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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Family Ties: Lazarus #3 Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)
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Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark
Additional credits: Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Level

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