The third Lucifer graphic novel collects issues 14 – 20, comprising two three-part arcs, ‘Triptych’ and the title story, with a single issue follow-up. Dean Ormiston draws the first part of ‘Triptych’, Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly the other two episodes. This pairing are principal artists on ‘A Dalliance with the Damned’, again with contributory sequences from Ormiston, who draws ‘The Thunder Sermon’.
Rather than a three-part arc, Triptych is three stories, each focussing on a different character, as they react to the events of the previous volume.
First of these is Mazikeen, still striving to restore her face and voice to the forms of her choice, but lacking the magic to do so. In the end, she is forced to return to her people, the Lilim. This is foreseen by her brother, Briadach the Blind, who is blind of the body but sees all beginnings and endings. First, she must run a gauntlet, comprised of the ever-angry Mahu, who hates her as he hates everything, but hates her because she is a collaborator. The Lilim stand neither with heaven or Hell, they stand for themselves and for recovery of what was stolen from them: Mazikeen, by consorting with Lucifer, is in Mahu’s eyes a traitor. He convenes a tribunal, demands her execution.
Despite his pains, Briadach attends. Seeing with more than eyes, he detects a watching presence, recognises and addresses her as Elaine Belloc, but she flees.
Mazikeen refuses to testify in her own behalf. Given a choice between poison and dagger, she drinks one and cuts herself with the other. The Tribunal, resenting her silence, demands trial by combat with Mahu.
Briadach intervenes, intimating that Mazikeen may be handicapped. She faces Mahu with her eyes and one arm bound. He plays with her, intending to cut her over and again, until she falls and is truly vulnerable. And in that moment, Mazikeen spits the venom she has held in her mouth all over Mahu’s face, burning it off and killing him. It was never sensible to offer poison to the daughter of Ophur, of the Serpent Chain.
Mazikeen has come for the Lilim’s assistance in restoring her face, but in this moment of triumph the news breaks – to all but Briadach, who sees the seed and the rot – that there is a new creation, Lucifer’s creation. The Lilim wish to offer him their service. When ten thousand chant your name it is hard to hold back, especially when Briadach further manipulates you by offering you the fantasy of meeting him as an equal. Mazikeen accepts the post of War leader of the Lilim in Exile.
The second story returns to Elaine, who no longer trusts Angels. Her grandmothers are still imprisoned, though Michael has returned their prison to her. Her parents are angry that she no longer accepts them. And she wants to know where Mona has gone. Almost without volition, Elaine steps outside herself, leaving her body on a bench at a bus-stop, and starts to explore the other realms in her spirit form.
This first takes her to the Lilim council, but she flees from Briadach perceiving her. She sees Lucifer creating a world, she crosses the Dreaming, she enters Hell, via Effrul, where her wings manifest themselves. She flies freely, glorying in this new ability, but the inexperienced girl understands nothing about Hell: she is shot down by what appear to be iron-clad armadillos fired on the order of the Lady Lys of Effrul, a buxom lady who is obviously proud of her bosom since it’s all but fully exposed.
Elaine is shot down and injured. The Lady Lys has her bound with barbed wire and attached to the Direstone, which will turn her and her wings into stone over several days. Elaine is an angel, in Hell, after all. And Lucifer is no protector here.
Of course, her presence has been instantly detected by Remiel and Duma. The former is his usual weasel-self, but Duma (evincing a moral superiority that is ‘irritating and unattractive’, at least so far as Remiel is unconcerned) flies to Effrul, releases Elaine and restores her to her body. The Lady Lys is left to direct her energies elsewhere. Elaine returns home to where her furious father is trying to convince the Police to treat her as a missing person after only ten hours.
The third and final story centres upon Lucifer himself, though it begins with Mazikeen’s return to Lux, a Lux that has been rebuilt in palatial, walled-off manner. She at least is allowed entry, and finds a note from Lucifer saying that he’s beyond the Gateway, and will return on the seventh day.
This immediately clues us in as to the nature of his story. Lucifer, having used Michael to create a new Creation, is now engaged in the God business, creating his own Adam and Eve and presenting them with their own garden, in which there is but one rule: thou shalt not worship anyone, including me.
But of course there is a serpent in ‘Eden’, and this one is Amenadiel. This time it is the Adam he works upon, and his sexuality. He leads the Adam to a silent admission that he would still enjoy the pleasures he receives from the Eve if they caused her pain, not pleasure, and from there it is but a short philosophical step to his discovering repression and rejecting the Eve.
