25 January 2012

Faster than a DC Bullet: Lucifer, Part IV: A Dalliance with the Damned

Lucifer: A Dalliance with the Damned

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo

So at the end of the second volume of Lucifer, Children and Monsters, I was already beginning to weary of the format (Lucifer goes somewhere, seems to be in trouble, turns out to have known everything all along), but there was a nugget of an idea that demonstrated promise for a future installment: Lucifer had borrowed the demiurgic power of his brother Michael to create a new universe. Woah. It seemed as though this wasn't going to be a series about a Mean Wizard beating Meaner Wizards; Lucifer was going to be about something.

A Dalliance with the Damned delivers on the promise of those final moments of Children and Monsters. The highlight here is undoubtedly the sequence where Lucifer creates a garden with a man and a woman in it, and gives them only one commandment: "Bow down to no one. Worship no one. Not even me." Of course, there's a snake in the garden, there always is. The snake in this case is an angel from our universe, who tells the man and the woman that if their maker will not give them strictures, they should make their own. And so it ends badly. But unlike the Lord, Lucifer admits that there must have been a flaw in his design, and so does away with them. Here is the true potential of a story about Lord Lucifer leaving Hell. If Lucifer decides not to rule in our universe anymore, what is the kind of place he would consider acceptable? Carey plays with some great ideas here, and comes up with answers that were new to me, at least.

The rest of A Dalliance with the Damned is good, too, thankfully. While Lucifer is trying to arrange his garden, young Elaine Belloc discovers that she has more powers than she thought in an encounter with Brute and Glob of Simon/Kirby fame. Elaine ends up in Hell, but gets out; she's a good character, and provides a much-needed human anchor in the cosmic struggled that beset this series.

The bulk of the book is taken up by the story "A Dalliance with the Damned" itself, which is largely Lucifer-free, detailing political machinations in Effrul, a domain in Hell. What shakes things up in Effrul is that Lady Lys, the daughter of Lord Arux, the demon archduke of Effrul, brings a human up from the damned to be her sexual plaything. Christopher Rudd is a great character, a man who killed an innocent boy in a moment of anger three hundred years ago, and so has suffered ever since. Lady Lys even turns out to be a good character, which I did not anticipate at first, as she begins to take too much of an interest in her plaything. Complicated politics are the order of the day, but they're interesting politics, with good ideas backing them, and some pretty unexpected outcomes. I wouldn't have thought that a sidestep like this would work, but it does completely.

If Lucifer can keep this level of quality up, it will be a great series indeed.

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