[Comic Review] Landing — Lazarus #9

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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.

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Get Lifted — Lazarus #7 Review

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The correspondence page found at the end of the issue will tell you the creative team needed two extra pages for Lazarus #7.

After reading the issue, it’s plain to see why.

In terms of density, Lazarus #7 earns the title of heaviest issue of the series. Jumping from plot to plot, the events this issue are wrangled into a thick storyline wringing readers through an emotional gauntlet.

And it does it by bringing us even closer to the characters and seeting via flashback and sudden bursts of emotional and physical violence.

Dealing with a possible terrorist threat to her family, Forever Carlyle performs her duties by gathering intelligence and interrogating the lone suspect, Emma. Unable to get anything out of her — backed into a corner, Emma’s responds with, “There’s nothing you can do to or take from me that your family doesn’t already have” — Forever brings in her sister Johanna.

We already know from this vantage point that Johanna’s intentions for her family are traitorous, and we get a good look at why she’s gone undetected for so long. As the good cop to Forever’s bad, Johanna tempts Emma with a lure of fame and serfdom.

 

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In those scenes, we get the political and military wings of the Carlyle Family. Forever, as the armed hand, sees what a bit of diplomacy can do, especially from one so treacherous as Johanna.

We also get to spend some time with the displaced Barrets. With about a week to go before Lift selection, the family camps out somewhere in Wyoming.

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The scene brings to mind the best elements of a Western — wide open spaces, the unfiltered relationships between travellers, the fear of the present, the hope for the future, and the ugliness of humanity that threatens peace.

Lazarus continues to be pull-list worthy, and the creative team deserves that Eisner nomination for Best New Series.

Greg Rucka’s world continues to reveal itself, warts and all, from the Family peaks to the Barret valleys. The major event is the Lift, and all paths look to be crossing there. It’s a testament to Rucka’s writing prowess — there’s no direct threat and imminent threat just yet, just the possibility of one, and we feel the tension and paranoia on the Carlyle side because it all feels very familiar.

The writing could have easily gone the path well-traveled with the Barret tragedy, but instead of drudging up emotion and preying on our sympathies, Rucka gives us just enough to play the rest of the details in our own minds.

The Barret scene also shows how perfectly matched the visual team is with the story. Michael Lark and Brian Level on art and Santi Arcas on colors get down to the nitty and gritty with profound fluidity. In one issue, we’ve gone from the sci-fi and sanitary dwellings of the Carlyles to the dirt and debris of the Wild Wild West, and not once did it feel like the two couldn’t exist in the same world.

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The last page reveals the Lift is in reach, but at what cost? A lot of comic stories rely on that tried and true method of leaving readers with a cliffhanger, and Lazarus puts a twist on that by giving readers a glimpse of hope to go along with that bitter taste left in our mouths from the scenes previous.

Some keep their eyes on the goal, waiting for it to be achieved. What makes Lazarus so sweet is the journey itself — the lives of the characters and the state of the world they live in. The questions are just as important as the answers, and the experience is enriched because of it.

Lazarus #7 (2013)
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Words: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark and Brian Level
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark and Brian Level

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The Lives of Others — Lazarus #6 Review

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Anyone who’s connected to Greg Rucka through his Twitter or his Tumblr knows he has a keen interest in politics and current affairs.

After diving into Lazarus #6, it’s very clear that Rucka’s interests in things outside of comics has influenced the world of Forever Carlyle for better or worse.

And my opinion is — it’s for the better.

Lazarus has consistently pushed the envelope with mature storytelling that has expanded bit by bit to explore politics, social inequalities, and the day to day lives of realistic characters living on both ends of the economical ladder. From the top of the food chain (Carlyles) to the bottom rung (Bobbie and the other Waste), Lazarus isn’t a title filled with caricatures kicking around cliches. Lazarus, like great science-fiction novels, works because it takes something we know, repackages it, then gives us a microscopic view of it that gets our brains working.

That doesn’t mean each reader will come away with the same meaning or walk through the same thought process, but the fact that it’s provoking — Lazarus isn’t a book you should be reading while you’re doing something else. It demands your attention because there’s so much going on within each page.

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With Lift season in full swing, members of the Waste caste look forward to being selected for work. Being a part of the Waste caste doesn’t mean someone’s absolutely destitute — Bonnie Barret and her clan own land, pay taxes to their governing Family, and eke out an existence.

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Last issue, a storm wiped out the Barret house and crops which forces Bonnie to ask the Carlyle Family for assistance. Help comes at a price, and Bonnie’s clan makes a decision to head for the Lift, giving up their land rights.

