Review: Lazarus Vol. 3 – Conclave by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Lazarus Volume 3Conclave is the third volume in Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s sci-fi epic Lazarus, and the series continues to fire on all cylinders, seamlessly blending fascinating world-building with character development, and a labyrinth plot. There’s been a resurgence of science fiction in recent years – Black Science, Copperhead, Saga, to name just a few – but Lazarus is in a class of its own.

For those who came in late, Lazarus takes place on a world divided by wealth rather than political or geographical boundaries. Sixteen families control various locations; some are allied, others have uneasy alliances, while some function with outright hostility. Those who provide a service for a family are protected and ‘lifted’ to the status of Serf, which guarantees them, and their loved ones, a level of comfort and care unattainable for the rest of the population, who are left to fend for themselves: thus their designation, Waste.

Forever is the genetically engineered protector of the Carlyle family – their Lazarus – who, following events in the series’ first two volumes, is beginning to question her familial alliance, and at an inopportune time, too, as the first conclave between the world’s 16 families has been called in order to repair the seemingly irrevocable conflict between the Family Carlyle and the Family Hock. The families meet on the luxurious Triton One, where negotiations quickly descend into violence, and Forever is forced into undesirable action against a fellow Lazarus. In the past, that wouldn’t be a problem: she is the Family Carlyle’s sword, it is her duty to fulfil her father’s wishes. But does Forever still believe in the veracity of her obligation?

Rucka and Lark are again in fine form. One quickly runs out of superlatives in this reviewing business, but these creators deserve them. Rucka’s an expert at removing all exposition and letting his artist portray what needs to be, and Lark never disappoints. Conclave is yet another display of their brilliant partnership. However long Lazarus lasts, it won’t be long enough. I want this team together for the long haul.

Maintaining its nuanced approach, Lazarus, Vol. 3: Conclave maintains the series’ momentum. I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you haven’t jumped aboard the Lazarus train, you need to. We’ll be talking about it for the next few decades as it secures placements in umpteen “Best Of” lists. Don’t miss out.

Review: Lazarus, Vol 2 – Lift by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Lazarus Vol 2Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s LAZARUS takes place in a future conceivably (and worryingly) not too far away. The world is no longer divided by political or geographical boundaries; wealth now defines territorial borders, and that power rests with only a handful of families. Those who provide a service for a family are protected and ‘lifted’ to the status of Serf, which guarantees them, and their loved ones, a level of comfort and care unattainable for the rest of the population left to fend for themselves: they are known as Waste.

The first volume of the series introduced Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus – or genetically engineered protector – of her family. Uniquely talented and skilled with a variety of weaponry, we witnessed the first cracks in Forever’s commitment to her cause despite a lifetime of programming. I expected LIFT to widen those cracks, and tighten its focus on Forever and her actions – and while it does, it also expands the world previously established, and introduces the Barrett family: Waste who lost everything in a storm, and who know their only hope of survival lies with Lift selection in Denver. Their story parallels Forever’s investigation into a possible terrorist attack on the day of the Lift, and coalesce expertly in the final act.

It’s always difficult assessing individual volumes of an ongoing story. By their nature, these stories are ‘in progress,’ so it’s difficult to have the perspective to properly critique it. LIFT seems less focused on Rucka and Lark’s over-arching series narrative, and instead exists as a standalone story, a perfect snapshot of this world they have created. The character moments sprinkled throughout are memorable for their severity: we glimpse flashbacks to Forever’s youth, and the physical and psychological challenges she endured, all in a hopeless quest to earn her father’s love. And the Barrett’s gruelling journey to Denver doesn’t come without loss. Whether we’ll see the Barrett’s again in the series is indeterminable at this stage – I have a hunch they’ll disappear for a while and return in a later volume, rather than become part of the regular cast.

LAZARUS is the kind of sci-fi I love; grimy and gritty, in the dirt rather than in the skies. Lark’s artwork is perfect for the tale. Nobody executes such perfectly choreographed action scenes in all of comics, and Rucka knows better than to clutter these pages with captions or dialogue. Indeed, that’s the script’s greatest strength: Rucka refrains from obnoxious captions and inner-monologues. The reader is left to ascertain character motivations from dialogue and facial expressions alone. More writers need to have faith in their readers.

If FAMILY hinted at it, LIFT confirms it: LAZARUS is one of the finest comics on the shelves, two creators working in perfect harmony to produce something very special indeed. I’ll see you in around six months for Volume 3.

Review: Lazarus (Vol 1) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

LazarusGreg Rucka’s run on DETECTIVE COMICS in the early 2000s was seminal, and his subsequent work on titles such as THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, WOLVERINE, THE PUNISHER and WONDER WOMAN pushed him into the highest echelon of mainstream comic writers. His independent comics work – QUEEN & COUNTRY and STUMPTOWN in particular – accentuated his status, and early signs indicate that LAZARUS is going to cement him there for ever.

Versatility is an underrated quality in a writer and Greg Rucka has it in spades. Not only is he a master of two mediums – check out his  Atticus Kodiak prose  series if you’re looking for some Jack Reacher-esque action – but his narratives, despite often sharing similar themes (a strong female lead chief among them) there’s a clear disparity between each one. LAZARUS is nothing like Rucka’s other comics work – but it nevertheless feels very much like a Rucka-penned tale, which is definitely a positive.

Volume One of LAZARUS introduces us to the new world. We don’t when this is taking place or how the world came to be so messed up – perhaps that information will trickle down over time, perhaps not, it’s not really the point – but what we do know is that the world is now divided by financial power players. Wealthy families define geographic boundaries, and in each family there is a Lazarus – a warrior – who is a tangible representation of the each family’s financial capability. LAZARUS is the story about the lazarus from the Carlyle Family. Her name is Forever – and from the very beginning we discover she has doubts about her imposed destiny; doubts that will likely fester throughout the series (the length of which is so far undetermined, readers beware; you might be in for five volumes or 35!).

Rucka is partnered by an art team consisting of Michael Lark and Santi Arcas, who have worked in tandem to create something very special indeed. Lark has a realistic style, which makes LAZARUS easily digestible for those unfamiliar with graphic storytelling. The page layouts are simple but effective – this might be some of Lark’s best work since his run on DAREDEVIL for Marvel Comics in the mid-2000s.

This first volume of LAZARUS serves as a solid introduction to the chief characters and the world they inhabit, and comes highly recommended.