There are interesting parallels to to draw from Lazarus #9, the last chapter of the Lift story arc.
For the past several issues, readers have been drawn into the world of the Barrets, a family of Waste who lost their farm and home. Knowing their best chance for survival joining in the service of one of the families, the Barrets traveled to Denver, losing one of their own on the way.
It was a futuristic sort of Oregon Trail with the Lift itself serving as a last and daunting challenge — sort of like that do-or-die river crossing that killed you nine out of ten times.
Lazarus #9 opens with another flashback continuing Forever Carlyle’s quest to gain her father’s acceptance. The young child has been put in an impossible situation — fight her mentor and closest friend to the death or lose her family and status. This will be Forever’s last chance to beat Marisol, and she follows her father’s words to a T when she incapacitates Marisol and directs physician James to take care of the wounded. Forever receives her family sword and becomes its Lazarus.
In the present, Forever has been hot on the trail of a terrorist named Angel. The threat of a bomb going off in the midst of 150,000 people would create giant repercussions to say the least, and the problem is exacerbated by Stephen Carlyle’s refusal to keep a lower profile or accept the notion he could be a target.
Meanwhile, Sister Bernard uses her influence to get Michael Barret and Casey Solomon in line for priority selection. Michael’s medical ability, latent intelligence, and work ethic make him an excellent candidate for the Lift, and though his mother Bobbie doubts the Sister’s intentions, she reluctantly accepts her help.
All of this leads to Michael’s acceptance and Casey’s rejection on the basis of marker genes that could portend breast cancer. After she accosts Forever, she recognizes Angel and follows him to a secluded area where he straps a bomb to his chest. To keep his mission alive, Angel stabs her repeatedly and moves towards Stephen’s tent where he encounters Forever who immediately recognizes the deadman’s switch in his hand.
Angel would otherwise be a swift kill for a Lazarus, but the circumstances force her to approach the complicated situation by grabbing Angel’s hand holding the switch. That puts her in close proximity, and he uses his free hand to gouge her eye. It’s a tense wrestling match that tests Forever’s mettle, but it’s Casey to rescue — despite her numerous wounds, she’s managed to sneak up behind Angel to deliver the killing blow.
The issue ends on a high note for the Barrets as Casey not only survives her ordeal, she’s also accepted based on merit.
As I said to begin the review, the paralells to draw are pretty compelling.
First, we have the stories of Forever and Casey — two strong-willed characters who work through physical pain to better their standings via merit. On a contrasting note, the genetic specimen Forever earned her way into her family while Casey, despite a possible predisposition for cancer, ensured a better place for hers.
The other parallel is easier to miss, but it proves Greg Rucka is a world-builder who doesn’t forego the small details. When Casey wakes up in her hospital bed, who’s on the television screen — it’s Emma, the woman who seduced the guards while Angel’s group pilfered materials for a bomb. It appears Emma’s star is on the rise after having been caught, interrogated, and “encouraged” to give up her associates. On the flip side, Angel’s death at does nothing to forward his cause, though it benefits the one who put him down.
To be frank, Lazarus #9 as a story-arc finisher doesn’t make a huge splash, though it does create the framework for future issues, which is Lazarus’ strongest suit. I’m actually glad that Rucka didn’t give Forever the pedestal here — though she manages the crisis and arrives first on the scene , it’s Casey who strikes the killing blow. That sets her up as a possible rival especially when you take into account the past scene when she publicly lashed out at Forever.
The visuals are amazing, and Michael Lark’s talent to tell the story through his characters’ eyes is a valuable one. Whether it’s Angel feel a bit remorseful that he’ll have to kill an innocent bystander or Bobbie casting her emotions about the lift through her expressions, Lark’s artwork has a visceral effect.
And while Santi Arcas presents everything on the ground in earthy tones — they seem muddier than usual this issue — the sky is a bright and optimistic blue in Forever’s flashback. It’s evening when Angel attempts to set off his bomb and morning when Casey wakes. The visual cues lead us from one dark night to a brighter day, at least for the Barret family who looks like they’re in a much better place now that they’re part of the Family.
A teaser about Jonah Carlyle looks like the story will head back to its biggest plotline. I think the approach so far has been wonderful — last we saw Jonah, he escaped before he could receive retribution. Our view of the world is much bigger now, and when we finally catch up to what Jonah’s been up to, our perspective is broader and more open.
As a political thriller, Lazarus is a mature comic in the sense that it presents a lot of layers and some geopolitical themes that seem relevant to current affairs topics. Rucka’s plotting has a balance to its methodology that doesn’t force the reader to follow his agenda or convert to a specific perspective. The characters and world are presented as-is, and it’s up to the reader to cultivate their own thoughts on the story. To some Angel may be a terrorist. To others, he could be a misguided freedom fighter.
Whatever you decide is up to you, and the world in which Lazarus takes place is a complicated one that’s hardly black and white.
And that’s the way we like it.
Lazarus #9 (2013)
Words: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark and Brian Level
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark and Brian Level
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