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Lucifer: Devil In The Gateway

Sympathy for the Devil? Well…okay, yeah.

It's probably just me, but I've always had a soft spot for the Lord of Darkness. The man got the rawest of deals: he tried to make a teensy-tiny change in the administration, and The Man slaps him down into the fiery pits of Hell. Cold, God. Real cold.

Thankfully, The Morningstar gets a chance to shine again in his new Vertigo ongoing series, the first collection of which, Lucifer: Devil In The Gateway, is an amoralistic romping good read.

For those uninformed, Lucifer is no longer the ruler of Hell (it happened in Vertigo's signature book The Sandman). He gave up the position out of boredom, had his wings cut off by the Endless Dream, and opened a bar where he frequents the ivory keys to play a little Billie Holiday. Ahhh, the good life of a former ruler of Hell.

The first story in the book, "The Morning Star Option," really gets the feeling right for the comic. It appears that some ancient and powerful force has started making people's dreams come true, only not in the way they hope. Left unchecked, these wishes might have the power to unravel the reality we've all grown accustomed to.

As you can imagine, Heaven isn't very happy about this and would seek to intervene, but they also don't want to be directly involved with it. Their third option is Lucifer. For whatever price he names, Lucifer is sent to investigate.

The thing I've always enjoyed about Vertigo books is their apparent lack of need to focus on the titular characters to get a good story out. Sure we get to see the suave, aloof, and ultimately scumbag-ish Lucifer do all the things that made him the once "lighter of worlds" and "Lord of Hell," but we also get to see him and the story through the eyes of the people dragged along for the ride.

Mike Carey, the writer of the series who has taken a Neil Gaiman character and made him his own, does this "story by way of bystander" expertly: firstly in the half-Navajo teen Flower in search of a way to help her brother, and later in characters like the Neo-Nazi Karl and the magical adept Elaine. Carey uses Lucifer sparingly, not letting the character get stale or repetitive, and keeps the story chugging along nicely.

The art on this book changes; at present there are five artists credited for the three different stories. Scott Hampton in the first story, mentioned above, draws one style that sticks out amongst the rest. It's the cleanest art in the collection with beautiful color and it fits the series well. Hampton's work has a misty quality that meshes wonderfully with the supernatural overtones of the book.

In all fairness, you will probably not pick-up this book unless you are a Vertigo fan. This is a shame because save for the murky explanation given in the book for why Lucifer left Hell's office (the collection touches on it, but never in-depth), this is one of the most accessible books from Vertigo. It doesn't rely too much on any particular continuity, except maybe the Bible, and even then, it points out how it went wrong.

My suggestion: give Lucifer a try. At $14.95, it would be a sin not to add it to your collection…or is that the other way around?

Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway

Robert Sparling

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