Lazarus #1 by Greg Rucka – Double Review [Bane of Kings/Shadowhawk]
Bane of Kings and Shadowhawk review the first issue of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s new creator-owned series from Image Comics.
“An excellent first issue; Greg Rucka’s Lazarus is something that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“Violence. Introspection. Honour. Family. All in a handful of pages from Rucka and drawn beautifully by Lark. This is definitely a series to watch out for.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Bane of Kings:
Art: Michael Lark | Colours: Santi Arcas | Letters: Michael Lark | Cover: Michael Lark
#1 – “FAMILY,” Part One
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….
I’ll admit, I only picked up the first issue of Lazarus on a bit of a whim because, for whatever reason, Uncanny X-Men #7 hadn’t turned up at my local store on the shipping date that it was meant to. Sure, I’d displayed interest in it before – especially given that awesome cover, but, having not encountered either Rucka or Lark before, I was a bit unsure as to where this would go. As it turns out, I really enjoyed it. This is a comic that, like Aphrodite IX and The Wake, is somewhat out of my comfort zone, and this ends up being one of it’s main strength, allowing for a refreshing break from men and women in spandex saving the world. The cheaper price-tag really helps as well.
Unlike my previous review, where I mentioned that I haven’t read any Top Cow books before, I have a fair amount of experience from Image (mainly due to a large portion of their #1s provided for free on Comixology), and from what I can tell – I haven’t been let down by any of them as yet. Indeed, Image are probably my favourite independent publishers at the moment, and Lazarus has certainly given me another title to add to my pullist, as this issue was superb, really setting what I hope is the tone for the rest of the series to follow.
The central character to this book is featured on the front cover, really well designed by Michael Lark’s incredible artwork – appropriately named Forever. She is a very interesting character to watch, and from the outset it becomes clear that she’s pretty much against everybody that she meets, with her family thinking that her reluctance to kill is a weakness that should be cured through technology, whilst everyone who’s not her family seems to dislike her because of where she came from – a life of prosperity. She’s the antithesis to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games – who’s from a poor background, and gains respect from the crowd pretty quickly, in fact – the only thing that they have in common is that they’re the lead female characters in a book, and are reluctant to kill. It’ll be very interesting to see how Forever develops, and given time, I’m sure she can become a memorable lead character, especially when Lark’s artwork is as spectacular on the inside as it is on the outside.
The reason that I was comparing this book to The Hunger Games was probably only because they share a dystopian setting, but this book is great at exploring a world ravaged by endless war as opposed to children beating each other to death for the entertainment of others – and presents a very bleak future indeed.
Having never read any of Rucka’s work, I now feel compelled to read as much by him as possible – I really want to hunt down his No Man’s Land and Gotham Central, both of which titles have been on my to read list for a while and if his work in Lazarus is anything to go by, then they should be equally impressive. If you haven’t picked up Lazarus #1 earlier this week because Marvel and DC had decided to release everything they possibly could in one week, then I highly suggest you do so – it’s an incredible title, and if its progress continues, it could become one of my favourite comics of the year.
It’s certainly put any future Image #1s that will debut this year under my radar for sure.
My only prior experience with Rucka’s work is the first volume of his Wolverine run. And that was a really enjoyable six issues, certainly a lot better than some of the recent Wolverine stuff I’ve read, like the first three issues of First X-Men and the first two issues of Savage Wolverine. With Michael Lark however, this is the first time I’ve seen his artwork. After going through Lazarus #1 however, I’m definitely a fan in the making, and I’m hoping that Lark can continue being as good as he was on this first issue with the next few.
And when it comes to Image themselves, I’ve only read three of their titles (Saga – awesome, Higher Earth – so-so, and Planetoid – quite good). Unless we count the Top Cow titles such as Witchblade and The Darkness, given that the publishing credit is shared between the two, with Top Cow being an independent imprint of Image. But yeah, with “Image-only” titles, I’m not familiar beyond the ones I’ve already mentioned. And as part of my drive to branch out of superhero comics/Star Wars more, picked up Lazarus. One, the cover is really good, and as it turns out, it reflects the mood and tone of the internals really well. Second, its a Rucka title, and after Wolverine, I’m always on to try more from him.
With this being a first issue, we see only a slice of this post-apocalyptic setting in which crime families rule the the country, most of which is now just wasteland. Forever, or Eve for short, is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family and she is essentially their best fighter, the one who is supposed to represent their best foot forward in all respects. But nothing is as it seems, because Forever has been cursed with a moral compass and this has lately begun to get in the way of her duties. Without Forever’s knowledge, the Carlyle family is aware of this and they are not pleased at all. So steps need to be taken.
Lazarus #1 gives a tantalising view of Forever’s daily life and the violent politics and daily happenstance of this new world. The book is full of small moments that capture Forever’s character and give us, the reader(s) an insight into what makes her tick and how she feels about her work. The way Rucka has written the book, there is undoubtedly going to be an… outburst soon, possibly as soon as next issues, since things are heating up for her and there is a family war that is threatening to erupt between the Carlyles and one of their biggest rivals.
Lark’s art, for the most part, is some of the best I’ve seen. There is an occasional moment where things are not quite up to the mark and the pencils are indistinct, but such moments are few and far in between. They certainly don’t away all that much from the overall effect of the book. The book has a dark tone throughout, given that there is a lot of violence here, and the setting itself is a near-future post-apocalyptic one, so that lends itself well to the artwork.
Both Rucka and Lark have made a good impression on me with this issue, and I’m looking forward to more.