On paper, Greg Rucka’s world isn’t very different from ours. In Lazarus, a western gem hidden in a sci-fi thriller, a small few control a majority of the world’s resources and wealth, while a larger group of educated and trained individuals works to keep society running. The rest of humanity fights over the scraps, unable to organize and create an ecosystem that benefits everyone.
Rucka’s first two issues put forth the the idea and the driving forces behind the plot — the basis of the families and the notion of their representatives, the Lazarus. Issue #3 takes a giant step forward by bringing into play the other chess pieces that could figure largely within Rucka’s realm and builds on the growing tensions within the Carlyle Family as Forever Carlyle parlays with the Morray Family to combat a growing and personal threat.
Last issue, Forever’s unstable brother Jonah and his twin sister Johanna were seen working behind the scenes to undermine the Family’s patriarch, Malcolm. Their desire for war proved too much for their father to bear, causing him to send the one child he can trust into the Morray’s domain somewhere in Mexico.
Caught behind enemy lines, Forever allows herself to be brought in for questioning, and she meets an old acquaintance — the Morray Lazarus Joacquim. The two reminisce over old times, and Forever admits he’s the only one who has ever truly understood her. It’s an interesting discussion that gives insight into what it’s like to be the face and force of a Family. Because they’re tasked with so much, Lazaruses have money and technology poured into them to keep them in top shape. The richer the family, the better the Lazarus — at least from a technical standpoint, and though Families may send occasional squads into harm’s way, the Lazaruses do and take the most damage.
But what money affords for the physical, it does not help with the emotional aspects. Forever’s trip to see the patriarch of the Morray Family might be a meeting of dire consequences, but it also connects her with humanity by putting her in the company of a familiar face — or rather, a friend.
The meeting with Joacquim’s uncle goes well for both families, but it doesn’t go well for Jonah. As discovered by Malcolm, Jonah has been working against his own kind, and Forever negotiates an immediate end to the Morray’s secret partnership with traitor. Things are about to get heavy as the Carlyle Family plans to purge the sickness within, but before Forever returns home, she and Joacquim are attacked.
It looks like Jonah might get a war after all.
Lazarus so far has been a great series that has so far laid brick upon brick onto its world with a cast of characters and a social structure that provides meaningful structure. There’s a sense that Rucka has taken deliberate steps in creating an immersive world for readers that’s, at once, easy to understand from a social point of view and complex enough to support a deep and plot with threads connecting story elements. Momentum has steadily built up for meaningful action pieces, but Lazarus isn’t this summer’s silly action comic — it’s an intelligent thriller with complex perspectives on themes of family, wealth, power, and greed. It’s to comics what Game of Thrones is to television, and while Lazarus has taken measured steps to keep its cast list, so far, short in comparison, there’s enough of a foundation to bring in more elements later on.
Right now, the set is staged for a great story, and Rucka’s pacing allows artist Michael Lark room to breathe with great characterization processed through visuals. Lark has a knack for creating storyboards that convey what needs to be seen with precise timing. As far as sequential art goes, if one were to cover up the text bubbles, they would still be able to follow the storyline, and the synergy between art and text creates a forceful comic that tickles the brain after it impacts the eyes. It’s a huge credit to Lark’s true-to-the-story artwork and Rucka’s direction.
The choice to bring Santi Arcas in for colors is also a brilliant one. Arcas gives Lazarus a natural earthy look that skimps on flash. The brown and rusty colors define a world of squalor and lowliness. Though the rich are comfortable and living above the masses, the human world is in pain, struggling for basic needs.
Lazarus is a title that demands a serious look, and there’s an emotional depth to the characterization that makes Forever Carlyle a future superstar in the comic book world. She’s efficient and ferocious, and she doesn’t need to talk about it. Actions speak louder than words in Lazarus, and Forever is the kind of girl that brings a knife to a gunfight.
What everyone doesn’t know is that the odds are on her.
Lazarus #3 (2013)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark
Additional credits: Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Level