REVIEW: Lazarus #16

Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark and Tyler Boss (“artifact” pages by Owen Freeman and Eric Trautman)
Letters: Jodi Wynne
Colors: Santi Arcas
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: April 22, 2015

I became aware of Lazarus late in its current run – around issue 11 – but immediately I knew there was something special about this book. As such, I went back and read every issue I could get my hands on, which means every issue  released to date. Rucka and Lark have created a world full of political intrigue and multifaceted characters, as well as a story with depth and a surprising amount of heart.

Following Forever’s decision to let Jonah live, a direct defiance of her father’s orders and Jakob Hock’s furious denial of stealing the Family Carlyle’s gene technology, both houses now stand on the brink of war. The ramifications of which will surely shake the remains of an already ravaged world.

This issue, like a few before it, shifts the focus away from the plutocratic families and focuses on the periphery; specifically Sister Bernard and the espionage work she does for the Family Carlyle so that she and her order may continue to conduct their mission of charity and help those classified as Waste. Rucka’s ability to present us with this feudal society, that sustains itself on the backs of the outcast at the pleasure of a petty and brutal aristocracy, draws strength from the complex characters that populate it.

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Sister Bernard, like a lot of real flesh and blood people, is motivated as much by self-interest as she is by altruism. Her desperation to live, or perhaps merely survive, is palpable. Coupled with the assignment that she’s been given by the elder Carlyle, I expect that she will play a major role if not in the next arc directly at least in the events of that arc.

In spite of this issue’s attention on Bernard, we also get an idea of how the world came to be in such a state of rampant despotism. After the North American Dissolution War, something that still hasn’t been explained in great detail, there was an influenza pandemic. There are some hints that the war and the viral outbreak followed some other more devastating occurrence, by way of the “X+(N) years” formula, where X is the event and N is the year(s) after the event. Whatever the case, the families had some power either immediately before it or very soon thereafter, as it appears that Hock R&D was responsible for not only developing but releasing the H7N11 M A Influenza Virus that made rebuilding society as it was all but impossible.  Lazarus_16_insert_2

The pacing here is a departure from other issues in the series, in that it is much slower than in previous books. Combined with an unusual prevalence of introspection ( at least for this series) and some may find this issue a slog to get through. At times I did, but not so much so that I felt bored at any time. Only that it felt as if I had to wait for the payoff a little longer than I have before – and a satisfying payoff it was, one that has some serious implications for the rest of the series.

Lark continues to impress me with his art; his technique is perfect for a post-apocalyptic world that’s decayed at the edges but maintains at least a semblance of civilization at its center. However superfluous that semblance may be, ultimately. That view of a world gone mostly to pot is cemented by Arcas’ liberal use of darker tones alternated with splashes of color, the former usually outside the confines of family compounds, the latter generally within those compounds.
If you aren’t already reading this series, let me be the first (though certainly not the last) to tell you that you are missing out on one fantastic comic book.

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