The Verdict on Satan: Quite a Guy!!!

Lucifer Volume 6: Mansions of the Silence, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston and David Hahn (2003; collected 2004); Lucifer Volume 7: Exodus, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly (2003-2004; collected 2005): Mike Carey’s version of Lucifer, created by Neil Gaiman in his Sandman series, almost seems like a conscious upping of the ante with Gaiman’s award-winning title about Dream of the Endless. Dream wasn’t all that likeable. Indeed, he was something of a jerk. Indeed, the whole series was in part about Dream coming to terms with the fact that he was a jerk in the self-pitying Byronic mode.

And here we have Lucifer, who is even more of an anti-hero, though a fascinating and shaded one, and definitely not one to be burdened by guilt or self-pity. In such a situation, one’s sympathies will be engaged not by the titular protagonist but by the supporting characters, though Lucifer occasionally comes across pretty well simply because so many of his opponents are such monsters and assholes by comparison.

Lucifer gave up his kingship of Hell fairly early in the Sandman series, wandering the Earth for awhile before opening a night-club (aptly named Lux) in Los Angeles. But his out-sized ambitions returned, and by the time of these volumes he’s created his own universe, apparently hoping to learn from the mistakes of his Father — that is, God, or the Presence as he is generally called herein.

Mansions of the Silence depicts Lucifer’s repayment of a debt to the human/angel hybrid named Elaine Belloc, who saved Lucifer’s life in a previous installment but whose soul was subsequently kidnapped and dragged off into the eponymous Mansions, a vast expanse inhabited by various supernatural beings who have no interest in living in any of the codified afterlifes of the spiritual universe.

Belloc’s soul has been used to bait a trap for Lucifer; he despatches a ragtag group of allies into the Mansions both to reveal the extent of the threat and to preserve the integrity of this spiritual space, at least until he retrieves Elaine. Lucifer’s power is too great for the Mansions to support his presence — if he enters them, the entire realm will quickly disintegrate.

The quest is weird and wooly, with lots of mythical overtones, undertones, and shout-outs to a wide assortment of world religions. Exodus then follows Lucifer’s subsequent moves, and the fall-out from God’s big announcement at the beginning of Mansions. Lucifer plays the hero, to an extent, in both volumes, though always for his own reasons — reasons which are not entirely revealed at the time. He’s a right bastard, but less so than any of the gods (or God) we meet, and Lucifer’s creation seems remarkably benign and pleasant under the circumstances.

Carey deftly combines humour and pathos and the epic throughout both these volumes — a ‘mini-arc’ about an odd and very sympathetic demon who spins webs out of emotions he steals from human souls is the stand-out in Exodus, a weird little heart-warmer about families and friendship. The art by Peter Gross and others is crisp throughout, expressively managing to convey menace, the Sublime and a pleasing level of cartoony humour at the appropriate moments with equal skill. Recommended.

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