With impressive, atmospheric fireworks from guest artist Stephanie Hans, "Lucifer" #6 is a spooky kick-off to a new story arc. Though it's crafted like a one-shot, it also foreshadows a real shake-up in Hell that should make for exciting future issues. When young man Takehiko comes home to meet his girlfriend's Satanist parents, things quickly become more complicated than awkward first introductions as Hans and writer Holly Black create an engaging story with a twist that you can see coming a mile away -- but that doesn't make the issue any less engaging or beautiful. Issue #6 is another bit of devilish fun for "Lucifer."
As ever, Hans is a treasure. Her style has a flair for dramatic moments, and this script serves them up in spades: ghosts, housefires, hellfires and New England snowstorms are all portrayed with her signature power. The fusion of her lines and her sweeping, heavy colors makes for multiple panels that could honestly double as issue covers. Her unbeatable eye for striking moments -- poses, perspectives and framing that draw out the drama in a scene -- is also put to great use here. For example, the arrival of the demon Asmodeus, hulking and crouched for action, accomplishes heaps of anticipation in a single panel. In addition, there isn't too much action here; Hans has struggled with sequential action sequences in the past, but this issue is much more about atmosphere, which she delivers beautifully.
Hans' artwork and Black's script also complement one another. The script isn't exactly subtle about the twist that's coming; from the first page, Takehiko hints ominously at his past. "All families are strange. Mine's just stranger," Rosemary explains, to which Takehiko's portentously answers, "I wouldn't bet on that." There are references to the "family business" and a "not-so-normal childhood," and -- between the sprouting wings and cracking mirrors -- it's clear something's not right. However, Hans' art also makes it clear that the reader is meant to catch on right away; her pages are full of foreboding.
Black's script, though, still rings with the same humor she's used in the previous issues. She enjoys the incongruity of suburban Satanists and aging partiers, and she even finds a chuckle in demonic kidnappings. This generally works, but it can create some weirdness with the tone. Similarly, the dialogue for the adult Satanists sometimes tries too hard to sound cool. Lines like "That's girl's going to eat him for breakfast" and "You slept with that skank!" felt a bit out-of-place, included only for emphasis rather than their role in the story.
From a macro perspective, though, this issue is a refreshing pause that combines world-building with a visual tone break. It's a popular move to break up arcs with one-shots, but Black instead plucks the best pieces of both worlds: the surprise of a one-shot and the energizing plot movement of a regular issue. It's quite cleverly done and smartly paces the larger series. I really loved this approach.
Hans' pages alone would make "Lucifer" #6 worth a read, but it's also an excellent new beginning. I can't wait to see more of this arc as Lee Garbett returns for issue #7.