Lazarus: Volume 1 (2013)

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-Review by Paul Ewbank-

I’ve said it before, but I really, really love Image Comics, and if you think you might like original, adult graphic novels more than recycled stories about guys in spandex then you should probably check out some of their titles too. As far as I can tell their business plan is basically to attract new, creative writers and artists and then let them do whatever the hell they want. The latest success to come from this is the dystopian action comic Lazarus, courtesy of writer Greg Rucka and artists Michael Lark and Santi Arcas. Though not quite up there with the best of Image like Proof or Prophet, the first volume of Lazarus marks the title as one to watch for fans of post apocalyptic/dystopian media.

It is the near future and the world is run not by countries or companies but by ultra-rich Families who control huge portions of the globe and hold their own private wars for dominance while the rest of the world starves. Each family has their own seemingly immortal protector or “Lazarus” to protect their interests and do the dirty work, and this volume follows the story of the Carlyle family Lazarus Forever. As in, her name is Forever, not it follows her for all time. Yeah, that confused me a bit at first. Why are they saying forever at the end of every sentence? Oh, gotcha. Anyway, as the bodyguard of this family of evil power-mongering assholes Forever spends her time fending off starving peasants (referred to as ‘Waste’) and executing suspected traitors before being sent to negotiate with a rival family, unaware that her brothers and sisters back home haven’t exactly got her best interests at heart either.

Forever Carlyle is basically every action protagonists you’ve ever seen in this kind of world before. She’s Alice and Summer Glao and Black Widow and that female terminator and a dozen others- brooding, emotionless, lethal in a fight and, of course, smokin’ hot. It is very heavily implied from early on that she isn’t exactly human- often referred to as being ‘built’ rather than born- and could well be a cyborg or genetically engineered superwoman or some other virtually indestructible killing machine. If she has one thing that sets her apart from the pack it’s her naivety- she totally trusts her family members and follows their orders without question. We’ll see how long that lasts in the coming volumes. Main characters tend not to remain on the bad guys side for too long in my experience. Having only read the first volume I’m still fairly sure I can map out Forever’s trajectory with some accuracy.

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This issue of being a tad generic is present in other aspects of the comic too, but its early days yet. The setting and plot so far seem fairly standard but with a few interesting tweaks to keep things feeling new. A lot of the details haven’t been revealed yet, like how the world came to be how it is, or the true nature of what a Lazarus is. There are plenty of unanswered questions and thus plenty of opportunity for Rucka to surprise us by going against conventions, in which case having Volume 1 set things up fairly traditionally will be understandable. Maybe my prediction are totally off, which would be nice since I never like knowing where a story is going to finish when we’ve only just got going.

As long as you don’t mind the fact that you’ve seen most of it before, Volume 1 of Lazarus is still a lot of fun. The action is great, and very stylish- an early action scene is drawn without any of the indicators of motion or sound usually found in graphic novels (movement lines or the BAM! sound effects), making it feel like looking at still photographs of the carnage rather than seeing it firsthand. The art quality overall is great- very dusty and washed out but with some vivid splashes of gore and a genuinely pretty sunset scene. The writing is sharp and believable (although both me and Liz found the rather questionable use of bold emphasis in the text to be a bit distracting), and the pacing is fast enough to keep you flicking through the pages. Now that I’m sitting here writing this review I don’t have as much to say about Lazarus as I thought I would- it’s a well made post-apocalyptic action thriller that will appeal to any fans of the kind of stuff this website covers, and is poised to take the genre to a number of new places. So far it’s nothing to rewrite the genre, despite making the same old ideas feel as fresh and lively as they ever have, but I reckon this is one post-apocalyptic wasteland to definitely keep an eye on.

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