I quite enjoyed this collection. The story was interesting, the challenges intriguing, and the characters were a satisfying mix of powerful and put-upon, and the interactions among them were varied and often oblique. Alas, I’d have liked this story even better if I had never read Gaiman’s Sandman, particularly the story lines Season of Mists, and The Kindly Ones where we originally meet this version of the character. It isn’t that Lucifer: The Divine Comedy is derivative of Sandman so much as that Sandman is just a touch better at doing what Lucifer: The Divine Comedy does.
I felt like I was rehashing the story line, character types, and even visual design of things I’ve seen before. Which isn’t to say I don’t like what was going on here. Just that I felt like I’ve seen it before. It is possible, however, that the way I encountered this story line disproportionally affected my response. After all, like those other story lines, Luicfer: The Divine Comedy is just one story line linked to others in this on-going title. I am, after all, responding to it out of context. Lucifer: The Divine Comedy is the middle story line in an on-going title. I came to it as if it was a miniseries, and this isn’t really fair. I was expecting a self-contained story, and what I got was an engaging playing-out of relationships and plot lines that began years before, and would probably not conclude for some time to come. So I plopped into the story with no clear idea of why what was going on was going on.
It is good enough, however, that if I have the opportunity, I’ll gladly read the rest of the series. Lucifer is a well-drawn character in the DC/Vertigo line up. Gaiman introduced us to it as it was ready to be done ruling in Hell, and Mike Carey (who wrote the entire stand-alone Lucifer story arc) handles it well–its motivations, powers, weaknesses, and so on. I’m less sure about the supporting cast, particularly the other angelic powers, and the creator. In Lucifer: The Divine Comedy, they all seem diminished. It’s as if what’s going on are just soap-opera machinations, but carried out by beings who operate on a cosmic scale, but the stakes don’t feel cosmic, they feel personal and petty. It is difficult to appreciate these beings as anything other than fantasy characters when there’s no relief or sense of scale.
Cary does a good job keeping Lucifer off stage for most of the story. I think this helps keep the primary focus on people and beings we can identify with. Then, when Lucifer does show up, its impact on us is greater. However, this impact is diminished somewhat by our seeing how petty some of the other cosmic beings are–if they, operating on Lucifer’s scale–are like this, then how impressive is Lucifer, really? And in the background is Lucifer’s eternal struggle with the Creator. When Gaiman introduced us to this character, the struggle was interesting–what does Lucifer want, especially in contrast to and by comparison with the Creator? But as with Lucifer, so with the Creator and the denizens of the Silver City: less is more. Moving that conflict to the center diminishes it–it begins to look like some sort of schoolyard brawl.