You ever have one of those weeks that’s just jam-packed with activity?
Not annoying or menial tasks, but exciting things that, filled with joy and accomplishment, but still taxing and energy-consuming.
I just came off FanExpo’s Toronto Comic-Con this weekend where I hosted every celebrity they had on the list. Guests like Ron Perlman, John Rhys-Davies, John DeLancie, Corbin Bernsen, Dan Fogler and a plethora of incredibly fan-enriching creators who were either comic-inspired or contributed to the geekosphere.
It was an incredible rush but also an intense amount of energy.
But, in my weak and feeble state, I turn to comics to enliven me. Of course, folks may ask, when do I have the time to read comics after all of this frenzied fun? Well, the answer to that is: in the wee hours of the night, when I need the creative energy of other folks to change my mind from creating to enjoying.
While I read the offerings from all the major comic publishing companies out there, I have to choose just one as the pick of the week. While I usually include a number of worthy contenders for that consideration in these articles, given the intense amount of activity for this week, I have only the energy to write about the one title that rose above the others without any shade of doubt.
Lazarus: Risen #1
Okay – it seems like I have been waiting for this title to return for the longest time. But, like the implied promise in the title, that which has been sleeping, shall inevitably return to the waking world of men, and Lazarus has indeed risen again.
Here’s the thing about the title. If you’re someone who has some sort of classical education, then you will understand the root significance in the name “Lazarus”. As the original Lazarus defied the long sleep of death, then so shall Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s creation.
In short, it’s been worth the wait.
A $7.99 book, but the reader gets her money’s worth. After all, when you read the summary of all that has transpired until now, that alone makes the book worthwhile. In order to get a full appreciation of this topic, a new reader alone will want to know why this book is relevant and Rucka takes care of that.
For veteran readers, that’s worth a lot too. I mean, has it been two years? It’s a lot of time and I’m glad that Greg Rucka realizes that he needs to remind those loyal readers who have been waiting a near-eternity for a return to this world.
As for the world, I’ve made mention of this immense world-building effort that Rucka began. In fact, when I spoke with him about this at Fan Expo’s Mega-Con in Florida a couple of years ago, he said that the idea for Lazarus was a dystopia sci-fi but that it had become a documentary. That was around 2016 and yeah – now you can see that these things he had speculated as a fictional work could very well be the direction in which this world is heading.
That layer of fear provides the authenticity for this story’s success.
That’s always been the attraction for me, to this book. Science Fiction is always successful when it becomes plausible. Lazarus: Risen is the epitome of that belief. When you consider the nearly accessible genetic science behind the Carlyle Family’s chosen champion, the reader can easily accept the fact that this family, who controls a majorly significant portion of the concentrated wealth in the world, can create a family champion to represent them in a neo-feudal society that values their specialities embodied in their armies and personal family champions.
I buy into this story completely. I can totally foresee this as a possible outcome of world society, given the present political climes, when a president of the United States can not only lie to his constituency and half of them believe those lies because they are reflective of their own values; but what’s scarier is that half of the world’s leaders revile this president. This opens up the possibility of the world’s governments reverting back to a family-dynastic, feudalistic state where wealth and technology reign at par with totalitarianism. The concentration of wealth is becoming more and more focused in this world, regardless of national divisions, and this story (that we have waited so long for its continuation) is one that is becoming more clearly as we progress through the impolitic miasma that is the American Presidency. Wealth translates into politics so fluidly in this book that it’s almost like an instruction manual for tyrants.
But there’s more. The characters of this story are intensely illuminated for us. It’s been a few years, and Michael Lark shows us a Forever Carlyle who seems to look considerably “beefed” up. She is a more muscular character than we previously remember, which is conveys a visual reinforcement of the fact that we haven’t seen this character for a couple of years; of COURSE, she’s going to look more physical. Inasmuch that Rucka (in the personal appendices at the end of the issue) acknowledges the time the reader has spent away from this book, Michael Lark’s visual work is a reminder that cements this idea, almost establishing a covenant of trust with the reader.
Forever Carlyle is different though. Her desire for independence and identity was a major sub-plot in the previous series, but in this new comic, it’s an established assumption that her mind-influencing drugs are no longer an issue and that her awareness of the clone who will succeed her is also something that she wants to have as part of her service to her family. This makes Forever a more interesting character; she’s no longer a mindless combatant who serves her family; she is now a member of the family and her belonging replaces that automatic sense of duty to her family and is even more powerful, now that she has free will.
As much as I love the science fiction components in this book, I have to say that I’m more attracted to the military/political dimension aspect of it. Each family has their own specific specialty – as epitomized in their champions – but it’s the inferred philosophy behind these family’s approach to world domination that really attracts me.
It’s very much influenced by a board game, if you think about it. After all, you have people who enjoy playing the game, but there are also people who simply like to win. This sort of attitude comes out very strongly in some of the most successful stories in literature and entertainment. Think of how successful Game of Thrones is when beliefs and family loyalties are part of the thematic backdrop to a story. The family aspect of this comic is not only a driving motivation in Forever Carlyle’s story, but it’s also a viscerally compelling one that allows her to win our loyalty. Simply put, we want Forever to win and her obstacles and challenges in the story are ours as well.
Yeah, I could go on. I could say incredible things about Michael Lark’s art – its dynamic fluidity, it’s sharpness and how much I’ve enjoyed viewing it ever since the saga began. I’m sure it’s nice for Lark to read these things but I don’t want to oversell the book.
What I have noticed in Lazarus: Risen is that Forever has physically changed. She is larger – and with the removal of the mind-altering drugs that made her will susceptible to her family’s wishes, her facial expressions are different as well. This is a new Forever for sure and that’s a visual harbinger of the great stories to come.
It’s an incredible piece of story-telling and a great introduction to the rest of the Carlyle family story. I just hope that we won’t have to wait so long for the next issue!
Until next week, go find that thing you love to do and do it! Thanks for reading.