Lucifer Volume 1: Devil in the Gateway, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross, Dean Ormiston and others (1999-2000): Lucifer resigned as ruler of Hell, got Morpheus to cut off his wings, and moved to Los Angeles to open an upscale piano bar called Lux in the pages of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in the early 1990’s. Then Vertigo Comics decided to bring him back in 1999, with then up-and-coming writer Mike Carey at the helm.
Lucifer being Lucifer, the piano bar business seems to have become a bit boring. So when an angel comes calling with a mission from God, Lucifer accepts. Primal, prehistorical gods threaten to undermine Creation, so off Lucifer goes, at a price, to save the world.
After that, the Lightbringer heads off to Hamburg to get a divination. As the magical colony organism that is the world’s first Tarot deck has escaped its prison, things get pretty hairy there, too.
As Lucifer is a manipulative, scheming creature whose saving grace is that he never lies, a lot of the weight of interest in these stories falls on the supporting characters, human and otherwise, whom we meet along the way. Lucifer’s loyal servant Mazikeen returns from Sandman, while a host of one-off and recurring characters also appear. Lucifer, tricky as ever, has an audacious plan that will ultimately unfold over the book’s seven-year run.
Carey already shows a deft hand for weirdness and drama amidst supernatural beings and humans, one that would only grow greater as his career progressed. The series gets off to a dandy start, reminiscent of Sandman at times but nonetheless possessed of its own nasty, metaphysically probing edge. Recommended.
Lucifer Volume 2: Children and Monsters, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross, Dean Ormiston and others (2000-2001): Lucifer puts his plan into action, and it’s a doozy. But then he needs to visit one of the Japanese Hells, where he has no powers (being from a different religion as he is) but where he needs to recover his lost wings from the ruler of that realm.
And that’s only the beginning.
Carey and main artists Gross and Ormiston takes us through both mystic and mundane realms, sometimes at the same time. Magical beings and humans are being drawn like moths to a flame to Lucifer’s piano-bar Lux, wherein Lucifer’s grand plan unfolds. Hosts of angels plan a massive attack on Lux, with Los Angeles itself caught in the crossfire. And for some reason, a little girl who can see dead people is a major part of Lucifer’s plan.
This second volume of Lucifer’s wacky adventures also gives us an ancient and horrible curse, the fate of the Sumer-Babylonian gods (who are themselves weirdly and creepily rendered), and the further unfolding of Lucifer’s plan. The archangel Michael, the fallen angel Sandalphon, and a variety of other gods and monsters also make appearances, including a particularly nasty pair of proto-Djinns who really, really want to get out of the ‘normal’ universe they’ve been trapped in for millennia. Recommended.
Lucifer Volume 3: A Dalliance with the Damned, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross and others (2001-2002): The secret of the nominally Christian Hell imagined by Neil Gaiman in Sandman and expanded upon herein by Mike Carey is that it isn’t really Hell as we normally understand it: damned souls can leave at any time if they can stop believing themselves to be damned. But that rarely happens.
The three major arcs of this volume follow Lucifer, a magical little girl and the denizens of one of Hell’s provinces as various plans and counterplans proceed apace. Very bad things happen. A human released from torment manages to outwit his tormenters. Lucifer continues to be his grumpy, sardonic self. And his companion Mazikeen, bizarrely maimed in a successful attempt to save its life, begins to rise up the ranks of the Lilim, those demonic beings born of the union of Adam’s mostly forgotten wife Lilith and the demons of Hell.
As always, there’s a nice mix of zany but ‘real’ mythological material and Carey’s occasionally post-modern musings on gods, angels, redemption, and damnation. The demons and devils are loathsome, but so too are some of the angels opposing Lucifer. Strange, heady stuff. Recommended.