The eighth Lucifer graphic novel collects issues 50, 45 and 51 – 54, in order of appearance. Issue 50 and 45 are drawn by guest artists P. Craig Russell and Ted Naifeh respectively, whilst the remaining issues are drawn by Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly. These comprise the stories ‘Lilith’ and ‘Neutral Ground’, plus the four-part title story
In an echo of Sandman‘s 50th issue, Craig Russell was brought in to draw a double-length story set in the deepest of pasts, in which we see how Lilith’s rebellion ultimately influences Lucifer to his own. Russell’s beautiful, delicate, clean-lined and sensitive art is joyful to read.
Lilith was created to be Adam’s first wife. Unwilling to accept a subordinate role, physically or otherwise, she left Eden, and wandered, coupling where she would. Her womb quickened with every encounter, until she became mother to the Lilim, the children of Lilith, each with a different father, each with different attributes and aspects.
This is so far back that Mazikeen, daughter of Ophir, the snake god, is a tomboyish child, and already a fierce child, willing to strike her father for disrespectful words about her mother. But Ophir retreats rapidly on the arrival of messengers, sent by Gabriel to judge and condemn Lilith for her lusts. These are the angels Ibriel and Samael: the Lightbringer.
Though Ibriel is willing to parrot Gabriel’s lines, to threaten Lilith with death if she does not change her ways, which are her being, Samael is not so quick to judge. Since God completed his Creation, he has not spoken. Gabriel is the (self-appointed, we intuit) voice of God in the silence, and his is the voice of the Puritan church, forever condemning what strays from narrow lines. He and Samael are already arguing, and have been for a very long time.
But Lilith, who was made for a purpose but lives for herself, loving because it is her joy, seduces both angels. Samael with argument: only she will hear out, and give answers not pat and submissive, to his concerns, his desire for independence, his hatred of his Father for being his Maker, though her words are not sympathetic nor comforting.
Ibriel, however, she seduces in the flesh, and is perhaps seduced herself by his beauty. Ibriel’s passion is the city he wants to build for the angels, the Silver City, from which he is restrained by Gabriel: angels do not build: only God builds.
But Ibriel lies with Lilith and the seed bears flower: a boy, Briadach. The birth is a horror to Ibriel, who forswears Lilith, rebukes her, repents of his sin. Only after she tempts him further, by offering the Lilim as a workforce, to actually build his Silver City does he re-engage with her, though not in the flesh.
This is not enough for Gabriel, the ultra-fastidious. The City rises, beautiful and light. Ibriel beseeches Samael to raise a fountain of flame, a symbol of Life, rising eternally, though personally the Lightbringer considers it vulgar. But Gabriel will not have the merest stink of demonspawn near his finely-drawn nostrils: unless Lilith and the Lilim are removed entirely, he will interdict the Silver City: no angel will enter it.
Unfortunately, Mazikeen and Briadach hear this. They are loyal and aggressive in support of their mother. They lure Ibriel into a trap: a block is dropped upon him and as he lies dazed, Mazikeen stabs him in the heart with a dagger tipped with her father’s poison.
You can sense the relish in Gabriel, even as he positions himself above emotion, filled only with the spirit of justice that comes from the voice of God. Speak not to him of children: this pair have no repentance in them, and they must die. Lilith and her army of her children come to the gates of the City, demanding the return of her young pair. If she is refused, the Lilim will take back what they have built.
And in this impasse, with Gabriel thirsting for blood to satisfy his own lust to give orders, to compel, Samael lights Ibriel’s fountain. Lights it hot and high, hot enough to burn all. It takes the intervention of his brother, Michael, to have Mazikeen and Briadach released, and conflict averted.
But this is not enough for Samael. He renounces his name, takes that of what he is, the Lucifer, and renounces the Silver City. As he leaves, others follow in his wake, though he doesn’t seem to care. Mazikeen gazes after him with the same rapt fascination he has held for her since first he landed among the Lilim.
Lucifer has rebelled. The seed is planted. None can know what seeds they are, until they flower.
