The second Lucifer graphic novel collects issues 5 – 13 of the ongoing series, comprising the four-part arc, ‘The House of Windowless Rooms’ and the five-part title story. Art is taken over by the series’ long-term artist, Peter Gross, assisted in differing degrees by Ryan Kelly. Dean Ormiston draws the prelude to ‘Children and Monsters’, and contributes sequences to the story itself, focussing upon Elaine Belloc.
The House of Windowless Rooms
In which Lucifer travels to a Hell over which he has never ruled, to regain his wings, and makes yet more enemies in pursuit of his desires, which comes as no surprise.
This four-parter is really two stories in one. The first is Lucifer’s mission to the titular House to recover his wings. The other is Mazikeen’s defence of the Letter in his absence. One is of victory, the other of defeat. They are joined at beginning and end but are otherwise two separate stories.
Lucifer’s story stands at the front of the arc. The divination by the Basanos has revealed the whereabouts of his wings, which he now needs back. These are held in the titular House, which is not allowed to stand on Earth. Because of this, he will be away for two weeks: hence the need for faithful Mazikeen to remain at Lux.
The House of Windowless Rooms lies at the centre of a metaphorical desert. It can only be approached by mortals, who cannot bring anything of Earth with them, not even clothes, It is the home of Izanami, the Japanese Goddess of Hell, who resides here with her three sons, Susano-o-no-Mikoto, Kagutsutchi of the Thrice-Named Sword, and Tsuki-Yomi, who is a poet rather than a warrior, and who is, effectively, imprisoned here: a long time ago, he killed a woman, accidentally. Their cousin, Yama-No-Kami, Goddess of the Hunt, also resides here.
Lucifer has taken nine days to reach the House, surviving on the blood and flesh of demons he has killed en route. There is a very telling scene when, at the last, he has to pass the gatekeeper. There is a rite to perform: Lucifer must select a stone from the bottom of a cauldron of boiling oil: there are three choices, only one of which secures admission.
But the Lightbringer brings a very refreshing, one might almost say lateral approach to others’ rules and regulations. He must choose the correct stone. But the rules do not explicitly rule out lifting the cauldron and emptying its contents (over the doorkeeper), to select the correct stone.
This approach will serve Lucifer in good stead once indoors. Izanami is incarnated as a massive, Buddhaesque stone statue. As such she may move and, on occasion, speak, but for the most part negotiations must be carried out through Susano (who was introduced in Sandman, in the ‘Seasons of Mists’ storyline: he is one of those who come to the Dreaming seeking to persuade Dream to hand over the key to Hell, though there Gaiman portrayed him as an independent contractor, pursuing a private opportunity).
Susano, who presents as the archetypal passive aggressive Japanese, content to conceal behind an open profession of ignorance that shames him utterly, leads the way in plotting to deny Lucifer his wings. A refusal would shame the house, so given that the Lightbringer is now mortal, his death would be necessary, so long as it were done in a way that does not bring shame on the house.
Knowing this, Lucifer is comfortably able to negotiate the traps set for him to fall into. Indeed, the most difficult is the first, since this is the demon Musubi, sent in the form of a geisha maiden to poison him. Lucifer is fully aware of the ‘woman’s true nature and provokes her, before forestalling her with the offer that brings Musubi over to his side: he can offer her death, and his, willing, service.
After that, it’s just a matter of neatly sidestepping the protocol traps set up to justify Kagutsutchi offering a duel in which the merest scratch from the Thrice-Named Sword will mean death. Kagutsutchi, who lacks patience and subtlety, attacks Lucifer in his frustration, but the potency of the sword is demonstrated when Lucifer avoids its sweep and the point grazes – and kills – Tsuki-Yomi.
Lucifer now has his excuse, under the House’s own code, to threaten Susano in exchange for the return of his wings, which are duly restored. What he does know, and doesn’t care about, is that he has made mortal enemies of Izanami and Susano. What he further doesn’t know is that among his wings are two pinfeathers, spat out with venom by Izanami, which will be used to betray him.
