Friday, 17 July 2015

Lazarus, Volume 1: Family Review (Greg Rucka, Michael Lark)

America, sometime in the future. It’s a libertarian’s dream as the durn govm’t’s gone! Except society has devolved into a feudal-type state where ruling families control vast fiefdoms and the people are divided between the Serfs (who work for the families) and Waste (those who do not but live on their land).

Resources are scarce for everyone but the families. They keep control with the help of enforcers called Lazarus (what’s the plural – lazaruses? Lazarii?), a genetically enhanced member of the family who not only can’t die but possesses superhuman fighting abilities.

Forever Carlyle (what a wanky name!) is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family. War is about to erupt between the Carlyles and the neighbouring family, the Morays, and Forever is sent to negotiate peace. But conflict is brewing everywhere – particularly in her own home…

Gotham Central’s Greg Rucka and Michael Lark reunite for this dystopian sci-fi action story. I usually don’t like Rucka’s work so I was surprised to find Lazarus isn’t bad – though it still has its problems.

It’s pretty clear that Rucka’s script is heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s plays. There’s a Lady MacBeth-type character making power-plays within the Carlyle family; the head of the family is a bit like Lear at the start of that play; and Forever and the Moray Lazarus have a Romeo and Juliet-like forbidden love going on (“Two households, both alike in dignity”, etc. Carlyles/Capulets, Morays/Montagues).

That’s fine, I likes Billy Shakesman and culture too, but it only adds to the impression that this is a storyline that’s been done a million times before. Feuding families, Mafioso-type battles for power, messed-up future, ass-kicking, unstoppable heroine – seen it! Forever also suffers from Superman syndrome: she’s an invulnerable character who can’t be killed or stopped by anyone, so it’s really hard to create a tense storyline around them. What tension is there in seeing Forever go up against a squad of heavily-armed soldiers when we know she’ll beat them all easily?

And that’s the other thing: why does each family only have one Lazarus? Surely, given how deadly they are, the more the better? Maybe it’s a resources issue – each Lazarus does seem expensive and high-maintenance. But the families have private armies, all of whom are seem useless when going up against a Lazarus. Maybe get rid of those private armies and redirect the resources that would’ve gone into them into having one or two more Lazaruses for a major advantage? I’m sure Rucka’ll address why There Can Be Only One in a later book though (Queen’s Who Wants To Live Forever plays).

I can forgive Rucka for having an underdeveloped world because this is a first volume (and only four issues long at that) but, like his other books, Rucka imbues his story with the emotional resonance of a brick. Michael Lark’s art looks great but Rucka has him drawing gun battles, ‘splosions, and hand-to-hand fighting. It looks like a Roland Emmerich movie (big budget blandness).

Also, our heroine is a seemingly emotionless robot surrounded by evil 1%-ers who only want more, more, MORE because they’re the cartoonish bad guys. It’s tough to give a damn about anything that’s happening, not just because it looks like corny Hollywood action bullshit (with soap opera-style drama – that ending!), but because it’s near-impossible to connect with any of the characters.

This first book is borrowing elements from lots of sources though it seems to be beginning to make something different with them so I’ll stick with Rucka and Lark for now to see where they’re headed. Lazarus Volume 1 is slickly presented and mildly entertaining but don’t expect anything too special.

Lazarus, Volume 1: Family


  1. My reaction to Volume 1 exactly -- story has been done umpteen time before. As I read I envisioned this being a Western -- evil cattle barons battling neighbors for control of ever larger grazing land. I even envisioned the artwork for a major stampede. It's interesting but awfully unoriginal.

    1. I tried the second volume and the mediocrity became crappity.