In Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, a few families control a majority of the world’s resources. Those who serve are protected, cared for, and given work.
The rest are considered Waste — lives maintaining an existence on the fringes of society.
An attack on a Carlyle compound prompts the family patriarch, Malcolm, to call an emergency meeting to brief everyone on what’s going on and plan for the future. Forever, the family’s Lazarus, gets her checkup, receives her “maintenance” pills, and is summoned to brief the rest of the family on how the attack was staged.
As evidenced through Rucka’s sharp and tactful writing — the Carlyle family with its five siblings has more than its share of dysfunctions and secrets. The family dynamic has similes to historical accounts of royal families with suggestions of incest and eugenics.
Each of the family members plays a role, and within a few pages of terse dialogue, personalities take form.
Stephen, reasonable and rational, follows orders, while the warmongering Jonah argues for quick retaliation on the supposed perpetrators of the raid. Beth makes sure to keep Forever running in tip top shape, and Johanna — the one sibling who doesn’t show for the family gathering — has been involved in an illicit affair with brother Jonah.
As for Eve — Forever — she may not even be a true sibling, and the secret has been diligently kept by the rest of the brothers and sisters. What Forever really is exactly remains to be seen, and when tasks are given out to the family, Eve gets a special assignment.
Forever travels with Jonah to his domain, Los Angeles, a city left in ruins. Hollywood’s missing letters now spell out Hood, telling a story of what the city has become in just one panel. Jonah’s rule over his domain has left under 3-million people as Waste, and it paints a clearer picture of the merciless and cutthroat man he is.
Forever’s assignment leads her to take a trip through the slums, and she easily loses the watchman on her trail. Once free of her tail, she travels to the heart of Morray territory where she’s captured by Morray’s Lazarus and his crew.
Capture might be the wrong word. Let’s go with received.
Lazarus #2 definitely gives off the impression that Rucka’s created world is constructed from the ground up with long roots. Players follow rules and social norms, filling out roles, fitting in where they need to. Characters show themselves in what they say and do, the approach by Rucka’s scripting is organic.
The pace is blistering, but it doesn’t feel like Rucka’s looking to leave anyone behind — the elements of the story exist in the back and foreground creating a world full of dimension and space. What’s written on these pages feels polished, and Rucka’s scripting leaves little room for unnecessary dialogue.
The artwork by Michael Lark is detailed, unpretentious, and coordinated — it’s relatively easy to distinguish each of the characters even with the introduction of the rest of the Carlyle family. Panels are well-composed, and expressions tell the story by face. Body language is a huge component in how Lark gets the point across, and the family squabbles don’t lack for visual tension as family members threaten and act out violent urges.
Lark has designed elements for practicality, and the appearance of the Morray’s Lazarus, dressed in long coat, white shirt, and black pants, doesn’t give off the impression that Lark’s phoning it in with lazy paint-by-numbers fashioning. These characters all serve a purpose for the story, and they don’t need to be dressed in vivid colors, wild hairstyles, or ego-centric logos. Some might say it’s minimalist, but this is a future that’s based on survival and efficiency. There’s a sort of Mad Max feel to this story, and Lazarus presents readers with a future full of extremes. There’s poverty, destruction, and displaced people — and the sci-fi aspect of the book uses these plot points to mirror social aspects of real life.
The colors by Santi Arcas offer subtle shading, and flat tones on characters contrast well with the elaborate and textured backgrounds, specifically those depicting the Hollywood hills and the ramshackle border town. It’s a look that resembles old westerns colored by technicolor, but with a more natural feel. Arcas’ colors paint textures of grit and rust.
Take all of these pluses, and the result is an issue that has a momentum with a forceful pulse. Rucka’s Forever isn’t just a strong female lead who feels like a character dropped into the role, forced to accept the circumstances. Forever Carlyle, product of an artificial nature/nurture, is a living construct based on her family’s programming and planning. She brings to the table talents and abilities that make her more than human with an inner and outer strength that creates an understanding with the reader — she is capable, efficient, and brilliant in word and deed. It’s plain to see in her actions, her words, and the way she carries herself that she’s designed for a purpose, and issue #2 shows off those assets.
Were it not for Forever’s human characteristics, Lazarus would feel cold and distant. Instead, there are numerous compelling reasons to pick up the next issue. With a core story that breathes and dynamic characters whose actions, speech, and lots differ from each other, Lazarus sings.
It’s still a wonder why Rucka chose the book’s title, but after reading two issues, there are several theories. The title could refer to the many deaths Forever will experience. I prefer to think it’s about the many times she rises.
Lazarus #2 (2013)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark