercise in frustration for all the newbies who were late in getting into the theater. It is also frustrating for the critic whom has to explain nearly 40 issues worth of continuity and characterization in order to explain to people why the stories are so good and worth their time… but I will try.

Lucifer was the head angel, asked too many questions, was booted out of Heaven and became the ruler of Hell and all the other fallen angels and a number of beings called demons, just like in Milton’s Paradise Lost. He quit his job as ruler of Hell and gave up his powers in order to relax and enjoy himself, which translated into him opening a nightclub where he played Piano. He gave this up after finding a way to create his own universe and prove he could do one better than the Creator. He got nearly got killed by a sentient Tarot Deck that could alter reality but was saved after a girl named Elaine, who was herself an angel bred from Lucifer’s brother Michael, sacrificed herself to save him.

Now, Elaine’s soul is being tortured in some unknown place on the edge of reality and Lucifer has sent a crew of several series regulars to find Elaine as he deals with other matters having to deal with “his plans”. The crew travels upon the mythic Naglfar: the ship of Loki the Trickster, as Lucifer travels with Michael into the very mind of God him/her/it-self.

Of course one may ask WHY Lucifer needs help at all, but this point is addressed in this issue. One character wonders aloud why Lucifer doesn’t just go on this journey himself and it is explained that some realities are too fragile to hold one so powerful, so he has to send lesser beings to do his work for him.

This is one of the breaking points of the series. Very often the reader has no idea what Lucifer is working towards and the action is seen through the eyes of those he manipulates into helping him or those who oppose him and have no idea what they are up against. If you don’t mind the feeling of riding a roller-coaster with your eyes closed – knowing that you are moving somewhere, but cannot see the end - then you’ll enjoy it. If not, then you won’t. It’s that simple.

The artwork is excellent, displaying the gritty details you expect in a Vertigo title. Each character is uniquely defined, so even if you are new to the cast, you can tell the players apart… which is a lot harder than it should be with some artists. Still, Gross, Kelly and Ormstron show why this book did get nominated for several art awards in the past.

Overall, this issue is your typical middle chapter. I enjoyed it, but realize it is very inaccessible to new readers. My advice to all of you is to hie thee to a comic store and pick up the trade paperback collections or back issues of Lucifer. You’ll be glad you did.

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