Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blast From the Past: Lucifer Vol 1 Devil in the Gateway

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Scott Hampton, Chris Weston, Warren Pleece, & Dean Ormston
Company: Vertigo

Horror is one of those multi-tiered genres. Think of it as an immense dark obelisk or tower that looms over all the land, each section devoted to a different type of beast or baddie. The majority of the time, when a person hears the word horror, their mind instantly goes to monster. Monsters are great. Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Stephen King, Scott Snyder and a host of others have breathed life into creatures that have given countless people nightmares and spiked adrenalines everywhere. Horror has also brought in things from the serial killer realm, the suspense and tenseness that comes with watching someone be hunted and killed. Hannibal Lecter, Dexter, and The
Corinthian are a few that spring to mind for me. There are other types of horror too; comedic, dark comedy, torture porn...It all has its place it that obelisk. This book is a different kind of animal though. Not because it doesn't fit into the Horror genre, it most certainly does, but because writer Mike Carey dips his pen and ink into every crevice of the tower, into all kinds spine-tingly bits and shadows and things to bring us a book that encompasses it all. Lucifer is the personification of all types of horror.

It's a vehicle, a blazing black GTO with flames, that barrels through the landscape, it's tires ripping and tearing at your worst nightmares. The issues that are collected in this first volume are a little softer than some of the stories that occur later on, but they are still stories that make you think and give you goosebumps. That's what Carey brings to the table. His tales are methodical and while Lucifer is the main character, he quickly builds up a supporting cast and people that need to be dealt with.

Before we get too much further, for those who are not familiar with this version of the character, he's the same one who Neil Gaiman created in his Sandman opus. This is the same Lucifer that closed up Hell, locked it, gave up his power, and opened a bar in L.A. He's a likable character because he's interesting and doesn't take any shit. He is, however, not a nice guy and the Monsters, Angels, and God himself won't let him rest. It's a good idea to read the Sandman bits, but Carey gives you all of the pertinent information as you delve into the book.

Separated into three stand alone stories that ultimately fit together like a zig-zag jigsaw puzzle, this volume tells Lucifer's story and what he must do when The Heavenly Hosts come to him for help. Carey sells each story with gusto, giving us tales that involve forgotten Gods, sentient Tarot Decks, and Ghosts who just want to know why they were killed. One of the most important aspects of each story is how Carey puts the brunt of the tale on the shoulders of a human, one who you can instantly relate to as they typically just as in the dark about Lucifer's world as you would be. By doing this you're instantly drawn into each affair, as you have someone to root for. It doesn't hurt that every character here is detailed and fleshed out. Carey doesn't believe in giving us snippets here, we get the full enchilada. The life triangle that he builds in the second story, a story that deals with a stage magician, young love, bigotry, and the meaning of one Angel's life is probably the standout. It's packed with powerful themes and is the best example of how Carey balances Horror and Humanity.

With the art, we are treated to a trio of talented slingers of ink and color. The first story features the stunning work of Scott Hampton. His style has a slight tinge of minimalism is it, with its defined lines, but it's the painted quality that immediately catches the eye. Often times, painted work can feel frozen in time on the page, but Hampton's moves and breathes and undulates. His characters are striking and have such a range of emotion.

The second tale features art by Chris Weston. Weston has worked on a plethora of comics that range from things like Grant Morrison's The Filth to Warren Ellis' Ministry in Space to more recently working with Mark Waid on a story for Rocketeer Adventures. His more realistic style is decidedly different from Hampton's, but the two work in concert rather well. The looks that he gives for the various entities of the sentient Tarot deck are scary as hell, and just his ability to construct a believable setting that lives and breathes so well is amazing. There is so much that goes into every panel, a lot of little details, but it never feels out of control.

On the final story, our jaunt into the spirit world, we have a combination of Warren Pleece and Dean Ormston. Pleece is the man behind the layouts of the story while Ormston threw down the finishes. The overall look for it is a bit off kilter, but in such a gorgeous way. It reminds me a lot of Teddy Kristiansen's work and the way that they are able to capture the innocence of the lead character, a young girl named Elaine, elevates the simple, almost Sixth Sense-like story in a lot of ways.

So yes, this first volume of Lucifer is exemplary Horror. It has many creep out moments, but ultimately, what's being formed and the groundwork that the creators are laying is what matters. As with anything the story is what matters. Lucifer is a story worth telling. Periodically, as I make my way through the eleven volumes of the series, I'll post reviews for each one. It's been about 7 years since I read the story and since I loved it in the past, I was curious to see how it holds up. The only down side to all of this is is that Vertigo is letting the book fall out of print. That means if you have any interest in it, now's the time to grab it off of those shelves and join in on the fun.

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