Monday, February 15, 2016

Lucifer: The Morningstar Option (Lucifer 0) by Mike Carey

Lucifer has given up ruling hell and is taking it easy as the proprietor of the upscale piano bar Lux. At this point, he seems content to let time pass by him, even if the antics of humans bore him until the angel Amenadiel pays him a visit to request a favor.  It seems that God has a problem - one which he chooses neither to let past or interfere with. While man may have escaped into the light, the silent Gods have not forgotten what it's liked to be worshiped and the power which comes with it.  When they decide to take advantage of humanity's most basic prayers, chaos ensues when people suddenly find their wishes coming true.

It is quickly deemed by the supernatural world that mankind having their wishes and whims coming true would bring about the end of the world.  We make a thousand small wishes each day never really expecting them to come true.  Some of them include our more baser thoughts - the ones we never share because we know intrinsically that they're bad. Imagine now these thoughts - these wishes being set loose on the world. Our greed, lust and rage would indeed bring about ruination.

Lucifer really comes across as the black sheep that every family has.  At some level, everyone wants to disavow him but cannot bring themselves to for the sake of memories or alternately that he's useful. Lucifer is at times charming and at others so smarmy you think you'll never get the stink of him off. Despite it all, he's the ultimate anti-hero, though as a reader we absolutely know, that given who and what he is, we should not be rooting for him but inexplicably find ourselves wanting him to get everything he's after - screw the consequences.

I was very confused when the story shifted from Lucifer investigating the supernatural to the struggles of the  Begal family.  Paul has a debilitating disability and much of his care falls on his sister Rachel. Being a young woman, Rachel is very resentful of having to miss school and time with her friends to care for her disabled brother.  Rachel's father lives in an almost fantasy world as to the state of her his son's disability and doesn't for a moment acknowledge the pressure he is putting on his teenage daughter. When a supernatural world is filled with hyper able characters, it's rare to see the appearance of the disabled.  Unfortunately, Paul's disability is such that his story is told completely through the point of view of his carers.   In this case, because the God's Lucifer has to defeat were brought into existence before humanity had a language, they channel their power through Paul because of his inability to communicate. I understand how Carey explained Paul's silence but there always seems to be a reason to prioritize the experience of the carers over the voices of the disabled.

Through the process of hunting down a lead, Lucifer makes his way to the Begal home where Rachel has been left to watch her brother while her father catches up on over time.  When Paul ends up dying because of an errant wish that Rachel makes because she  disgusted when she finds herself covered in his vomit, Lucifer makes a quick exit.

Rachel is kidnapped shortly afterwords and uncharacteristically, its Lucifer to the rescue. Lucifer Morningstar is nothing if not self interested and so there must be a reason that Lucifer decides to rescue Rachel other than spitting in the eye of Mahu - a member of the Lilim who seems to believe Lucifer has sold out to the light side so to speak for agreeing to carry out a mission for the heavenly host. Lucifer saves Rachel because ultimately he needs her to get to the world of the silent Gods because she is Navajo.

Much is made of Rachel's race throughout the three volumes which make up The Morningstar Option. Rachel herself doesn't identify as Native though her father is Navajo and her mother is what I can only assume to be white.  Unfortunately, when Rachel's race is referred to she is called "half caste" by Mahu and "half breed" by Lucifer.  Yes, Rachel is indeed biracial but given the ways in which blood quantum has historically been a problem for indigenous people the language used by both Mahu and Lucifer is absolutely racist to say the least.  Rachel herself conveniently never challenges these labels because she doesn't see herself as Navajo and since no one else is present when these slurs are used, they go unchallenged.

Lucifer in The Morningstar Option is portrayed as White. Sure, we could say that since we are operating in a world with supernatural creatures that we are dealing with beings outside of race but why then did the author chose to represent his antihero as a member of the most privileged group ever to walk the earth?  Having been around since the beginning of time, there's not much that Lucifer doesn't know and that includes information about the Navajo people and their creation myth - all facts that for some reason Rachel has no idea about.  This puts us in the position of having to read along as Lucifer actually educates Rachel on her own culture, religious belief system and history. White man as expert, even if said man is Lucifer is beyond problematic.

Lucifer takes Rachel to go and meet Blue Flint Girl, a relative of Rachel's and a shaman.  Blue Flint Girl gives Rachel a medicine pouch so that she can find her way back and makes it clear that no matter what Lucifer is promising her or telling her that he is the master of lies.  Blue Flint Girl is the typical wise person of colour and her character never gets developed because Lucifer is in a hurry to use Rachel like a tool.  Having promised Rachel that she may have the opportunity to see her brother again, Lucifer has Rachel right where he wants her.

The trip through the world is arduous and filled with symbols from both Christian and Navajo faiths. There is however a short interlude in which Rachel is almost raped and is saved by Lucifer. Given the high rates of sexual assault indigenous women face this just seems far too gratuitous.  It's thrown in casually to give Rachel one more reason to follow Lucifer's lead, when none is necessary given that her brother's life is at stake. Throughout the trip, Rachel is haunted by her subconscious which lays bare her guilt and shame while Lucifer simply marches on unaffected.

Unsurprisingly, Lucifer tricks Rachel into wishing for the death of the God before wishing that her brother is brought back to life.  Rachel becomes angry but there's nothing she can do and Lucifer simply walks away.  At the end of the day, Lucifer seems to almost delight in the absolution he has been given for his actions from the heavenly host and snarks about suffering be good for the soul with Amenadiel.  Though I didn't like how The Morningstar Option ended, I don't see how it could have ended differently.  In fact, we were warned by Blue Flint Girl that Lucifer was in this only for himself.  I suppose to have given Rachel a happy ending would have meant that Lucifer would have had to have acted uncharacteristically.

There are several issues with race and disability in this comic and while they are to some degree explained for story reasons, it's worth noting that the world in which these stories exist is completely fictitious and therefore malleable.  Nothing had to play out the way that it did. Carey does have Rachel promise to get her revenge but Lucifer simply blows her off as being melodramatic.  Throughout this entire comic Rachel is either situated as a victim in need of saving, or a tool to be used. At no point does she show any actual agency.

Despite it's faults, when it came to racism and disability, along with its erasure of LGBT characters, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this.  I knew all along that Lucifer would absolutely screw over Rachel, I just didn't know how.  I am enthusiastic to know what is going to happen now that he has been awarded a Letter of Passage from Yahweh.  I am further excited that Carey didn't stick to a strictly biblical version of the story and felt free to play with events.  There are so many paths to take with a character like Lucifer, especially given that Carey isn't wedded to a strictly Christian story.