There are probably any number of ways to consider Lucifer's third arc (I'm including the initial mini-series, natch), but one fruitful angle is to approach The House of Windowless Rooms as the final part of an introductory trilogy. The Morningstar Option outlined Lucifer’s motivations. A Six-Card Spread demonstrated his methodology. The House... completes our welcoming tour by showing us exactly what awaits those that get in his way.
We had an early taste of this in the fate of Meleos’ library, of course. And Lucifer’s bearing has never given us any doubt that crossing him would be profoundly unwise. Still, clearly Izanami requires a reminder of exactly how dangerous Lucifer is, and it’s important for us to see him in action against an opponent more powerful than a heartbroken pacifistic angel. There was the Basanos, of course, but that at its core was a business negotiation, albeit an unquestionably dangerous one.
The House... presents us with something very different. This isn’t about negotiation, it’s about battle. Actually, it’s about two battles, one over the Morningstar’s wings, and the other over his gate.
The difference between the two is striking. Lucifer enters Izanami’s domain unarmed, naked and mortal, and gains his wings without any more inconvenience to himself than the ruining of his borrowed lapels. In contrast, Mazikeen’s defence of the gate has her blinded and horribly burned, Lux razed to the ground, and the survival of Creation only ensured by the interference of Jill Presto and the Basanos.
One can argue at length whose conflict was the harder; a sociopathic, headstrong Lilim against two Jin En Mok, or a wingless, mortal Lucifer against a family of murderous Japanese Gods. What is unquestionable is that Lucifer’s approach is light years away from Mazikeen’s endless headlong charges into combat (note how Mazikeen’s two victories in fighting Saul and Cestis come from trickery and lateral thinking). Lucifer has no problem with violence when necessary – as attested to by the off-screen fate of the hapless Ritsime – but his preferred tack is a good deal more subtle, if no less fatal.
Generally, Lucifer’s tack, and his strength, lies in assessing a situation, and taking the route out no-one else expected. To him, there is no Catch-22. He is frequently offered two or more equally unappetising choices; fight a demon or push his hands into molten lead; offend his hosts by eating a sacred animal or offend them by refusing to eat at all; sit at any chair in a circle that will lead to Kagutsuchi claiming he has chosen a chair above him. A Hobson’s choice, each one, but in every case Samael takes some new route unconsidered by his opponents.
Of course, this is entirely unsurprising. Who else could be so skilled at evading the apparent dictates of fate as the Morningstar, whose entire existence is dedicated to escaping what lies in the cards (we are reminded again of his distaste for the Basanos, even if once again we note him acting on the information they gave him and he claimed to find irrelevant)? It is not only the edicts of God he wriggles free from, after all. The machinations of these Japanese deities, whose obsession with stealing worship in order to survive must profoundly disgust him (as evidenced by his curt dismissal of Tsuki-Yomi’s fears as the latter lies bleeding from the wound of the Three-Named Sword, as well as his cold poisoning of Kagutsuchi), are navigated also, and rather more easily. Even games of chance disagree with him, as Izanami’s gatekeeper learns to his cost. Randomness is anathema to fate, perhaps, but they still represent what Lucifer despises: a lack of control. The Devil, we learn, does not play dice, though one imagines he would be rather good at it.
Although I suspect it is rather unfair to do so, I sometimes find myself comparing Lucifer to its parent series Sandman. More specifically, one can consider the progress of Lucifer’s arc with that of Morpheus. When one considers Sandman in light of Morpheus’ eventual fate, it is clear that his doom was set in motion early on. One could say the same of Lucifer, perhaps (I still have two books to read, so this must be taken with a hefty dose of salt). In truth, though, we had to learn of Morpheus’ inflexibility as we went along. Labelling Lucifer’s fatal flaw as his arrogance seems positively banal, an assumption one could make without so much as glancing at Carey’s work.
Nevertheless, what is unsurprising is not commonly untrue. What is interesting is not realising that arrogance will be Lucifer’s downfall, but how exactly it will happen. Here, we see Lucifer’s almost pathological need to insult those who oppose him bring him to within an inch of being stung to death by a demon of the Shiko-Me. Perhaps there was no other way to regain his wings, but without his casual contempt with which he treats Susano and Yama-No-Kami, to say nothing of his murder of Kagutsuchi, perhaps Izanami would have chosen a less vicious revenge than the poisoning of Lucifer’s feathers.
The true demonstration of Samael’s flaw, however, is in his exchange with Jill Presto when he returns to the smoking ruins of his nightclub. His snide dismissal of the Basanos not only risks another confrontation he has no real need of, but reveals something critical: Lucifer would rather lose alone than win through the intervention of others. If he cannot be in Lux to defend it, better it fall than it be propped up by those who are not bound to him.
Like Morpheus, or Gandalf, or Dumbledore, Lucifer cannot be everywhere at once. Lucifer is power, but he is not control (again, this comes as no surprise). Given his plans for the void beyond Creation that is – for now – his private playground, one can only assume that things have the potential to go very, very badly.
First, though, he has need of one thing more. He has Mazikeen and Musubi both to aid him on this side of the gate. But the other side must be guarded too. We shall talk more on that next time around.