Writer: Holly Black
Artists: Lee Garbett & Stephanie Hans
Colourist: Antonio Fabela
Lettering: Todd Klein
Cover Artists: Dave Johnson & Christopher Moeller
I feel some background would help explain my feelings on Lucifer. Mike Carey’s Lucifer was a very unusual beast that went into the heart of deep philosophical and theological questions. Whilst it did open up some interesting spin-off avenues that could have been continued, Lucifer as a character seemed well and truly mined out. And in the intervening 10 years I have heard few people asking for a revival. However, with a (largely unrelated) Lucifer TV series taking off on FOX and Gaiman’s Sandman Overture being a hit, it makes sense for Morningstar to polish his horns and dust off his wings for another adventure.
What Black gives us is really two kinds of stories that intersect, a celestial tale the fans would expect and a more down to earth story they would not. As is often the case the latter is certainly the more interesting. I will tackle these two separately.
The setup for the main story (established quickly in the first issue and on the back cover) is that God is dead. Convinced that Lucifer is the murderer the angels send Gabriel to execute him but soon they decide to team-up to investigate the real culprit. Once again a murder plot makes sense in order to move it closer to the world of the FOX show, however the team never really gels. Black is so careful to ensure the two angels fit into the canon of Carey and Gaiman that they don’t have the larger than life clashes that make buddy-cop films such a staple. Lucifer within the book does not exude the cocky charm of Tom Ellis, rather he is more quiet and determined. At the same time Gabriel is angry and haunted but still an angel. As such the team-up doesn’t really allow for any interesting insights or character moments. Just two begrudging companions determined to solve a case.
The case itself is probably the most disappointing part of the comic books. It mostly consist of historical info-dumps and walking through old storylines (literally):
Whilst the artwork does a great job of recreating the scenes as I recall them from the 90s, these feel more like fan service than actually a significant development of the story. What is good is that it does create a fully nightmarish landscape and give one a feeling of being immersed in the horror.
And the solution is built on a gun which, I would argue, Chekov failed to really lay out. That is not to say these moments are completely dull. Black is a master of dialogue and the back and forth that all the characters have are wonderful.
The other storyline, however, is brilliant. A young Haitian girl, Medjine, ends up in the possession of a demonic entity in a jar. This entity is in a bottle and so the only power the demon has is to communicate via whispers.
The whole story is such a great representation of depression and how it feels to have these self-doubts nagging at you day after day. This goes in a direction of trying to drive Medjine to violent psychosis externally rather than turning inward upon the self, but this makes sense within the context of the story. The art does much of the great work, really visualising the inner feelings and allowing us to feel the psychological reaction of these characters.
Medjine is a brilliant PoV character and I think it shows Black’s background in childrens’ and young adult literature. She manages to get inside the mind of someone in a very different situation from most of the readers and allow us to understand her without being patronising or stereotypical.
As such her journey through the story is the real heart of the piece. Lucifer may be the title character who goes directly on the murder mystery quest, but what I adored was seeing was Medjine go through these trials and traumas that are very real with only a touch of the fantastic to elevate them.
I am not sure I want to pick up more of Lucifer’s adventures but if Black wants to write the further adventures of Medjine it will go to the front of my pull-list.