Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Judgment On The Day Before
Right, this isn't going to take long.
"Come To Judgement", the tenth story arc in Lucifer, isn't one that particularly lends itself to thorough, expansive analysis. A great deal of that is simply because it's so short - only two issues long, though "Bearing Gifts", the single-issue story that precedes it, works best when considered a prologue. Just as important, though, is the fact that, relatively speaking, really not all that much happens in it. A man claiming to be God's own gumshoe investigates Elaine Belloc's murder, and Lucifer bribes and threatens his way through Norse backwaters to get himself a ship. Plot-wise, there's little more to be said.
It's similarly barren thematically, at least so far as I can see. Oddly, though, I don't mean that as a criticism, because the extreme simplicity of what we're seeing works to underline the one point these issues are insisting we see. This is not a story. It is a warning.
Over the last two arcs, Lucifer has been seeming an awful lot less invulnerable than he did in earlier instalments. The former archangel who walked into the House of Windowless Rooms and worked his way through it's immortal inhabitants whilst being entirely mortal himself seems a long way off now. Lucifer has been betrayed, and burned, and possessed, and only avoided having his heart ripped out by his enemy by doing the deed himself a little earlier on.
This in itself wouldn't be so remarkable, except that the agonies inflicted upon him by Susano-no-Mikoto, the Basanos, Lord Arux, and finally Amenadiel have made Lucifer somewhat more sympathetic than he might otherwise be. Than he should otherwise be. Combine this with the fact that those within the book's cast of characters who can broadly be described as the "good guys" - Christopher Rudd, Duma, Elaine, Michael, even Mazikeen in her own brutal way - either actively aid Lucifer or at least take his side philosophically (partially at least), and the line between insanely powerful protagonist and ludicrously flawed hero is getting a little too blurred for comfort. Lucifer is a force to be feared, not to root for.
It is for this reason that I argue "Bearing Gifts" provides an apt lead-in. In that story, a god-fearing man of charity named Sabah finds himself through his own generous nature helping - first unwittingly and then unwillingly - a demon give birth. What makes this interesting is what that help entails. The demon's sister takes his curse words from him to act as... an epidural, maybe, it's not entirely clear, and performs what could perhaps be thought of as a supernatural cesarean using the power she gains by eating the cancerous tumour that hours before had seemingly guaranteed Sabah's death.
The message here is clear, and a classic Carey move: do not assume that you can understand what a demon wants, or that you can figure out the price their goals will require. The fact that things end far better for Sabah than he might have expected does not blunt the point, here. If you think you know what the unimaginable forces of Creation truly want, or how they will go about getting it, you are tragically deluded.
In this, then, "Bearing Gifts" offers translation. It is a Rosetta Stone for the story that follows.
Because what is it that Lucifer wants? His own Creation seems at last to be safe. Susano-No-Mikoto is dead, and Amenadiel likewise; Lucifer's vengeance and his obligations both have been concluded. What comes next? And for all of Elaine Belloc's insistence that Lucifer being her uncle somehow makes him, well, avuncular, why should we assume the next stage in the plan is anything that we could possibly consider a net positive?
Because look who the first person Lucifer goes to bargain is. It's Loki, one of the two beings arguably most responsible for the death of Morpheus in the comic from which this one was born. Dream is one of the most beloved creations in this particular corner of fiction, and Loki helped kill him. This is whose punishment Lucifer immediately negates in exchange for getting what he wants. That's like cutting Judas Escariot down from his tree and handing him a croissant.
Like I said, all this is a warning. A warning not to have, if I might be permitted a moment of cheesiness, sympathy for the Devil. That whatever happens next will be good for Lucifer, and if it's good for anyone else, that is entirely circumstantial. The days of finding the Morningstar sympathetic (if only by default) can end at any moment. Perhaps it has already; it's implied that the PI Solomon has been sent on his task to avenge Elaine not by God, but by Lucifer, his aim not to enact justice for a little girl, but to torment one last being with whom Lucifer has unfinished business.
Morpheus' killer has been saved from his punishment. A force intended to destroy those who harm children has been diverted to fuck with a powerless demon. And having done all this, the Morningstar stands upon the deck of a ship made from dead men's fingernails, headed to a realm so terrible it can unnerve the ice giants of Jotunheim, and thinking his dangerous, unknowable thoughts.
Though perhaps "unknowable" isn't precisely the right word. After all, we know he's thinking about how to spring his next surprise. And we know even more surely that he isn't thinking about how much it will cost us.