And after Lucifer shows him the effects of repression, in the old creation, the Adam suffers an even greater rejection of his creator, until Lucifer unmakes him. He offers to create a new mate for the Eve, but she wishes for her death instead, which surprises Lucifer: he welcomes the surprise.
Amenadiel gloats, thinking he has spoiled things for the Lightbringer, but Lucifer has been aware of him all along, has treated him as quality control. Anything that fails this test was not worth the effort of creating.
Besides, he still has a very beautiful garden, and Mazikeen to share it for an afternoon’s picnic.
A Dalliance with the Damned
In contrast, A Dalliance with the Damned is a full-scale three-part story, set in Hell, and in Effrul itself. Effrul is where Lucifer is to meet Amenadiel in combat in a year’s time, but in the meantime there are currents of treachery circulating in the court of the High Lord Azul, inspired by, what else, the availability of another Creation. There are those in Hell who are prepared to stand by Lucifer in exchange for lands in his cosmos. No-one yet understands that Lucifer intends to allow no power but his own through his Gateway.
In some ways, this is a simple story. Effrul, at first glance, seems oddly familiar, its denizens wearing mostly human form, and affecting a Seventeenth Century lifestyle. Azul rules Effrul, effortlessly, gracefully, wisely. Seviram, Duke of Gly, a twisted creature wearing the face of a human, stapled to his head, petitions to have Effrul lead the charge for places in Lucifer’s cosmos, but is refused by Azul. The High Lord knows well that Lucifer is not to be bargained with so simply, and besides, the Lightbringer is to come to Effrul at the waning of the year, to fight his duel, and only a fool moves before the outcome of such things is known.
The frustrated, and humiliated Seviram, moves on to conspiracy to assassinate Azul, and replace him with his heir, Brosag, a bull of a demon/man who lives for sport and combat. Azul’s letter of welcome to Lucifer is intercepted and a letter of Seviram’s scribing replaces it, designed to insult Lucifer and bring him hence.
Seviram wants Azul’s other child, the Lady Lys, in his cause, but when she refuses, treating his enthusiasms as childish and unimportant, he leaves her bed and she decides upon a new thrill. The Lady Lys is, shall we say, a most enthusiastic wanton, whose tastes descend to the S&M end of the spectrum the way a lift descends to the basement when you cut its cables. She sends her servant Glieve to select for her a bed-mate from the Damned, who are subjected to torture in the Painmill, where Pain is ground from them, ground down to a granular form, like snuff, which produces effects that are very popular: it is the foundation of the High Lord’s fortune.
The choice Glieve makes is a turning point in the overarching story. His choice is Christopher Rudd, an Englishman from coincidentally the same era that Effrul, in its infinite ennui, seeks to mimic. Despite his centuries of pain, Rudd can still pray, in Latin, no less! It is this that causes Glieve to select him, a decision that proves fateful for all.
Lys is entirely happy with her new rutting toy, and Rudd hasn’t forgotten about sex, in his initial, though somewhat dazed excitement. But Rudd has no clear idea of where he is and what is happening, and he is set to be extremely disillusioned, even as all and sundry marvel at the scandal Lys has created: swiving with one of the damned, and a still very Christian one at that.
Though he’s by no means one of the principal movers of this arc, Rudd is nevertheless it’s most important figure. The conspirators continue to circle Azul with plots. Lucifer is drawn to Effrul, with Mazikeen by his side, by the fake letter, and whilst Azul quickly resolves that confusion, he and the War Leader of the Children of Lilith stay on for the formal ball, though Mazikeen is not dressed for the occasion.
And in the background of the story, Rudd is unconsciously carried forward. His sin, for which he still blames himself, was anger and murder. He was a Fencing Master, experienced and skilled, engaged in tutoring the local Baron’s eager son. The Baron invited Rudd and his wife to the castle for a week, during which (by deep implication) the Baron either seduced or, more likely, raped Rudd’s wife. Full of anger, and righteous Christian hatred towards his whore of a wife, Rudd rounds on the excited and unknowing boy, who wishes to show him that he has learned to feint, and runs him through. Rudd is hung and drawn.
Yet he might still have been a cypher but for Prackspoor, Azul’s friend and counsellor, who holds to the shape of a black leopard. Prackspoor shows Rudd what Pain is, where it comes from and how it is made. Wracked with loathing and self-loathing, Rudd lashes Lys with brutal words, only to have her blow Pain over him, showing him the intensity of it’s sensations.
