From the opening panel it’s apparent that Greg Rucka’s Lazarus is going to be a tense affair. The issue starts with a literal bang as we find our heroine, Forever Carlyle, bullet riddled and bleeding out. Game over, right? Not even close.
Set in a dystopian future where the wealthy have the power and the poor are subjugated in serf like fashion, Rucka and artist Michael Lark paint a vivid picture of financial rule. Rich “Families” have taken over, using their affluence and influence to press those less fortunate into service. Those who prove useful are taken care of, while those who are not are deemed “Waste” and left to fend for themselves in a world where everything has been claimed. Being a debut issue, there’s still a lot of world building left to do, but Rucka does a great job setting the tone and showing the divide in status. This is a cold reality he’s created, one where power rules supreme, and you can only imagine it’s going to get worse before it gets better as the Families try to gain ground on one another.
Still, this is Forever’s story and Rucka presents her as a woman deeply conflicted with her purpose in life. Forever serves as the Lazarus of the Carlyle family, tasked in enforcing their iron will over those they lord. Augmented by presumed biological modifications, the adroitly monikered heroine is no pushover; a military commander, she’s lethal in hand to hand combat and doesn’t really “do” dead. Rucka does a great job of making her strong yet vulnerable as she wrestles with the acts she’s forced to commit in order to stay loyal to her family. This loyalty will surely be tested going forward, as her family sees her as an instrument to be aimed and controlled. This “living weapon” idea has been done before, but by focusing on Forever and giving her questions and doubts, Rucka drives the story with the characters and not the other way around.
Rucka needed a strong artist to help him flesh out his vision, and Michael Lark proves more than up to the task. The book’s art is awesome from start to finish, every panel finely constructed and every sequence superbly orchestrated. There’s a realness to Lark’s work; there are no gimmicks or stylistic liberties, each panel reading like a snapshot of real world drama. His take on Forever is particularly inspired as you can literally see the cost of her deeds weighing her down. This is a book that can be unbridled in its savagery and Lark delivers in a big way. Prepare to wince!
Rucka and Lark struck gold years ago with Gotham Central, and it appears the duo are prepped to hit that vein again. Lazarus #1 is a smart, character driven issue that marries sci-fi tech with real world struggle. There are undoubtedly many layers to this tale, so pick it up now before the rich buy all the damn issues and you’re left hauling grain.