Lucifer Book One – Mike Carey et al.

My first impression, more than anything else, is how tactile this book is – the pages are rough and textured and gorgeous, and the covers are just the right amount of floppy to make the book comfortable to hold open without any risk to the spine*. I want just to stroke it. But that would be weird. So I definitely didn’t do that.

Second impression, rather less favourably, is that the front cover annoys me. 

The shiny, metallic effect title font just looks… well it looks a bit naff, frankly, and between that and how busy the background is… I don’t know. I don’t know why they felt the need to go so over the top with the effects on the title. It all looks a bit cheap, drawing attention away from the judgey-face of Lucifer himself.

The font and the art don’t sit well together, for me, and if I had come to this without the prior recommendation (shallow though I may be), it might have been enough to make me think twice about handing over £22, which is a lot for a book, even if not a lot for the amount of graphic novel you’re getting here. As it happens, I did have a recommendation, and so was quite happy to hand over the money, but when the amount you’re paying is that high, it feels like the cover should reflect the excellence of the contents rather better. People do judge by covers. And well… £22.

As soon as you open the front cover, of course, this becomes irrelevant, because everything is much prettier.

First off, the same font I object to on the cover, when stripped of the weird texturing effects, looks so much nicer:

New rule, I think. Gothic fonts – always 2D please.

There are several full page drawings, with heavy, dark colours and thick, texturedy brush strokes. They don’t really give anything away, while all feeling subtly ominous, plus a foreword from Neil Gaiman – both it and the introduction from Mike Carey manage to be rather more interesting than I’m used to the preliminary materials in books being, possibly by dint of it being Neil Gaiman writing it. But the lovely pictures and the interesting words (unless it’s the other way around), more to the point, quickly erase any doubts brought on by the front cover. I definitely spent a minute or so flipping through them and just staring. All is forgiven already.

As for the contents, there are several art styles involved in the storytelling (I think I prefer the one used in the first part – The Morningstar Option – but it’s a minor preference at best) and they all play up different bits of what’s going on. But there is a common thread of… a sort of dimness that is similar to my recollection of Sandman, which is a nice continuity. While there are some full pages that are lovely enough to sit and stare at, for the most part, the art is subservient to the storytelling, being good enough for immersion without being distracting, which I like. I have definitely flipped back after I finished to look at particular things, which is great, but I don’t like having to re-organise my thoughts and try to remember what was going on midway through a storyline too often. I’m more here for plot than pictures, and that was catered to, so I’m happy.

As for the storytelling, there’s a definite Gaiman-y inspiration feeling to it all, but also a very different flavour, so you can tell Carey has his own style. Lucifer himself comes across as cold, desperately calculating and subtly mocking, but with enough charm that he’s definitely likeable. It’s not an original take on the devil, but it’s one that definitely works (and is nowhere near as disconcerting as some – cf. Duncan’s I, Lucifer which just leaves the reader feeling a bit ashamed of themself) and which makes for an anti-hero who both actually is an anti-hero, and for whom you still very much want to root. On top of this, there’s an undercurrent of “severely pissed off” coming from Lucifer for a good part of the book, and that is compelling too, especially as it never resolves into definite action. There’s a tension to everything.

The background characters don’t feel desperately well explored, and often seem disposable, but then they resurface, and you realise that you care more about them than you thought you did, and in fact knew more about them than you thought you did too. Even the bit-parts feel completely real, and so you’re glad to see them when they come around again. And then there’s Mazikeen, whom I think is wonderful and want to know more about. I have all of the questions about her, and none of the answers.

Unsurprisingly, the plot feels sort of disparate and disjointed, coming together in slow pieces to a brilliant culmination of “ohhh I see!”. It is very much several stories joined together, but they’re joined together very well – not so that you can’t see the joins, but so that the joins are part of the point. Because of the different art styles and different characters, each has a very distinct feeling, and I found it quite easy to put the book down at the end of each (when normally with graphic novels, I struggle not to push all the way through to the end in one sitting). Given the size of Lucifer Book One, this is definitely a good thing. I’d have missed out on some things, or not given them the consideration and time they deserved, had I rushed my way through to finish in one sitting. I think I three, and that was just about right.

I have to say, I really do have a soft spot for this sort of thing – angels and devils and whatnot. I love Good Omens wholeheartedly, and I think it has influenced me ever after. And there’s such a lot to go on with Lucifer as your lead – it is a goldmine of themes, and Carey has done a good job starting on those, without throwing himself in headlong and potentially having to scrape the barrel later. It’s all been paced well so that I really do want to read the next one, and I feel very much like it will have just as much to offer me as the first did… and hopefully so will the following three.

Graphic novel ranking-wise, I’d say better than The Wicked + the Divine, but not as good as Ody-C. I don’t think anything will top Ody-C for me though, so that’s not really a black mark. General book-wise… it’s not in my all-time top ten or anything, but it’s definitely a new favourite, one I’ll be widely recommending, and one I suspect I’ll be coming back to more than once.

 

*I may have a thing about this. Not just because I like not breaking the spines of my books (though that’s definitely true), but also because there’s something indefineably satisfying about the slightly softer book covers – the Alex Verus novels have them too and they’re really just lovely objects to hold and move.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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