"Lazarus" #12 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark is primarily a suspense-building issue. Rucka is holding the cards to his chest closely, and only drops a few clues to the outcome of the Conclave. While the speed of the plot slows, "Lazarus" #12 is intricately constructed, full of character moments and rich world-building details.
In the opening scene, Malcolm discusses strategy with his secretary Arthur. Their talk feels natural and appropriately timed, but it also allows Rucka to give the reader a run-down of some of the other major players at the Conclave and their positions and the stakes of the game.
When Sonja and Forever practice sparring and kill some time before preparing for the Ball, Rucka and Lark also introduce another Lazarus, Xolani of the Nkosi family. The scene builds on what the reader has seen already. The earlier bonding between Joachim and Forever could be credited towards the sparks between them, but Forever's interactions with Sonja and Xolani reinforce the idea that the Lazari have more similarities than differences between them.
Forever's interactions with other Lazari are the only comic or joyful moments in "Lazarus" #12. Their mutual politeness, respect and regard for each other feel genuine, even while they know that they may be pitted against each other soon. The newest Lazarus, Captain Cristof MÃ¼eller, is the exception, but in "Lazarus" #12, it feels ironic that the Lazari function as human weapons. Their humanity shines more brightly than the rest of their families combined.
Rucka navigates the mood changes in "Lazarus" #12 with expert skill, moving from a scene of horsing around to one of understated horror without a missed beat. Lark's body language is splendid, especially for Forever's embarrassment wearing her evening gown and Jonah's forlorn gaze out Hock's window. The reaction shots in the dance floor scene are also wordlessly spot-on. Lark's artwork in "Lazarus" #12 us assisted by Tyler Boss. Whatever the nature of the assists, the art in this issue does not suffer or deviate much from Lark's usual style.
The art team also does superb work with the scenes in Jacob Hock. While not making a point of it, the interaction between Hock and his people are skin-crawlingly creepy because of his explicit dominance of them and the sexual undertones to his words and gestures. Unlike the other heads of families, Hock doesn't have a patrician's gentlemanly air. While Hock has brains, the reader is more struck by his body. Without the aid of smell or sound, Lark and Boss are able to convey Hock's decay and degeneracy purely through visuals, evoking disgust and unease. Rucka extends this insight into the man's character through his actions. There is nothing to admire about Jonah Carlyle, but Hock's treatment of him is chilling, and the reader can take no joy in how Jonah has suffered. Imperfect as the Carlyles are, Rucka has readers rooting for them as the better side, especially with Forever still in her family's ranks. All this tension funnels further into the anticipation of Hock's next move during the Conclave, and what Malcolm will do to counter.
Lark and Boss don't neglect the backgrounds either, and for "Lazarus" #12, this is more important than usual, because the climax of the issue is the wonderful dance scene. The Grand Ball is an arena of conspicuous consumption and display, hence Malcolm's attention to all of his family members' dress for the evening. Arcas' colors work well as usual too, especially when he adds in some vivid pops of gold, red and royal blue for the gala environment. Finally, the back matter and the imaginatively designed "ads" continue to be fun bonuses.
While it's well-done on many fronts, character development in "Lazarus" #12 is exceptional, particularly because so much of it is through the art. Hock is so gross the fact that his unwanted overture to Forever kicks up more dread than the facts of the cliffhanger. As a prelude to a Hock vs. Carlyle showdown and an opening move, "Lazarus" #12 is great storytelling, notable even considering Rucka and Lark's consistently strong work thus far on the series.