In contrast to Craig Russell’s guest art, Ted Naifeh’s is deliberately ugly, angular, repellent, in keeping with the punk underpinnings. This fill-in is printed out of sequence, having been omitted from the seventh collection on space grounds. It is inconsequential as to the overall story.
It’s one of those stories whose pages are contained between two instants, moments apart, where we begin with the ending and work back to it. It concerns John Baxter Sewell, by day a Law school dropout/Accounts Clerk in a big firm, spotting a financial discrepancy that his boss tells him, shittily, to forget.
By night, John sings in a punk band, the Genital Warts (that kind of band, as the lyrics make it plain). Unfortunately, they’re not the sort of band who should be booked into a goth club, as the subsequent riot and the club-owner seizing Puce’s amp until the damages are paid makes clear. Puce is John’s girl-friend, of sorts, and he’s not to come near her until he brings her amp back. The other guitarist, Marky, goes after her to quiet her down.
Unfortunately for John, this is just before the point his body is seized by the demon Unagar, who’s providing a venue – neutral ground, you might say – for all the Demonlords in and out of Hell, for a Conference. God has gone, and there are things that can be done, and the Conference is there to decide exactly what, who, when, etc.
It’s boring to Unagar so he decides to take John out for a spin, make him give in to all his urges. Drinking, whoring, maxing out his credit card, stealing, public nuisance, spell in the cells and, since things are going so well inside, Unagar takes John back to his firm where he challenges – and strangles – his bastard of a boss before Unagar siphons off everything the man’s embezzled into a new offshore account in John’s name. Then it’s off to Puce’s.
Where she’s naked, with Marky’s head between her legs. Unagar/John smashes Marky’s face in with his own axe and throws him out of the window. Puce isn’t going to stand still to be raped, she’s threatening to jump, so Unagar takes her over, just to make her docile. And when Johnny jumps on her, they both go out the window…
Meanwhile, my Lord Lucifer has turned up at the Conference, to which he was of course invited, as Chair. But Lucifer and the demons are at cross-purposes. Their aims are not identical: theirs will create chaos, and Lucifer does not want chaos at a time that Creation is gradually fading away. He’s just stopped by to say he’s going. And he’s locking the door behind him. With Unagar inside. And John plummeting towards the street.
Unagar is philosophical: things happen. But it’s a shame to miss what comes next…
The Wolf beneath the Tree
And here is where it all starts getting very serious, as we turn towards the end.
The arc begins by intertwining two seemingly separate stories. The first of these concerns a madman, Charles Gilmour. Charlie has killed his wife, Sarah, and his young son, Bobby, by smashing their heads in with a ballpeen hammer. He’s been found fit to plead, which is a crock, because he’s plainly not of this world. He sees and hears other worlds and voices, believes Sarah and Bobby are still alive. In prison, the walls crumble and he sees a gigantic tree, full of stars, where his family wait for him to find them. Charlie Gilmour is the madman, and he will be the chariot.
For whom? For Fenris, the Wolf, the embodiment of destruction, he that is the end.
A long time ago, Fenris held a banquet for all his enemies. The meat they ate was his flesh, the wine, his blood. Now that God has abandoned his Creation, and it is beginning to crumble, Fenris has returned, to be its end. First, he must recover all of himself, and to do so he must recall his enemies, those guests at his feast. So, with his aides Abonsam and Bet J’Ogie, small gods of spite and destruction, he attends upon his cousin, Bergilmir, for information.
Bergilmir is properly respectful: not so his companion, Jill Presto, on whose behalf he begs forgiveness. Jill is Jill, caustic and independent and unyielding. That is, until Bet J’Ogie vents her spite on the silver-handed woman who won’t share details of her couplings with Bergilmir. Jill was pregnant, by the Basanos, and she is pregnant still: she is carrying twins, and she only got rid of one.
That’s all of Jill for this volume, and of Bergilmir too. The safest place to watch the destruction of this world is from another one and he’s off into the long grass. He’d take Jill if she’d go with him, and as she will not, he will not soon forget her.
