Thee Comic Column #47: Rucka, Lark & Arcas’ LAZARUS

Lazarus_1In last week’s column I talked about Boom! Studio’s Day Men, a book that is based around the idea of multiple Vampire families and how they co-exist in the world at large. This week’s topic is another book that has the concept of family at its core. Lazarus is written by Greg Rucka, drawn and lettered by Michael Lark and colored by Santi Arcas. It is published by Image Comics and it hit the stands a few weeks back with one of the best first issues I’ve seen in a while.

The inside front cover of issue one offers a brief introduction to the world Lazarus takes place in, a world where financial power is now the only power. Where politics and geography have given in to the trump of wealth. And with Wealth comes the idea of legacy: those with the money are designated by Familial attributes, tribes that intend to maintain their legacy and power through the passage of time. And who could blame them? If (when) the demarcations of the society we have pretended at since the establishment and spread of western civilization have finally been disregarded I’m sure those left in a position of Wealth will have seen enough to learn their lesson: nothing lasts forever. Or at least, not unless you partition yourself off and establish agents to help protect what is yours. In the world of Lazarus the families choose one of their own and spare no expense in training and educating them with every possible tactical advantage for defending and propagating their bloodline’s status. The result is the titular role, the Lazarus of the family. A military leader, a figurehead of violence and defense; strength and judgment. A one man army. Or in the case of our book, a one woman army.

The Family Carlyle’s Lazarus is named Forever – Eve for short. As we come into the story we see that Forever has some issues with the responsibilities of her position. For one, you may be asking if everything breaks down to powerful families, where the heck is everybody else? Well, as we get to follow Forever we see how her role breaks down and what she deals with. Seems the Family system is predicated on a something history has seen before: the Feudal system of the Middle Ages. At one point we’re shown that some of the aggressors that Forever has dealt with recently are ‘undocumented’. What we learn this means is each family takes responsibility for the residents of its own domain, as long as they’re documented. Later, we see that this breaks down into what appears to be a rough cast system. When Forever is called to business at the Family Carlyle’s Harvest One operation (a farm)  in California’s San Joaquin Valley, we’re given a breakdown of the area’s population: Family – 2 (temporary); Serfs – 512; Waste – 32,500 (estimated). So there’s family, or the “Haves”; there’s Serfs which are the “Have Nots” – the work force and more than likely the “tolerated” based on the way we see a betrayal handled near the end of the book. Finally there’s the “Waste” which is more than likely exactly what it sounds like. Whether “Waste” is “Undocumented” remains to be seen because one of the many things the book does right is dole out information when it is needed, not all at once. And it does not do this in  gangly and awkward expository dialogue. Instead we get information, in this case these population statistics, as a point of reference concerning the situation we are about to witness.

This is graceful and efficient, and it clears the way for other nuances and prevents there being an overabundance of text on any given page. This in turn lets Michael Lark’s art really perform functional aspects of the story, not just graphically appealing ones (although there’s plenty of those as well). Narratives that successfully pull this off are always a complete joy to me because I like to find out new things as we go along. Surprises. Perhaps the best ever example of this is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which in some instances takes hundreds of pages and a LOT of story and character development before you even realize the condition the North America of that particular world. And thus far in Lazarus there’s a similar logic at work, one where I’m not one hundred percent certain exactly where all the pieces stand on the board, but I’m also not confused. The book is unfolding in an approximation of real-time, not in a constructed narrative one. This immediately makes Lazarus a book I’m excited about.

Really excited about.

And I suppose I’m not the only one excited about it, because I picked it up on a whim a couple weeks ago, and apparently I was lucky to do so, because issue #2 appears to have sold out immediately and I’ve still not gotten a copy of it yet. This, ladies and gentlemen, is quite painful, as Lazarus is yet another book that has uncharacteristically led me to re-read it several times since buying it, waiting anxiously for the next issue, and the next, and the next. Not because of a cliff hanger ending, but because I am just so damn fascinated by the blue prints of the world the Rucka and Lark have created here.

………………

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

 

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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