With a winning writer-artist combination, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s “Lazarus” #1 bursts onto the scene, guns blazing, for its debut issue. The story kicks off in the thick of action with Forever Carlyle’s apparent demise, though the odds are not as stacked as they first appear; for Rucka, it seems, dead women tell the most interesting tales. Rooted in a world not far removed from our own, “Lazarus” is simple yet profound in its storytelling and style.
From the outset, Rucka sets Forever in opposition to just about everyone she meets. Her Family believes her regret for killing is a weakness and deigns it appropriate to “fix” her through technology; the Family’s staff and the roguish Waste despise her for her privilege and her stoic appearance. Though these seem to be acceptable reactions within this world as it’s established, Forever’s alienation feels total as she fails to connect with those around her. Her aloneness makes for a much more sympathetic character, so that the reader to become emotionally invested in her from the very beginning.
Likewise, Rucka toys with the concept of human nature through Forever’s characterization. The first two pages effectively prove that she may be more technological than natural, in that she cannot suffer the most human fate of all: death. In her regeneration, she becomes more like a Terminator than a specialized soldier. However, she’s arguably the most humanized member of the Family so far; for instance, her doctor deems her emotional response to death unusual and she shows hesitation to kill later on in the issue. This dichotomy poses some interesting questions that I hope will be addressed later on in the series.
Lark’s art compliments Rucka’s characters, bringing them to life through little details. For example, Lark particularly defines Forever’s abs and arm muscles, depicting her as the soldier she’s meant to be. On the other hand, her brother Jonah appears in a business suit with his hair slicked back, looking for all the world like an oily CEO. On sight, though the differences between the characters are clear, they both project a sense of power through their clothes, their stances, and even in their facial expressions. Additionally, colorist Santi Arcas employs mostly blues, blacks, and grays to show the sanitary nature of the Family facilities, how removed they are from the much brighter outside world that the Family staff and Waste inhabit. The art and colors work well together to show the division between the Family and the non-Family.
Although the overall story flows clearly and lucidly, a little confusion occurs in the narration over the opening pages. There’s a point at which it’s hard to tell who is speaking as Forever describes her takedown of the Waste she encountered in her Family’s guesthouse. This would have been clearer had the dialogue boxes been color-coded to the speaker, at least for the first few pages. However, aside from that, the book is beautifully laid out; the format is simple and effective.
“Lazarus” #1 opens with Forever’s rebirth; readers don’t get to see more than her silhouette until she is resurrected in blood and fury, as if to show the break between her past and present self. With her, we start anew, exploring her world through a set of contradictions, watching as she’s pulled between her duty to her Family and her conscience. “Lazarus” is an absolutely riveting, complex and stunning new series.