So, with his aides to pave the way, Abonsam the trickster, Bet J’Ogie to beguile, Fenris tracks down his targets, old Gods, long past their utility if not their arrogance, tracks, locates and eats, recovering his memories and his self. Having reminded himself of himself, Fenris sends Abonsam and Bet J’Ogie to bring the chariot from his prison. The journey is not easy unless you ride, in which case the chariot, seeking his wife and child, bears the brunt of a journey far from easy.
But what of Heaven, the Silver City? Lucifer regards his own realm as safe, created to his name, not that of Yahweh: mortals may enter until the last moment, but angels? Michael, refusing to allow things to end, determines to fight where his brother abstains. In order to read whether or not there is a future, he visits the Garden of Forking Ways, to consult Destiny, of the Endless.
Destiny refuses an answer that will reveal the future, but promises Michael an indiscretion that will answer him, in two hours. Until then, Michael must wait and dine with two invited guests, his daughter, Elaine Belloc, and his brother, Lucifer, who is equally discomfited at this meeting but chooses to cloak it in sardonic comment and his usual arrogant superiority.
Elaine tries to keep the peace and, when Michael departs, having gained his answer by Destiny’s slip in saying that, a short time from now, the very script of his book changes – there is a future to fight for! – she follows him, leaving Lucifer alone with Destiny.
Lucifer, whose very nature leads him to hate predestination in any form, clashes with Destiny’s implacable complacency. As a gesture, he tears several pages from Destiny’s book and incinerates them. But he is answered by the ashes, which read, Fenris. Yggdrasil.
The world-tree, the foundation of creation. Fenris’s destination.
Michael has returned to the Silver City. After a final word of apology to Elaine, he enters the room of the Logos, the chamber of the Voice of God. He is the Demiurge. He lays down and sleeps, and in his sleep he uses his power to recreate Creation, second by second, over and again.
Another time, that might have worked, but Lucifer is hot on their heels with the news he has learned, that could shatter his own Creation too. Michael must be woken, which Lucifer accomplishes by using his power to destroy the tower, and the Logos. He, Michael and Elaine must go to Yggdrasil to defend it.
Hard on the heels of Fenris, they walk, and the journey is terrible. Charlie Gilmour has lost his right arm, and his memory of who the woman and child are that he has been seeking. Fenris and his terrible certainty, his purpose and inevitability, are whole, as are the Trickster and the Temptress, the Woman who is both Beautiful and Terrible. But those who walked are worst. Michael is wracked and bleeding, his wings destroyed, Lucifer unconscious and bleeding, Elaine blind and helpless.
To destroy Yggdrasil, its roots must be watered by the blood of a kin-slaying. Charlie’s wife and child are not dead, not yet anyway, Abonsam stole them, left figurines to be killed. But their death is now due, and one-armed Charlie must slay them, with Bet J’Ogie to seduce him to it. And Abonsam and Fenris approach the stricken angels, the trickster pretending another identity, that of a healer who will bring medicinal water to Lucifer.
But Abonsam sat at Fenris’s table all that time ago, knowing of his purpose and it’s end. He is filled with Fenris’s purpose: the Wolf slices open his belly and Abonsam’s last trick is to pour his blood into Elaine’s hands, to be conveyed to Lucifer’s mouth, to poison him with Fenris’s rage, hate and fury.
Lucifer attacks Michael, who defends himself. But, broken as he is, he is no match for the Lightbringer, who downs him with fire. Michael is broken, dying, his blood – a kin-slaying – watering Yggdrasil’s roots. Bet J’Ogie, distracted by the light, leaves herself vulnerable and is slain by one-arm Charlie, himself killed by Fenris. It is done. The end is begun. Sarah and Bobby live, for so long as anything lives.
Michael is dying. Within him is the demiurgic power. It will be released on his death, and will wipe Creation in an instant. Lucifer, humbled by his own errors, must now help whether he will it or not. The only hope of safety is to transfer the power to Michael’s daughter, blind Elaine, the former London schoolgirl. It must be dammed in her, find its level. But can she contain it? Aye, can she contain it?