So I was reading Mike Carey’s Lucifer as the trade paperbacks came out, but around volume eight I started getting a bit lost, so I decided to let them pile up until they were done, at which point I’d read the whole series in a gulp. They got done a while ago, and I’ve now finished my gulp.
If you don’t know what Lucifer is, you can refresh your memory by reading my entry about the first four books. All refreshed? Okay, then. What I have to do now is revise something I said in that entry — specifically my claim that Lucifer is “every bit as good as Sandman.”
At the point in the series I wrote that, it was true. But by the end, unfortunately, I don’t think it holds up. It’s not that Lucifer gets actively bad or goes off the rails or anything, it just gets... a little weaker. The structure becomes less intricate and more conventionally narrative; the writing becomes less insightful and multi-layered and more straightforwardly functional; the thematic exploration of free will in a created universe becomes a bit more muddled; the whole thing just loses a bit of depth, really.
But again, I want to emphasize that Lucifer isn’t bad — saying that, in the end, it’s not quite as good as Sandman is not a particularly stinging criticism. I mean, it’s a fate Lucifer shares with, oh, every single graphic novel I own, because it turns out that Sandman is sort of uniquely brilliant. So if Carey falls short of that brilliance, it’s only disappointing in that it looked at first like he might not.
In the end, Lucifer is an excellent graphic novel fantasy, one that does to the Bible what modern superhero comics do to ‘60s Lee/Kirby stories — takes it as raw inspirational story material to be retconned and reshaped into something new and interestingly different. If you like fantastic graphic novels, like Sandman, I have to believe that you’ll like Carey’s work.