I doubt Neil Gaiman could have predicted how many spin-offs his saga The Sandman would inspire. While there are so many that are no doubt good stories worth checking out, the one that is about as long as Gaiman’s own book is Mike Carey’s Lucifer. An engaging and ambitious epic in itself, any story that makes the literal Devil a protagonist is taking some risks. But now after reading it myself, there is a question I want to ask the rest of you that have read it:
Is this version of Lucifer good or evil?
It’s safe to say that a lot of us tend to view Lucifer in any other interpretation as the villain and the origin of evil. But when it comes to the world of Vertigo, nothing is as it seems. We learn early on that this version of Lucifer doesn’t actually force anyone to commit evil, nor does he believe that anyone can actually own a soul, so the act of selling it is meaningless in his eyes. Another early revelation is that while Lucifer once thought him ruling Hell was his ultimate rebellion, he has come to realize that this was always part of the pre-determined plan laid out by his father - God, or The Presence. He leaves and Hell manages to go on without him. Demons continue to torture, people continue to sin.
While the idea of Lucifer having a moral code might seem bizarre considering how we perceive him, the fact of the matter is that he does. He always keeps to his promises and despite being the Lord of Lies, he doesn’t lie. Although sometimes he might not tell the full truth until after he achieves what he sets out for. And here is where we get to the issue of Lucifer’s code - it doesn’t always mean he helps people. He will let thousands, millions, or billions perish as collateral damage. Everything he sets out to do, he does to assert that he has his own free will, and that he makes his choices because they are his. This in many ways makes him come off as selfish, more in line with how we might view the traditional version of this figure.
This does bring up the question of how much of his actions are pre-determined and which ones are of his own will. But there are a few small moments where the events and aftermath do connect more to the latter. And The Presence has shown there is at least one point in his grand design where his rule hasn’t foretold what will happen. So the likelihood that there might be smaller moments free of pre-determinism - or at least the chances of asserting one’s own will are more possible - is greater than zero. And despite Lucifer’s admittedly selfish demeanor and behavior, we do have moments where it does appear that he cares for a few people. These moments are visible to careful readers and do show that what Lucifer stands for isn’t so much rebellion as it is passion. He views pre-determinism as tyrannical and oppressive. It is cold and uncaring in his eyes. Everything in creation should have the freedom to make whatever choices they want. Regardless of the aftermath and the chaos it brings - it will at least be THEIR choices. And that is why he ultimately leaves all of Creation for The Void. It is the ultimate expression of opportunity and freedom.
To call this version of Lucifer a hero is too much of a stretch. Even calling him an anti-hero doesn’t really fit. But I’m curious to hear from other fans of Mike Carey’s book how they view this version of Lucifer and whether or not he leans more towards good or evil.