***POSSIBLE SPOILERS, READ WITH CAUTION***
The chances of me wanting to live in this run-down version of the U.S.: -0.0000010950493%
Besides writing incredible stories in either his mainstream DC/Marvel work or his own creator-owned work, I think that, like many others, I’ll always admire Greg Rucka for his treatment of women in comics. The guy has always written strong female characters without making them annoying, and strong in the sense of them kicking major ass without making them overpowered for the sake of, well, saying “GIRLS RULE, BOYS DROOL.” Much like any male character would, he writes them as having ambitions/goals, fears, tastes, a personality, etc. So pretty much like any real human being would be like. Or in the case of series protagonist Forever Carlyle, a not so human being. Hmm, yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment.
This comic is very much a study of main character Forever Carlyle and the way she operates as a genetically modified super-soldier. The comic opens beautifully with Forever taking a bullet (or four, er, five?) and then proceeding to curb stomp some intruder ass. It then shifts to her being healed, repaired, and getting a routine check up. And then there’s a few panels focusing on her emotions. Things ain’t lookin’ so good.
Forever Carlyle may be the closest we’ll get to an android while still being human, but she’s an “android” with feelings. It’s very weird for her to experience such emotions when, at birth, she’s given one mission, and one mission only: protect the family she was assigned to protect, at any cost, with no questions asked. But early on, we can tell that she discovers that there is more to life than taking orders. She wants to live.
Besides her personal issues, the book also makes it clear that something sinister is brewing. Lazarus is also the name of Forever’s position in her family; she’s their protector. Every wealthy and powerful family in this future dystopian version of the United States now holds the resources and food necessary for living, and they can either distribute them evenly and fairly among the people of the districts they preside over, or they can do the complete opposite and act like prissy little bitches about it. Remember those intruders that Forever totally pwns during the book’s opening? Well, something similar happens in another secure compound that belongs to her family, and something sure ain’t right. Also, her brother, Jonah, is a dick. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
…No but seriously, fuck Jonah. He’s an asshole.
A comic can either introduce very little and leave the reader confused, or give them too much and produce the same effect. I don’t know what the case is for Lazarus, but I think it does most of the latter. Trust me when I say you might have to backtrack to the book’s first couple of pages to get a handle on what the fuck is going on. But it’s just a bit of rereading, and then the book pretty much reads itself… if that makes any sense.
Once the book becomes a lot easier to swallow, it becomes quite the experience. Rucka creates a menacing, gritty and dangerous world with this first issue that I sure as hell would not want to visit. We really get to peer into Forever’s emotions and thoughts thanks to the talent of Rucka and his magnificent writing. Not to mention that this comic sees the return of collaborator Michael Lark, who we all remember worked with Rucka on Gotham Central, and he provides absolutely gorgeous art for the book. Top it off with Santi Arcas’ coloring, and you get a beautiful result. There may be a lot to take in in Lazarus‘ debut issue, but the art sure is killer.
All in all, I have no major complaints with the debut of Lazarus. Rucka creates another character we can care for in Forever Carlyle, a super solider charged with a great task that is also burdened with great emotional troubles. He also creates a grim future for the U.S. that draws parallels on the current economic situation today without feeling the need to be too preachy, and I cannot stress it enough that this is one world that you don’t want to live in. Seriously, don’t go here even if you have relatives. I don’t care if you want to visit them, Skype them or some shit, or better yet, get them plane tickets and have them visit you. This “new version” is fucking dangerous.
FINAL VERDICT: Greg Rucka shows us that it’s going to be a while before he loses his gift of being able to create exciting and engaging narratives, complex worlds, and strong female characters. The first issue introduces a lot and it can get overwhelming at times, but it’s nothing that a good few re-reads won’t fix. Lark and Arcas were born to collaborate with Rucka thanks to their sheer talents in pencils & inks and colors, respectively, with their gritty and grim but polished look complimenting the book’s tone effectively. Part One of an exciting first arc, this, along with its following three issues, is a title you definitely want to pick up and catch up before the next starts. Simply amazing in a hell of a lot of ways, this is one title you definitely want on your pull list.
Oh, and fuck Jonah, once again. Seriously, if he gets killed off soon, I’ll happily drink to that.