The introductory arc of “Lazarus” focused on introducing the present-day Carlyle family and their activities. “Lazarus” #6 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark continues the second storyline, “Lift,” which gives a reader a glimpse of Forever’s unusual childhood and also a look at how the 99%, a.k.a. the Waste, live.
“Lazarus” #6 begins with the young Forever, or Eve as they called her then, training hard to meet her father’s expectations. Rucka’s voiceover is clever, cutting a conversation between Marisol and James over scenes of Forever’s development. Marisol comes across as sympathetic and emotionally significant for a character only recently introduced, while James remains an enigma with his cold scientist’s detachment and lack of visible feelings. Eve is cute, just like any other kid, and the transition back into the present-day is perfect. Forever’s reaction to the mysterious text she received shows her loyalty to and longing for family, drawing an unbroken line between the girl she was and the woman she is now.
In the next scene, Rucka writes a great exchange that subtly shows Joanna to be cruel and duplicitous. Joanna wears an air of wide-eyed blond innocence as she deliberately needles Forever with a line that Shakespeare’s Iago might have used, “I think it’s a stupid rule. Makes it seem like you’re not family.”
The rest of the issue is preoccupied with the Barrets and other Waste families trying to survive on less than nothing, and Forever’s response to their desperate actions. The characterization for so many characters in a small space is less successful. The dialogue is realistic, but so far they are defined by their suffering and status as Waste and register more as a class than as personalities.
Forever’s intelligence shines in “Lazarus” #6. Her tactics are those of a detective as well as those of a strongman. Rucka’s and Lark’s characterization for her continues to deepen, and their technique is impressive given the Forever’s quiet demeanor and relative lack of knowledge about herself and the world she lives in.
Lark’s art continues to have excellent body language, facial expressions and pacing. His silent panels sometimes often say more than those with dialogue, especially during the sequence in which Forever observes but has yet to act. Lark is a master of the nuances of posture, and can make Forever shift suddenly from looking vulnerable to appearing forceful and menacing. Even though Forever is a sympathetic protagonist, she’s also built to kill, and Rucka and Lark succeed at making the reader feel for her seeming quarries.
In “Lift,” Rucka and Lark are serious about telling a story with social implications instead of contenting themselves with entertaining their audience with the labyrinthine maneuvers of intra-family backstabbing and the delights of futuristic weapons and technology. It’s the perfect time to examine the effects of greater stratification between the 1% and the rest of us. As Rucka notes in the letters column, Oxfam recently released a report that the top 85 richest people are as wealthy as poorest half of the world. A dystopia in which the world is divided into Family and Waste isn’t a stretch, and it’s great to see Rucka and Lark engage with the serious meat of socioeconomic themes with all their formidable storytelling skills.