Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway
Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Scott Hampton, Chris Weston, James Hodgkins, Warren Pleece, Dean Ormston
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
Letterers: Todd Klein, Ellie de Ville
Since we last saw Lucifer in Murder Mysteries, mulling over the injustice of the Lord, some 13 billion years have passed. More than that if Murder Mysteries takes place before the creation of the universe, which it probably does. Since then, Lucifer has rebelled against the Lord, been consigned to Hell, given up Hell (its dominion passing into the hands of a pair of angels), and set up in a piano bar in L.A. because, you know, what else would you do? His former consort, Mazikeen, works there with him.
And he'd probably be there, enjoying himself just fine, if Amendiel, an angel himself, didn't pop into Lucifer's bar, Lux, from the Silver City to ask Lucifer to undertake a mission that the Lord can't be seen to directly intervene in. In "The Morningstar Option," someone's granting wishes, or something. It's all very vague and cosmological. Lucifer recruits a human girl who tied into the phenomenon and strikes out to put a stop to it. The story actually reminded me a lot of "The Thessaliad" in The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales in that Lucifer, like Thessaly, knows the ways these kinds of stories work, and therefore undertakes the story in line with the way it should go.
In the second story here, "A Six-Card Spread," Lucifer heads off the Germany to get another former angel to read some cards for him. Of course, there's trouble afoot, what with a bunch of racist thugs running around and the cards themselves gaining intelligence. And Lucifer's not the only person after them... (Who would have guessed that?)
In both good and bad ways, these remind me of the early Sandman stories. There are big, neat ideas being played with. But there's also a protagonist for whom no problem ever seems to exist. As in the Sandman stories, I found myself focusing on the minor mortal characters, because they had lives and problems and such. Lucifer only has smugness, and that works much of the time... but not all of it. I found "The Morningstar Option" more interesting, but "A Six-Card Spread" got bogged down in all the mythology of the cards, which I didn't find very interesting. Part of the problem (again, like early Sandman) is that the story often doesn't seem to operate by rules the reader is aware of. Lucifer and all the myriad demons do things when they need to, and that is that.
The villains of "The Morningstar Option" bothered me, in that they were gods from before our universe or something... but that didn't really matter. They could have been wish-granting Star Trek space aliens for all the difference it made to the story being told. Just saying "gods" didn't do a whole lot to make the story different.
The book ends with a short story, "Born with the Dead," about a girl whose dead grandmothers give her advice, which comes in handy when her best friend is murdered. I liked it a lot, probably for the same reason I liked a lot of the Sandman fill-in stories-- it had a protagonist I could identify with. Lucifer's here, but it's a small bit at the end.
Last time I read a Mike Carey take on a Sandman spin-off, I got the excellent The Furies. So far, this isn't bad, but it's no rival either.