Lucifer, Volume One: Cold Heaven Written by Holly Black and Drawn by Lee Garbett and Stephanie Hans
Vertigo’s Lucifer, Volume One: Cold Heaven is a murder mystery and a family saga. Released in 2016, it is the point where Holly Black takes over writing the saga of Lucifer Morningstar. Lucifer left his assignment as ruler of Hell to confront his father (God) and then left this universe completely, giving it to the daughter of Archangel Michael to caretake. Now he’s back, weakened and wounded. Another angel, Gabriel, is on his trail, accusing him of murdering The Presence, or God. Since Lucifer didn’t do it, he is furious. Only Lucifer is allowed to kill God, as least as far as Lucifer is concerned.
I love the opening page of this book, a splash page with a yellow paper lantern of a full moon rising into the orange sky of Los Angeles, while Lucifer in a white convertible owns the foreground:
“When the Devil arrived in Los Angeles, he drove in a long white convertible with the top down, the scent of brimstone on the wind behind him. People had to look away when they saw him for fear of falling in love right then and there.”
Lucifer now has a wound that will not heal. While he tries to heal it and run his nightclub, the disgraced and wounded Gabriel (Lucifer cut out his heart, apparently) is summoned by Metatron and sent on a mission to bring Lucifer to justice for allegedly murdering God. In short order, Lucifer and Gabriel have reluctantly teamed up to solve the mystery.
Much, or most, of the story takes place in the realms of Hell and Dream, and the sections in Dream were different and interesting. Gabriel, who is supposedly human (I don’t know the back-story here) tries to be a snarky smart-aleck, but I found most of his quips a little flat. The usual cast of characters appears in Hell, including Mazikeen, who acquired Morningstar powers and now rules Hell, with a couple of serious limitations. Once we are in the land of Dream we also see some familiar faces, included Abel and Caine, and Eve and her cave-mate, Lilith. (Gabriel’s best line in the book is when he says, “It’s the Eternals Ex-wives club over here.”) Lillith tells Lucifer a story that holds the clue that solves the mystery.
The mystery is better than adequate, although if Gabriel had read more noir fiction as a human he might have figured it out sooner. The b-storyline held my interest more, though, because it is there we meet Medjine, a Haitian orphan who has been adopted by strict religious family whose fear and hate seethes just below the surface. They fear Medjine, who is dark-skinned and “almost a woman.” The father says that he is afraid “One of our boys is going to start looking,” and blames Medjine for bringing the devil into their house. In fact, Medjine does have extraordinary powers, and when the children are attacked by a demon-possessed schoolteacher-turned-killer, it is her courage and strength that saves the life of the daughter. That should make things better, but instead they get worse, and Medjine runs away, clutching a biscotti jar that has a demon in it. I really liked her story. I was curious about the tale of Lorin, a runaway teen with a connection to angels, too.
With each issue or “chapter” Black adds a quote from literature about the devil, and they are interesting. Philosophically, there’s not much depth here, though; once you get to the idea of free will and the struggle between a powerful father and a rebellious son, you’ve pretty much captured what is being addressed in these stories. The stories are entertaining, though.
At the end of Cold Heaven there is short piece called “Son of Morning”. Rosemary is bringing her new boyfriend, Takehiko, to meet the parents. Her parents belong to the Satanist church in town, and Rosemary mocks the staid nature of the congregation; they plan dark rituals and potlucks at the same meetings. There is a ghost of a young woman killed in the 1970s, and we think we know where this story is going… but we don’t. If, like me, you didn’t know Takehiko’s history, you will be surprised and satisfied at the conclusion of “Son of Morning.”
I did not enjoy the artwork in this book as much as I did the words. I know the angels all look similar, but in several panels, when we say only faces of angels, I couldn’t distinguish them. The work shifts; some sections are fluid and graceful while other pages seemed static. It was jarring.
Overall, if you like Lucifer as Neil Gaiman conceived him in Sandman, you will appreciate the way Black advances his story here.
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