Comic Review: Lazarus: The First Collection
Lazarus: The First Collection
Review by Christopher Blieka
Author: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Illustrator: Santiago Arcas
The much anticipated Lazarus hardcover has finally been released, collecting the first nine chapters in the series, and it would be worth every penny if I had not already purchased and voraciously consumed every single monthly issue. At least that’s how I feel (mostly because I’m broke). But I’m not the only comic reader on the internet, so when I write a review, it is my sworn duty to consider the good of the whole. Assuming that collections are largely aimed at two types of reader: 1) waiting-for-the-trade punks (where were you when we needed you, Johnny Come-Lately?) and 2) hardcore collectivist fans, let’s see what this collection has to offer.
For the uninitiated, here are the basics. Corporations rule the Earth, replacing nation states. The world’s population is divided into three groups: 1) Family, the ruling elite of the corporations and this world’s equivalent to royalty, 2) Serf, employees of the corporations and this world’s middle class, and 3) Waste, everyone else. The vast majority of the population lives in eternal poverty with no power and no hope of escape; forever at the mercy of an indifferent ruling Family. Each Family has a Lazarus, a champion of sorts made superhuman by the best proprietary technology money can buy. Their job is to represent and defend their Family, from the Waste and from each other. Our story is about the Carlyle Family Lazarus, Forever Carlyle, and it begins the moment after she gets shot to death (I’d say more, but that would be telling).
There’s too much story to summarize here. All you need to know is… it’s good. Really good. If Shakespearean royal family intrigue in a dystopian future with super human warriors and a little social commentary mixed in doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will. The best part about it is all the twists and changes in tone. It can be happy and charming and then incredibly sad and then truly horrifying. It has great action and intimately quiet moments. Characters you hate suddenly become relatable. There’s a real sense of mystery, too. Neither we the audience nor the characters we’re watching can see the full picture, and I can’t wait to see where all the roads lead.
And then there’s Forever. I cannot say enough about Forever. I love her. She’s everything Wonder Woman can be, but so rarely gets the chance to be. She’s the Silk Spectre that Zack Snyder, sadly, completely failed to capture. She’s a dark-haired Amazonian woman of beauty, strength, and complexity. In some moments she is single-minded and ruthless; in others she is reluctant but determined to serve. She can be deeply introspective with moral guilt, and then humanly confused and vulnerable. She’s also a total badass. Most impressively, none of these things feel like they conflict with each other. Bravo! Plus I think her biceps are hot. Is that weird?
Like all the characters in Lazarus there is so much to Forever Carlyle, and everything from her clothes to her words to the way she stands evokes something about her – a level of characterization rarely achieved. A great deal of this greatness comes from the writing, but the rest comes from the art team. Greg Rucka seems to gravitate to a certain kind of artist (speaking from the whopping two series I’ve read by him). The worlds are dirty and detailed, and the art itself has an almost (for lack of a better word) impressionist quality – full of visible brush strokes and blots of color, adding a very textured look to the piece. They also love deep, dark shadows.
Another thing is the panels themselves. It has become increasingly popular to blend or break out of traditional rectangular panels wherever possible. But Lazarus sticks to rigidly rectangular panels. They seem to want to keep the number of panels per page low, preferring large, very detailed pictures. The style is cinematic and sweeping, emphasizing the scope of the world we are seeing. The world building is phenomenal, and the passion and effort the creative team put into the lore of this universe shows in every image. Immersive doesn’t begin to describe it. It truly is something special and if you’re new to this series I can’t recommend it enough.
(to the left: The Exception vs The Rule)
But what if you know all this already? What if you already have every issue of Lazarus currently in print, maybe even a patch or two? Should you buy this collection? What does it offer you, O’ seasoned traveler? Well, the comments section is gone, and thus all of the interesting discussion and Rucka rants, which is sad; and while it does have all of the Family bios and timelines and fictional advertisements collected in one place, if you have the issues you have all that already.
What this collection does have that you might not is variant cover art, and some cool insights into the process of creating the series from the creative team. And there’s one more thing that the issues don’t have: a map of the world as it is divided amongst the families, so the smitten reader can really see how this tragic world fits together. But, if you’re a hardcore reader, you’re already aware of these features and pre-ordered your copy months ago, so why am I still selling you?
Final conclusion? If you have the issues already, there’s not too much extra in this volume. If you must have every bit of the Laza-verse you can get your hands on (and I don’t blame you), go ahead and get it. If you’re new to this series or have been waiting for a collection like this, for the love of God, hurry up and buy this already. I promise you won’t regret it.
*DISCLAMIER: I am in no way legally or morally responsible for any regret you may experience after purchasing this book.*
Review: 6 (out of 7)