Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lazarus, Vol.1 – “Family” (Image)

Writer: Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark, w. Stefano Gaudiano & Brian Level | Colors: Santi Arcas

Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family.

In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains.

Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever’s day goes downhill from there...

Collects: Lazarus #1-4 & “Family: Prelude”

Prior to this, I was perhaps most familiar with Rucka’s first two, excellent Punisher volumes (must remember to finish off that series at some point). On the strength of just those books, I knew I wanted to read more of his work. That’s when I started to read and hear about Lazarus. As soon as this collection was available, I snapped it up and read it in one sitting. All I can say is that the hype is justified. While short, this is a very strong beginning.

The story opens with a pretty long, brutal scene that gives us an eye-popping, wince-inducing introduction to the nature of a Lazarus:


Despite the above attempted-murder, Forever has plenty of… gumption left in her, and isn’t averse to doling out her blunt Family Justice:


Over the course of these four issues, we learn about Forever’s psyche – she is unsure about the society in which she lives. She feels disconnected from her family, uncomfortable with her purpose, her nature. One gets the feeling that she’s headed for a break with the Family. It’s going to be an explosive journey, I’m sure.

The book offers a short, tantalizing taste of the Lazarus world, the dystopia controlled by a select few Mafia-on-steroids-like families. We’re not overburdened with world-building, but Rucka gives us just enough in the story to get situated, leaving breadcrumbs for us to follow and keep us guessing and get us hooked. This book is a perfect example of how comics can be used to show us new worlds and stories, without resorting to telling (which I still find strangely common for a visual medium). Forever is sent to parlay with a rival family, the Morrays. We learn through her mission that there is at least one other Lazarus, a member of the Morray family. They have met before, and share a deep affinity for each other’s situation and understanding of their lives – given their nature who else, really, could related? Meanwhile, Forever’s family members, her “brothers and sisters”, are plotting against her, each other, and their father. This does not bode well for the future.


The pacing is fast but not rushed. It’s a dystopian world, the families appear in total control of the Americas, in a neo-feudal system that benefits the Families, while everyone else is categorised as either “Serfs” or “Waste”. It’s the argument against tyranny and the 1% writ large, exaggerated into a truly crushing social order.

Overall, this book is really quite excellent. I would have preferred a bit more world-building, sure, but I have a feeling this will be unrolled slowly and when necessary over the course of the series. The book is rather slim in length, which might leave people dissatisfied. I certainly would have liked more, but I see why the story was stopped here for the first volume. I can’t wait to read Volume 2. It’s not difficult to see why it has received so much praise. Very highly recommended, but if you need your comics more substantial in length, you may want to wait until the second collection is released/available before diving in them both together.


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