Meanwhile, back at Lux, people gather, drawn by the Letter. Some are merely the lost, the confused, attracted to a beacon that shines in their minds. Others, though, are the powerful, attracted to power that they seek to take over and control. Mazikeen is aware that she is too weak to defend against them, but instead opens Lux, to let them in, where with cunning she can fight them.
Principal amongst the forces against her are the Angels. Amenadiel sees the Letter as a threat, a loaded gun pointed at Creation: despite the absence of orders from God, despite God having given Lucifer the Letter, the entire forces of the Silver City must be placed under his command, to battle upon Earth. Mazikeen refuses to surrender, so War is declared.
First, however, another danger entirely raises itself. These are Saul and Cestis of the Jin en Mok. The Jin en Mok are the Shapeless Ones, survivors from the Creation before this Creation. The shapes they take, temporarily, are of the last human they have eaten, and if they are too hasty in their eating, the body they have consumed remembers and tries to reassert itself, fingers and other features growing out through the Jin en Mok’s body: a grotesque sight.
That applies to Saul: Cestis incarnates as a sweet and innocent looking young woman in a short black dress, but the longer she remains in that form, the more her true, self-centred nature shows in her appearance.
Mazikeen has only one asset, and that an unknowing one. Lux Waitress, Beatrice Wechsler, a cheerfully cynical woman in her early thirties has her first hot date tonight since the divorce, but when Mazikeen, in her slurring voice, asks her to stay after the club closes, she does so. Thus, when Saul and Cestis encounter a silent Mazikeen, in her long cloak and hood, half-face mask concealing her scarred side, and curiously silent, we are prepared for the revelation that it is Beatrice behind the mask.
But this has split Saul and Cestis, allowing Mazikeen to attack the former, taking him alone. And by taking the initiative, she is able to kill him permanently, tearing the heart from his breast and eating it. That does not make her invulnerable to Cestis: far from it. Cestis dominates her will, orders Mazikeen to kiss her foot, then stab herself in the eye – the pretty one – with her knife.
Beatrice attempts to assist, but Cestis is too fast for her. Beatrice flees, and Cestis sets Lux aflame, starting with Mazikeen’s body.
But there is a third party. Jill Presto, touching down at LA.X en route to visiting her mother, is deflected to Lux by the Basanos. Aided by their power, she makes short shrift of Cestis, preserving the gate. And, brought by Beatrice to Mazikeen’s burnt and shrivelled body, she overrides the Basanos, and remakes her into health again.
It is at this point that Lucifer returns from the House of Windowless Rooms, to unify the two threads of the story. Despite the help Jill has rendered, he is not happy to see her, or rather the Basanos interfering with his concerns, especially after warning them off so recently. Lucifer’s arrogance rubs Jill up the wrong way, even after she apologises at the cards’ behest. She still thinks he’s ‘an arrogant, ungrateful son of a bitch on a permanent power trip’, an assessment with which Lucifer, being in a good mood, agrees, though he warns her not to assume that his good humour will last.
And, in such spirit, he warns her not to be anywhere near Mazikeen when she wakes up and finds out what Jill has done. Ms Presto has restored much more than Mazikeen’s body: she has restored her face, both halves of it, to a symmetrical beauty. Mazikeen will not thank her for it…
Children and Monsters
The prelude to this arc is a single story, with little direct connection, and is drawn by Dean Ormiston, quickly making a mark with his flat, ugly art.
The Prelude is a tiny story in itself, quiet and perfect in its horror, and is only tangentially connected to the main arc to follow. It is about Erishad of Uruk, one of a tiny handful of people who are over 4,000 years old.
