Reading With the Devil

How do you find an audience for one of the greatest villains in Judeo-Christian history? A master manipulator, charismatic and omnipotent makes an amazing enigmatic character, but will you root for him? And should you? “Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway” collects “The Sandman Presents: Lucifer” 1–3 and “Lucifer” 1–4 where The Lightbringer is established as a piano bar owner who has retired from running Hell. The premise is ripe for storytelling. Mingled with myth and the dry wit observations of Lucifer, this trade will leave you pondering free will and the meaning of human existence.

When dealing with established myths the challenge is not to be didactic, or mundane. Luckily writer Mike Carey counteracts this by having humanity, several gods, demons and angels act as potential foils for his Morningstar. The trade begins with “The Morningstar Option” in which the angel Amenadiel is loath to request Lucifer’s help in what could bring an end to the world. His acceptance sets the precedent for not only the trade, but the series.

It seems that wishes are being granted to everyone. This leads to a catastrophic series of events for Native American Rachel Begai. Her wish brings her in contact with Lucifer who manipulates her into helping him rid heaven of their situation. Along the way we meet the other cast of characters and future enemies who have a burning desire to rid existence of our retiree. With every encounter Carey creates a devil that challenges the theory of predestination. According to her predetermined fate Rachel is supposed to help Lucifer in his job to aid heaven. Then why does she vow vengeance on him? After all Rachel does this of her own volition, for her own reason. She does not bargain with the devil, but still feels betrayed by him. It’s an entertaining paradox that redefines the role of the evil one.

Lucifer continues to make enemies and further bring on the question of why are we here when he goes to Hamburg, Germany for “A Six Card Spread” to authenticate his payment from heaven. The intensity of this story confronts bigotry on several levels. Carey utilizes a living tarot deck and the everyday lives of angels living among humans to offer a narrative that shows how people make disastrous decisions. Essentially it becomes “a trilling in the wires – a high inhuman sound [where] A million triggers are pulled [and] destiny rides on the bullets.”

Finally “Born with the Dead” has Elaine help her friend avenge her death. This intimate tale is the most haunting since it deals with the powerlessness of children. The mystery that she and her dead friend Mona unravel is filled with thrilling danger for the reader. It’s a good old-fashion ghost story with an occult twist that leads to a cleansing ending. Near the conclusion of this tale Elaine is saved by Lucifer for his own purposes. He alludes to the fact that he will need her special talents of talking with the dead.

Throughout the narratives the artwork of Scott Hampton, Chris Weston and Daniel Vozzo bring Carey’s words to life. Each artist brings a unique sensibility to the storyline as you see the amorphous forms of Hampton’s nameless gods you understand the words spoken by Lucifer in the beginning of the trade. In Weston’s case the menacing tarot deck that runs amuck is vivid and frightening. As a reader you can’t take your eyes off the pages. However it is Vozzo whose art will stay with you the most because it punctuates Carey’s well stated words and shows the fragility of the children and the precarious position they are placed in.

Carey sums up the thoughts of the reader best when he has the angel who has “kept every word” put on paper by humanity say that “Atonement is at best a journey of uncertain length to an unknown destination.” It is hard to say where you will end up after reading “Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway,” but the ride will at least be intriguing.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 634 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’

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