Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Letterer: Michael Lark
Colorist: Santi Arcas
Cover Artists: Michael Lark & Sanit Arcas
Review by Eric Owens
In the not-too-distant future, governments are a thing of the past. The sixteen wealthiest, most powerful Families have divided the globe into their own domains. A fortunate, useful handful of people serve as serfs for the controlling Families. The vast majority of the population, however, makes up the Waste.
This is the setting for Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, and Santi Arcas’ new series, Lazarus. The titular character is Forever “Eve” Carlyle, the Lazarus for the Carlyle Family. Malcolm Carlyle had his “daughter” bioengineered to quickly recover from physical trauma that would be fatal to normal people and to be loyal to the family. As such, she acts as commander of the Family’s security forces. However, she’s starting to ask questions about what she does and how it makes her feel.
After meeting Forever’s “brother” Joshua in the first issue, this issue introduces the reader to the rest of her siblings and Malcolm. They are not, for the most part, pleasant people. Bethany treats Forever like a machine, which makes sense since she and Dr. Mann provide Forever’s medical treatments. Stephen might be the most affable sibling, but he doesn’t think for himself. The twins, Jonah and Johanna, have let their territory of L.A. fall to pieces after a major earthquake and care only for themselves. Jonah is pushing for the Family to go to war with the Morray Family after they attacked a Carlyle agricultural compound and tried to rob the seed bank. Clearly Jonah has ulterior motives, though. Also, he and his sister are close to one another—very close.
There is a lot of talking in this issue. Some of it is used to catch the Family and the reader up on the events of last issue. Other bits are expository for hinting at more of Forever’s background. The majority of it, however, is the family arguing. It gives a good look at the personalities of the Carlyle clan and their relationships with each other. Despite Forever’s abilities, those relationships are the real focus of the story. Plus, the arguing does lead to the issue’s one fight scene, which might not be what you’re expecting. The downside of laying this groundwork, however, is that the story doesn’t move forward much until the events on the last few pages, which won’t be revealed here. The ending does indicate that the story will pick up speed going forward.
The first thing to note about the art is the character design for Forever. Unlike female fighters in a lot of other comics, she genuinely looks like she has the size and strength to handle the physical aspects of her job. She’s almost always depicted in her security uniform, even when she’s just with the rest of her Family. Despite her healing abilities, she’s still fully covered from the neck down, armed and ready. Care was put into the designs for the other Carlyles, too, giving each member attire that reflects his or her personality while still all clearly displaying their wealth.
Lark includes lots of details that sell the near-future setting. In some cases, it’s little things like the projector Forever uses in her report and the same or similar device used as a clock. Other times it’s much bigger, such as the shantytown in L.A. and the HOLLYWOOD sign that has lost most of its letters. The colors from Arcas add to the setting. With the heavy use of browns, you can almost taste the dirt of the barren soil and urban decay.
Lark also uses expressions and layouts to great effect. Since much of the issue is conversations among the Family, moving things around and changing the focus is important to keep things from seeming dull. The positioning of the characters and their body language conveys just as much, if not more than, their words. There’s a great over the shoulder shot of Beth scanning Forever’s skeleton as Forever complains that Beth makes her feel like a machine. It’s a nice touch. Also, the push-in over several panels of Johanna taking a bath while Jonah washes her back ends with the reader being unsettlingly close to their closeness.
This might be unusual, but it’s worth talking about the letters column. This month includes a timeline along the margins highlighting key events leading up to Year X, the year marking the end of government control and the beginning of Family control. Hopefully this will be continued past Year X to give more information on how things got to the point they’re at. Also, Rucka includes overviews of recent real news stories that relate to the world and themes of Lazarus. It’s a pretty cool idea and shows that they’re making an effort to keep the story grounded in reality, which is quickly catching up to fantasy.
This issue felt like it was biding time until things go down in the next issue. Still, the characters are entertaining, if mostly unpleasant, and the team is giving a new take on the super soldier idea. Honestly, with a rich setting like this, a slow issue to take things in isn’t a huge problem.
Eric is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @EricDOwens.
Lazarus #2 Review