Today, she goes by the name of Paulina Sorsky, a young, slender, beautiful blonde, living with a rich, older man named Tony. It is how she spends her life. Her immortality is a curse: in ancient Chaldea she was a Temple Priestess, bound by her role to chastity. Yet she broke her oath and incurred the wrath of the Gods, who indicated that they would accept her pleas if she killed herself on Temple grounds. This Erishad refused: she would willingly end her own life, but not that of another: she was pregnant. For this, she was cursed that Death would not take her.
Each day, irrespective of the hurts or injuries of the preceding day, her body is restored as it was the day she was cursed.
For 4,000 years, Erishad has longed for death. Now she arrives at Lux, seeking it, to find that the nightclub burned down a day earlier. Nevertheless, she enters and finds her way to the opened Letter. But Lucifer refuses her entrance: it is only the Void, not death, and she has nothing he wants.
Despairing, Erishad consults one of her few friends who know her true name. He, an Indian gentleman we have seen in Sandman asks her if she cannot resign herself to life: she answers with a single, flat sentence that exposes the horror at the centre of this story. Each day, her body is restored as it was when she was first cursed. Each day, for 4,000 years, she has experienced the same miscarriage.
Naramsin suggests setting young gods against old, and directs Erishad to a brash, volatile voudun who summons the gods for her, imprisoning them in a bottle. At first, they are haughty, unforgiving, directing her to return in a thousand years, when they may reconsider. But the truth is that they are old, enfeebled: they no longer have the power to free her. So Erishad calls down a making that is made of her despair, that is virtually a child. It is intruded into the bottle. It eats her gods. It also kills the voudun.
So Erishad has no hopes. She carries the bottle with her: it is the baby that, every day, she still miscarries. In a Paris cafe, Lucifer joins her. Now he offers her death. Unlike before, she has something he wants. She hands over the baby, and dissolves into ashes, leaving the waiter angry at the vanished tip.
Lucifer walks away, dangling the bottle.
The true arc is composed of differing strands. There is another attack on Lux, this time by the Host of Heaven under the command of the increasingly obsessive Amenadiel. Lucifer plans that, once again, his ruined club and his Gateway should be defended by Mazikeen, but she now has her own concerns, and her role is taken by the demon Musubi, resurrected willingly to his service, and eager to begin.
Mazikeen is disturbed. The power of the Basanos overwhelms the ability of the Lilim to choose their own shape and her face and voice resist reversion to the half-skull that is her image of herself. Lucifer could help, but chooses not to expend power he reserves for his agenda. Mazikeen cannot wait, and leaves to pursue her own course, despite the evidence of desire for her on the part of her Lord.
The rest of the story, that element that provides the arc’s title, centres upon the young girl we’ve already met, Elaine Belloc. It’s narrated by its least important character, so unimportant and yet oddly central to the story, that he never receives a full name: he’s American, he used to have a wife called Jude, his surname is Easterman, but we never learn his first name and, on the final page of the story, after his death, he sums up his role: “I was just the hat on the stick that you wave around to see where the enemy’s shots are coming from”.
Because Elaine Belloc is more, far more, than we already suspect her to be. Easterman thinks she’s his daughter, stolen from his former wife’s womb, though in that he’s wrong. She’s certainly not the Belloc’s daughter: when Easterman turns up on their doorstep, bearing an ultrasound scan, they throw him out violently and lie to the Police to turn him into a paedophile stalker.
This is all part of Lucifer’s plot. The baby-thing he purchased from Erishad is released into the void of the Lightbringer’s Universe, charged with attacking anything that comes through the Gateway, save Lucifer himself, and he draws Easterman through dream – a death dream, brought on by an overdose – by using Elaine as a lighthouse, to draw the cataleptic former advertising agent to England.
There is a third party to this tale: the stranger who kidnapped the baby from Jude’s stomach, who gave it to the Bellocs, is named Sandalphon. If we are knowledgable we will recognise him as an Angel, once. He occupies a derelict factory, with his subservient, loyal but erratic nephew, Cal.
