Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Michael Lark
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Lazarus #1 embodies everything I want in a comic book: dystopian near-future, hard sci-fi, badass female protagonist, contemporary social and political themes, blistering action, a touch of pathos, art that makes me feel like I can smell the cordite and taste the dirt. All this is to say, right out of the gate, the book is basically perfect.
The story is about a girl named Forever. Forever is her Family’s designated protector, and has been genetically enhanced and trained to be tougher than Clint Eastwood in a robot body (like many of my favorite Greg Rucka heroines). In the world of Lazarus, family is everything. It reminds me a little of Game of Thrones in that respect – the obsession with duty towards a name, even when the people who share that name don’t always honor that duty in return. Forever is, right out of the gate, a good apple in a bad bushel. The source of her morality is unclear; protecting the interests of the Carlyle Family is her entire reason for existing. It matters more than rampant starvation and death. Who she is and what she does are synonymous. If killing to protect her Family’s position is all she knows, then where does her unease come from? Forever’s story is shaping up to be an exploration of nature versus nurture, and I’m already itching to get started.
This unique premise is set against the backdrop of a society meant to echo our own, if everything that can go wrong does go wrong over the course of the next century. The gap between rich and poor has been widening for decades around the world. In the days of the Occupy Movement and the 99%, a lot of attention has been paid to haves and have-nots, and how people obtain and use their money. Rucka offers the seeds of a thoughtful examination of life at extremes without devolving into a preachy treatise on the redistribution of wealth. The stark contrast between the handful of families who essentially act as governments and the masses referred to only as “Waste” can’t be argued as solely rich versus poor. You don’t ask to be born into your family, your class, or your census bloc. As we are introduced to Forever’s budding struggle with her identity, so the reader must struggle with his or her own conceptions of what matters. Is it Family Above All, or is it something else?
All of these philosophical notions are grounded by the heart-stopping art of Michael Lark. Immersive and beautiful, he manages to make things sexy without making them glossy or exploitative. Forever is not a spandex pinup. The setting is not a highly-polished Tomorrowland. The muted color palette sets a bleak tone worthy of the subject matter. And no one’s visuals capture Rucka’s (somewhat disturbing) talent for scripting violence like Lark. If you haven’t picked up Rucka and Lark’s Gotham Central from DC Comics, get thee to Amazon and start ordering some trades.
There you have it. Wealth and power, family and morality, feudalism and a girl who can get up from a gunshot (or three). Rucka states in the back-up essay at the end of the first issue (seriously, don’t skip it, it explains quite a bit and Warren Ellis is in it) that he and Lark have a multi-year plan in place for Lazarus, and I am telling you that you will regret missing the first arc. This is fine world-building, and you can’t skip over the foundations if you ever hope to keep up.
Oderint dum metuant.