When it comes to the original Lucifer comic series it’s hard to imagine another book that starts out on such a flawed note. While not objectively bad the first book is one that is hard to flat out recommended. It’s not particularly well paced. It didn’t seem to have a clear idea as to where it was going. The arcs within the book seemed to go on forever and weren’t all that compelling unless it was flat our copying the format of its parent comic, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. The book was, to put it, quite frankly, a mediocre read and could easily permanently turn one off from the series even if, once again, it is not objectively bad. Luckily however the second book is a vast improvement over the first in every conceivable way and almost makes the first book worth reading through. And since the show’s fourth season was recently released on Netflix what better time could there be to take a look back at the comic that started it all? This is comic book spotlight shining a light on Lucifer: Book Two.
The story for Lucifer: Book Two picks up right where the previous story left off. After a series of events, Lucifer was able to find a way out of Gods domain and decided to create his own universe with newly gained abilities. In response to this, various factions across the cosmos begin to draw lines in the sand with some looking to reap the benefits of this new universe, others merely wanting the chance to serve Lucifer again while others look at this creation with more malicious intent. And, once again, it is a vast improvement over the first book in nearly every conceivable way.
You see the problem with having the main character be the actual devil is that it is a bit difficult to have narrative tension. Like Morpheus in Sandman, Lucifer is a nigh-omnipotent character who can make most of his problems go away with a wave of his hand. This, unfortunately, makes compelling stories revolving the character a difficult task at best and nearly impossible for a writer with no previous experience with an ongoing series. The first book would often attempt to level the playing field by either depowering Lucifer, throwing things just as powerful at him or have him go up against enemies that just might be smart enough to get one over on him. The end result was a bit mixed with only the latter of these really working and only just so. The more compelling stories, however, always followed the little people who got caught up in Lucifer’s schemes for better and for worse. And this is where Lucifer: Book Two makes its biggest improvement.
With a few notable acceptations, Lucifer: Book Two doesn’t actually focus on Lucifer as the main character. Writer Mike Carey clearly picked up on the fact that the best stories in those early arcs didn’t focus on Lucifer as the protagonist. They centered around Jill and her friends who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when Lucifer was in town. Or they more effectively focused on Elaine and her bizarre connections to all of this and how Lucifer irrevocably changed their lives. And just about every story arc in this book focuses in on these kinds of characters and is immediately more compelling as a result.
The story that perhaps best sums the quality of the entire book is the Nirvana story that takes place after the first arc. The story itself mainly revolves around a woman named Cai Yue who is currently grieving after the apparent suicide of her husband. At the same time an ancient immortal being, known as The Silk Man, as cuts a deal with a vengeful angel to destroy Lucifer once and for all while Lucifer himself is hot on his trail.
What makes this story so special is that it perfectly encapsulates everything that is good about this book. Our main character is the definition of an ordinary person who gets caught up in cosmos schemes and has her life irrevocably altered as a result. In this particular instance, Cai Yue’s arc her getting over the death of her husband, realizing what kind of person he actually was and does so by being exposed to forces that no mortal should ever look upon. At the same time, it gives us a worthy antagonist for Lucifer to face off against who just might be smart enough to take him down. It knows how to keep us interested in its characters. It’s perfectly paced in a way that helps build suspense. It keeps us guessing as to how antagonist plans on taking Lucifer down and how Cai Yue fits into all this while knowing that the answer cannot be good. All the while it shows just how resourceful and utterly horrifying Lucifer can be and just about every arc in the story follows in a similar suite.
Some of the arcs further the development of supporting characters like Jill and Elaine. Other introduce original characters and quickly invest us in their worlds and stories. Sometimes it involves the complicated hierarchies of demons in hell and the new status quos without Lucifer at the top. Other times it gives us a look at the world that Lucifer created and just how insignificant the people are to him in the grand scheme of things. The actual quality of these stories is consistent from story to story ensuring that its reader won’t stop midway through any of the stories, making it a constant page-turner of a book.
That’s not to say, however, that the book doesn’t have its flaws. It never quite gets to the same level of profound as say Sandman even though its clearly trying. Lucifer himself is kind of a difficult character to root for given how unambiguously evil he is and many of his actions almost make you want his enemies to win. It also has to be said that the writers still haven’t quite figured out how to build up to a big finale as the books last story arc isn’t properly foreshadowed or build up to in any previous arc. But there are all minor complaints in the grand scheme of things.
In the end, Lucifer: Book Two is a massive improvement over its predecessor. Its story arcs are better written. Its characters are more interesting and the worlds they inhabit are more fully realized. And, above all else, it never bores you and makes you want to know what comes next. It’s hard to say if it’s worth going through the first book to get to this one but, on its own, Lucifer: Book Two is a hell of a read. Check it out!
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