Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway
by Mike Carey, various artists
(DC/Vertigo, 2001)

Lucifer, the prince of darkness and lord of the flies, might not seem like an obvious choice to star in a comic book. But Neil Gaiman rarely chooses poorly when creating a character, and his take on Lucifer in his highly acclaimed Sandman series was, to say the least, intriguing.

Enter Mike Carey, who picked up the concept and, with Gaiman's blessing, ran with it. Devil in the Gateway, which reprints his first two story arcs in trade paperback form, demonstrates how well Carey's run began.

The story begins post-Sandman. Lucifer has abandoned his kingdom and cut off his wings. He's living among mortals now, running a Los Angeles nightclub and piano bar, but when an angel comes calling, Lucifer accepts a mission from Heaven and a chance at a reward. His task involves stopping a collective of voiceless, nameless, ancient gods from giving form to wishes, and his quest will take him to Hell and Albuquerque before he finds his way in the dark.

In the second story, Lucifer ponders how best to use his heavenly reward, and he seeks counsel from a bookish angel in a German used bookshop. But it's not the angel, but his prototypical tarot cards, that bears watching here. The tale also delves into prejudice, street violence and neo-Nazi fanaticism -- and presents a new character, Jill Presto, who will no doubt be back in the future.

There's also a brief backup story about Elaine, a young English schoolgirl with a trio of ghostly grandmothers, a keen knack for spotting ghosts, a tenuous pact with Death and a direct line to Lucifer. While the title character of the book makes only a brief appearance in this story of murder and revenge, it introduces an interesting character whom I hope to see developed further.

Scott Hampton provides a painterly touch to the art in the first series, while Chris Weston and James Hodgkins provide more traditional comic-book fare in the second. Both styles are effective; I'm less fond of the rough approach taken by Warren Pleece and Dean Ormston in the backup feature.

Mike Carey certainly gives the devil his due, and I'm glad to see one of Gaiman's characters in such capable hands. Lucifer may be an unlikely protagonist, but this series is worth checking out.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 8 February 2003

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