Meanwhile, another group of Waste break into the Family Carlyle storage, stealing two acetylene canisters. The thieves don’t know there’s a Lazarus on watch, and Forever gains information that will set her on a trail to discover what the Waste are up to.

The two parallel stories moving forward concern Forever’s journey to make her Family proud while the Barrets head to Denver to get work. Both work for family, but the contrast is that Forever as an agent works on the outside, hoping to be received. Bonnie, on the other hand, struggles to maintain a livelihood that secures a future for her brood.

Rucka’s scripting is sharp and to the point. Each scene reminds us about the location, the stakes, and the possible repercussions that could dramatically change not just the lives of the characters but the world at large.

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That sort of scope keeps Lazarus interesting because a slight shift in direction at the bottom can lead to gigantic ramifications at the top.

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Rucka’s partner in visual rhyme is Michael Lark, and it’s difficult to envision Lazarus with anyone else’s artistic interpretation of this distopian future. There are two pages with just one caption for all of its 10 panels that should be studied by potential comic artists. It’s sequential storytelling by a master of the craft that sets up Forever’s security detail that puts her on the trail of the thieving Waste.

And if Lark’s absence upsets the title by measure and miles, Santi Arcas’ colors would be sorely missed as well if there was a change in the guard. The tones of Lazarus are its soil, it’s environment, it’s life. The creative team of three have a synergy that’s producing one of the best comic books being released, and anyone looking for a story that’s packed with emotion and meaningful plotting should get on board.

Now.

Lazarus is comicdom’s Martian Chronicles with its personal touch and real-world perspective. These characters live and breathe as if they were taken from living constructs. This is a series not to be missed unless you’re only about capes and spandex.

Lazarus #6 (2013)
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Words: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark and Brian Level
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters Michael Lark and Brian Level

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System Shock: Lazarus #4 Review

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Last issue ended with a bang — literally — and writer/creator Greg Rucka doesn’t pull any punches with an intense pickup on action and drama in Lazarus #4.

Forever Carlyle and counterpart Joacquim Morray had a moment to watch the sunset, but their respite was just a calm before the storm. Missiles from a Carlyle chopper sent in by Forever’s brother Jonah rained down on the location sending both Forever and Joacquim into physical shock.

As Bethany and James monitor Forever’s stats back at the main compound, her body begins to patch itself up as Jonah’s team lands to finish the job.

Readers get a front row seat into what being a Lazarus entails as Forever painfully rises and meets the challenge, mercilessly and efficiently taking down all of her attackers. Besides enduring a physical battle while practically rising from the dead, Forever takes care of business knowing full and well the circumstances surrounding her betrayal — she claims right as commander of the Carlyle forces to order the men to stand down — and she has the wherewithal after the fight to make sure relations with the Morray family are maintained.

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Credit Rucka for moving deftly back and forth between the action sets and the chaos inside the Carlyle compound where the two scientists work blind and behind the scenes. Losing a Lazarus could mean losing the war, and a surprise attack like this one can shift the balance in one particular party’s favor. That notion isn’t lost in the brisk pacing of the issue’s plot, and Michael Lark’s pencils — Brian Level contributes — don’t smudge over the details with an eye for composition and cinematic details that don’t lose focus on the main points. Santi Arcas’ colors do their part in separating panels by atmosphere and lighting — and the subtle shades, while not being overtly flashy, have a grounded palette.

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No stone is left untouched — Rucka gives panel time for the other members of the family, including Malcolm who looks worse for the wear now that his family has begun to tear itself apart from the inside. Whether the expression on his face shows guilt or worry remains to be seen, and as complicated as it could be, Lazarus as a title works because its creative team works with a sharp and precise edge not unlike the blades the main character carries.

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Those sublime cuts can be found in the details. In the heat of battle, gunfire erupts hitting any and everybody — Lazarus and soldier. While it could be argued that this is violence for violence’s sake — it all serves a purpose, and the scenes account for the various layers and dimensions.

After all the attackers are finished off, Forever and Joacquim part, and the scene is the heaviest of all. Seeing what Joacquim is literally made of at this point, Forever sees what the future may hold for her as a Lazarus, and their time together has ended for the foreseeable future. Forever goes to confront Jonah only to find a beaten and battered Johanna.

If the first story arc gives us a fair glimpse of what it’s in store for Jonah — vengeance will be swift and painful. There’s a big and compelling picture that’s loaded with emotional turmoil and urgency, and the overall professional quality of the book makes it one of the best comics being released.

Lazarus #4 (2013)
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Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark and Brian Level
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark

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