Review: Lazarus Volume 1: Family & Volume 2: Lift by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Lazarus Volume 1: Family
By Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Image Comics
Released October 9, 2013
106 pages
Comics / Dystopia / Badass Ladies

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Eisner-winning team of Rucka and Lark's critically acclaimed new series about 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 and previously only-available-online, four-page short, "Family: Prelude.”

Lazarus Volume 2: Lift
By Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Image Comics
Released June 24, 2014
106 pages
Comics / Dystopia / Badass Ladies

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

While Forever keeps watch on her sister Johanna, she finds hints of rebellion brewing in LA. 

At the same time, the Barrets, a family of "Waste," lose their home and land, and must pursue their only chance for a better life - a 500-mile journey to Denver in the hope that one of their family will be noticed by the Carlyles and "lifted" to Serf status. 

Collecting LAZARUS #5-9

I think Greg Rucka is solely responsible for getting me into comics as an adult, particularly superhero comics. I’d heard awesome things about his short run on Batwoman and took a chance. I adored it, not only for the badass action, but the subtle character moments that made Kate Kane a human besides a crazy vigilante. Also JH Williams III’s art was beyond mesmerizing. So I picked up some more comics. Some were hits, but many were misses, especially the ones revolving around a female protagonist.

But I could also go back to Greg Rucka and trust that he would make fully formed women, whether it be in Queen & Country or Lady Sabre & the Pirates of Ineffable Aether or something else. So I was really happy when our local comic book club picked a series of his I hadn’t ever read because it was still an on-going title and a fairly young one at that.

Lazarus takes place in a dystopian future where the world has been carved out amongst all-powerful families. These families control the world’s resources – money, food, transportation, the ability to better yourself in the world, everything. Each of the ruling families has a Lazarus, someone of the family who has been given genetic modifications to become the protector and bodyguard, maintaining the family’s security and power. Forever is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family, who controls all the land west of the Mississippi River and possibly the country’s food supplies.

Volume 1, titled Family, introduces use to Forever and her family of conniving siblings and her father. Forever is a strong woman, able to take on gangs of men in hand to hand combat, while also having a tactian’s head on her shoulders. She’s also near immortal, capable from recovering quickly from gunshot wounds and what would otherwise be mortal wounds. When her family’s seed storage is attacked, she’s tasked by her father to get to the bottom of it and make a deal to prevent future attacks, while some of her siblings have nefarious plans of their own.

The second volume, Lift, brings in a concurrent story line regarding a Waste family – poor farmers in the Midwest who lose everything to flooding. They travel hundreds of miles to attend a Lift ceremony hosted by the Carlyle family in hopes their children can obtain a better station in life. Meanwhile Forever is facing challenges to the family’s honor from the inside and out.

Michael Lark’s art brought the story to life for me. There’s entire spreads of fight sequences with no dialogue and no pesky sound effects. Rather than be lifeless, this lack of cheesy “Smacks”, “Kablaams” and “Whomps” made the images flow more freely for me, turning these sequences into silent movies in my head. It’s not often I read an action comic where I can read it so quickly because the words and the art merge so seamlessly into one another.

The world building Lazarus is a bit sparse in these first two volumes, though a lot of extra material seems to be in the omnibus version, including a time line of how the world got this way. I hope to see that additional information built into future volumes though because it’s an interest political situation that Rucka has created that could have rich story telling through flashbacks. Meanwhile the plot of these two volumes zips by and makes me want more. The characters are compelling, though some of the Carlyle children are a bit difficult to tell apart (though possibly on purpose).

Forever is a badass, but flashbacks to her childhood add great depth and emotion to her as a person. She’s not an adroit killing machine, despite implications that she might not be completely biologically created. In a short time, she feels fully formed, but still with a lot of mystery to who she truly is. Some of her decisions seem a little strange, but I have confidence that Rucka has his reasons rather than just for convenience of plot.

Lazarus is a definite winner for anyone that enjoys comics about women who are three dimension with emotions while still kicking ass. These first two volumes are quick reads with intriguing characters and I definitely look forward to reading more about them and this brutal world that they live in.