Writers: Holly Black, Richard Kadrey
Artists: Marco Rudy, Ben Templesmith
Letters: Todd Klein
Cover: Dave Johnson
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
Ah! Nothing says Christmas cheer like a good old fashion holiday special filled with demons, death and, of course, presents! If you’re looking for a malevolent and twisted take on some holiday tales, look no further than Lucifer #13 by writers Holly Black and Richard Kadrey. Almost to emphasize the hand-off between the two writers, Black opens this issue with a less-than-merry ‘Krampus-approved’ story and Kadrey closes off with his very own take on Secret Satan. Even Lucifer gets into the spirit of the season… in his own brooding, cheeky way. Lucifer #13 may be an “irreverent ode to the joy of seasonal sin”, but both tales make references that could be hinting at some canon characters returning to Lucifer in the New Year!
The first story by Holly Black and artist Marco Rudy occurs on December 5th, otherwise known as Krampusnacht, when Krampus appears on earth before the Feast of St. Nicholas to visit all the naughty children. On this night, people celebrate by donning horns and hairy devil masks in parades called Krampuslauf and two ne’er-do-well youth, Wayne and Jesse, decide to use the opportunity to rob a store in demonic Krampus attire. But like everyone else this time of year, they will pay for their bad deeds when they unwittingly steal the cursed coin of the Jin En Mok.
The Jin En Mok are creatures who were born in the darkness before Creation and have made it their mission to unmake the world. They feed on humans and sometimes wear their skin, as they have no tangible form of their own. In Carey’s run, we encountered the last of the Jin En Mok: Cestis, Saul and Berim. Saul and Berim were killed, but Cestis of the Dancing Flesh still lives, trapped in the body of a man who mistakenly believed he was the father of Elaine Belloc. It’s possible that we’ll see the return of Cestis in the next story arc or perhaps some other long forgotten Jin En Mok… or maybe Black was just making a random reference. The story was wonderfully disturbing in any case and the boys certainly get what any naughty person has coming to them (and then some).
Rudy’s artwork was dark, nightmarish and bleeding ink, stained with crimson brushstrokes to really highlight some of the more gruesome parts. Though I loved the unconventional, creepy panel layout, I did feel some aspects of the story were lost in the artwork. It was hard to make out the action in a couple of panels, which made me double-back to really get the gist of what was happening. There’s also one panel where Lucifer looks cross-eyed that completely drew me out of the story for a moment, but overall I enjoyed the change in pace for the artwork.
The second tale by Richard Kadrey and artist Ben Templesmith is called Secret Santa (missed opportunity for my amazing play on words earlier guys). Lucifer has come down with a case of the Christmas blues and, to his dismay, his bartender Reggie knows just how to get his boss in the festive spirit, a holiday gift exchange! Too bad Lucifer never listens to anything Reggie says and didn’t actually pick a name for Secret Santa. He’s less than thriller to discover that the last name in the hat is good ol’ Reggie himself and though he’s a bit tight on time, the devil still manages to pull off quite the… uh thoughtful?… present. Meanwhile, two demons from Hell hope to ruin the revelries by switching one of the gifts for something a little more beastly.
In Kadrey’s first issue of Lucifer, he shows he has a handle on the Morningstar’s personality and the dialogue is really quite fantastic. The tone of this story is less gruesome than the first and derives much of its wickedness from some well-executed dark humour. Templesmith’s artwork is amazing as always, the dingy watercolors seem to suit Lucifer’s gloomy mood. His style isn’t to everyone’s taste as it can seem inconsistent, but I think that’s all a part of its charm. The reference I mentioned is a bit more subtle in this tale, as Lucifer receives a mysteriously convenient gift from a woman named Rachel, who Lucifer admits to knowing. This is likely Rachel Begai, a young native girl that Lucifer tricks in Devil in the Gateway. Rachel was supposed to have a more prominent role in the story, but when Carey started the monthly, he felt her character may be too obscure (as she was introduced in the mini series The Morningstar Option) and so instead he created Elaine Belloc.
Again, we may see Rachel surface in the New Year or it might just be an innocuous nod to Carey’s run. For those who aren’t familiar with it though, both of these references will likely go right over their heads and may even be a bit of a confusing question mark. Personally, I think these could be groundwork for what’s to come, because I see no reason why they would reference the Jin En Mok or Rachel in a way that made the reader pause if they weren’t planning on expanding upon it later. Maybe it was just a holiday Easter Egg (Christmas Egg?) for those familiar with the series canon and it certainly works for me, but if I weren’t familiar with Carey’s run, I would definitely have googled the two right after reading them to see what I was missing.
Buy it! Lucifer #13 is a devilishly wicked holiday special that will make for a great stocking-stuffer (probably doesn’t need to be said, but this issue is NOT suitable for young children). As I’ve touched on in my last couple of Lucifer reviews, this issue is bittersweet because it’s the last written by Holly Black. But after reading Lucifer #13, fans shouldn’t be worried. This Christmas, Richard Kadrey’s Lucifer debut is one of the best gifts of all.