Maddened, Rudd seeks revenge and advantage. Glieve is murdered by the plotters, but lives long enough to confide the treachery in Rudd, who takes it to Azul. Brosag, as a preliminary to the plot, a move driven more by Seviram’s angry jealousy than by any relevance to their aims, forces a duel upon the damned man. It backfires severely: Rudd convinces Azul, quite easily, to play by the assumed codes of the era they imitate so, instead of crushing Rudd to death by brute strength, Brosag must face him in his human form. With blades. And Rudd is a Fencing Master…
Thus, when the conspiracy goes into action, to kill Azul, overthrow Effrul and hand it to Lucifer, the High Lord is prepared, thanks to Rudd. The conspirators are killed, save for Seviram, and Lucifer politely asks if Azul will permit him to punish the failed demon. Azul defers to the Lightbringer.
Lucifer has no interest in Effrul, and its palace intrigues. But Seviram sought to manipulate him,and if Lucifer doesn’t make a point of dealing with him, he’ll be facing this sort of thing every time he turns round. Lucifer does not want any alliances, they always end in tears. And certainly not with the likes of Seviram. His end is to take Rudd’s place in the Painmill. But before he does so, to enable him to truly experience pain, Lucifer invests him with a soul.
And Rudd? Rudd replaces Seviram as Duke of Gly, under Azul’s patronage. As such, he will be the Lady Lys’s neighbour, the Lady Lys on whom he has had quite an appropriate, and Catholic revenge. For Rudd has prepared a quite special batch of Pain for Lys, derived not from the pain of torture but rather the pain of humanity, of love, loss, despair and confusion. It’s thrills are exquisite, and devastating.
For Rudd has infected Lys with regret, and guilt, once and for all. No more can she revel in her extensive carnality, no more can pleasure be undiluted, no more does she wear the kind of revealing clothes that would make a Victoria’s Secret catalogue blush with embarrassment. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Azul looks on with interest as to what Rudd will do next. He does well to do so.
The Thunder Sermon
This odd little one-off rounds out a volume that deals with the after-effects of Lucifer using Michael to embody his creation. There is a meeting at Lux, distracting Lucifer from his many tasks. Most are petitioners in respect of his new creation, but the only one of these that he sees, and only out of a sense of obligation to Mazikeen, is General Misran of the Lilim. The General offers an army, to guard Lucifer’s borders. But Lucifer neither wants nor needs any army: he is his own army. The Lilim are of no interest to him. He breaks the sword they offer and bids them leave. Mazikeen chooses her own kind, and leaves too.
Two others are not petitioners. One is Faramond, the once and former God who, these days, oversees transport. He comes with information, a warning, given freely. There is a plot to kill Lucifer, old, deep-laid, moving towards fruition across a great time. Lucifer is mildly dismissive, respecting Faramond to the point of not being even the least bit ironic with him. There are always such plots, but he respects the warning.
The final visitor – ah, but before we turn to that person, let us look to the other, larger side of the story, and two other visitors, Sherry and Ewen: unwanted, drawn, trespassers. Ewen, through whose eyes we see their brief narrative, is a slacker, unintelligent, disregarded, but he’s always followed Sherri and she is one of the many drawn to Lux. They break in, climb the walls, discover unimaginably wide vistas behind. Sherri is so excited to reach the source of her searching that she embraces Ewen, shags him. And he was already her devoted slave.
But there is no story, no end for them. They are just flies, attracted to sherbet. They are lost, wander endlessly Lucifer’s many mansions. Both die from lack of food or water. Ewen lasts longer, meets Lucifer, pleads for help. But Lucifer is not God, and he is not merciful. Ewen prayed to God. Here.
He and Sherrie are just an illustration, a sideshow of blind faith, and how unwise it can be.
That final visitor is Michael, Lucifer’s brother. He comes with a message: this is to end, here, now. There can only be one Creation. Lucifer mocks: he has his own Creation, where God’s writ runs not. But Michael replies that just as God created Lucifer, so Lucifer’s cosmos is also his, and his rules prevail. Lucifer’s anger boils over. He does something we don’t fully understand yet, not in this story, this volume.
But he opens up his Creation to everybody. Let them choose, let them choose between God and Lucifer, between Universes, where there has never been any choice before…
In the next volume, we will begin to see the implications, and effects, of such a choice.