Having set his defences, Lucifer opts to withdraw to an aleph, a place of observation from where he can see the entire Universe and can choose his moment to intervene in the sequence of events he has initiated. Not the defence of the Gateway: that is a mere sideshow. Musubi will kill angels with glee, and the majority of the Host will cross the Gateway and be swallowed by his Baby monster there, and Lucifer has no concern for those his brothers who fall. Amenadiel will best both, his anger and force carrying him forward, but Lucifer’s scheme will make his ‘victory’ pyrrhic.
For Lucifer has revealed to Easterman that his fantastic dream was no dream, and Easterman has found his way to Elaine. The disturbance, and his claims, draws Elaine to him. Sandalphon’s attention is drawn to Elaine. He captures her dead grandmothers, he dismisses her dead friend Mona, he has Cal attack and injure Easterman, but ultimately he must advance his plans.
Long ago, the Angel Sandalphon rode with the Host, under the Archangel Michael, against the rebellious Archangel Lucifer. But in the midst of the fray, Sandalphon turned on his leader, spearing him, rendering him weak enough to be a prisoner. In Michael is vested the demiurgic power, the Light of Creation, and Sandalphon has, for millennia been using Michael for his own purposes. Sandalphon intends to breed Angels. Jude Easterman was the human part of her heritage, but it is Sandalphon, or rather Michael, who is the ‘father’, not Easterman.
She is the first to breed true. It would have been better if she could have grown, but even at 12 she has 300 ova, and these can be bred to be an army in Sandalphon’s command.
Easterman, though he is beyond helpless in this company, still attacks, still defends his ‘daughter’ but his reward for loyalty, for love, is death, hurled perfunctorily from a great height, a nuisance no greater than a flea. Still he comments, his narrative having come from the other side of death all along.
But he has served his purpose, he has been the catalyst that enables Lucifer to step in, to find Sandalphon’s location, and to find his brother, his fellow eldest son, Michael. Sandalphon’s anger at this disruption, this brutal bar to his plans, is fruitless. It conflicts with Lucifer’s agenda, and as such it is nothing. Sandalphon is forgiven the angry sentence, “I warn you…”, but only because Lucifer did not allow him to finish it.
There must be an end. Michael’s physical form has been abused for millennia and he must soon relinquish his physical control over it, and with it the demiurge. It will wipe Creation from the face of Creation. But Lucifer has an alternative, that will enable Michael to explode in safety. He takes his injured brother back to Lux, under Amenadiel’s control. The surviving Angels recognise immediately the threat of Michael. Amenadiel must withdraw, and apologise. There can be no joy for him whilst Lucifer lives, and the Lightbringer agrees a meeting, a year hence in Effrul, to settle things.
Then he takes Michael through the Gateway, into the Void. Which becomes Void no longer: Let there be Light.
And there is another Creation, one that belongs to Lucifer.
Michael returns to his Father’s Creation, restored. He tarries a while to speak to his daughter Elaine, whilst Lucifer surveys his escape from predestination, from tyranny. From Providence. Elaine waits for Lucifer. He is the only grown-up she knows who
Lucifer Morningstar, Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Dean Ormiston, Vertigo Comics, Children and Monsters, Mazikeen, the Basanos, Jill Presto, Elaine Belloc, Izanami, Susano-o-no-Mikato, Amenadiel, Jin en Mok, Erishad, the Lilim, Sandalphon,keeps his promises, a point of pride with him, but Michael still counsels her to be wary.
And Easterman’s ghost, still as ineffectual but as protective as ever, watches the sleeping Elaine from the other side. Warning her about Lucifer. Wishing he could fight the Devil to save her. Wishing she would love him as much as she loves the Lightbringer.
The long story begins to unfold. Lucifer is taking his conflict with his father into realms that could not have been imagined, playing with the overt stuff of Creation. And his TV series introduces his mother as a hot Milf? Stay with this story, this has red meat in it.