When it comes to sci-fi, especially the sci-fi/action subgenre (or really any genre), it’s pretty hard to come up with anything truly original anymore. Generally, the most we can hope for is a clever and intelligent way of recombining the elements so that it at least feels fresh in that sense.
Likewise, Lazarus contains a number of familiar elements we’ve seen many times: there’s a dystopic future, a heroine who’s an elite warrior and does a lot of ass-kicking, and plenty of political subtext especially in regards to power, money and class. But at the same time it also manages the considerable feat of feeling like one of the most original sci-fi stories to be told in the past several years.
In the future depicted in Lazarus, the world is divided not by geo-political lines but strictly by financial ones. Simply put, whoever has the most money has the most power and not surprisingly, a handful of ultra-powerful families own all the wealth in the world and, therefore, control the world.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot of intrigue and power struggle among these greedy families since they keep wanting more, so to protect their own interests each family employs someone called a Lazarus, a cybergenetically augmented human trained from birth to become the perfect soldier, bodyguard and military leader. These Lazaruses lead the security forces who protect a family’s interests, and our heroine Forever (or “Eve”) Carlyle is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family.
These surface details are what make Lazarus at first seem very familiar. For instance, Forever is an agent of the System, but it seems pretty apparent within the first five issues of the series (collected in Lazarus, Vol. 1) that she will at some point become disaffected and rebel, lead a rebellion or at least challenge the power infrastructure.
Where this comic manages to be unique and fresh is in its details and the painstaking attention to said details. One such detail, for instance, is the geographical division of the former United States by family. Another is the caste system of Families, Serfs and Waste. Each time we shift locations we are reminded where this is, which family it’s owned by, and the population count based on caste. This is some impressive, well thought out world-building on the part of writer Greg Rucka and artist/letterer Michael Lark.
The only thing is that here we are now at the end of Volume 2 (which collects issues #5-10), and it feels like the creators are still getting us acquainted with the details of their world. This isn’t really a problem per se as I do appreciate it when comics know how to take their time and fully flesh out a world. But in terms of the central plot, at the heart of which lies a mystery involving Forever, still not much is happening here which is slightly frustrating only because Forever is inherently a compelling character whom we want to learn more about. And even though the seeds of her development are planted early in the series, it’s taking a long time for her to actually change and develop.
Other than that I’d definitely place this as one of the better comics running right now and certainly among the top handful of sci-fi titles.
Lark’s art and Santi Arcas’s coloring are a perfect match here, rendering a heavily atmospheric world that feels appropriately posh and futuristic in the wealthy family compounds while looking like a blighted wasteland everywhere else. When it rains, you can practically hear the drops pattering on the soggy earth and feel the weather’s oppressive weight on you. Colors and lighting are gloomy, muted and diagetic, reflecting what’s occurring in the environment. For me, this was a bit of a refreshing breather from much of the expressionistic color work I’d been seeing in a lot of the other comics I’ve been reading as of late.
Lazarus, Vol. 2 continues to impress on certain levels while frustrating slightly on others. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most interesting comics out now and if you’re a fan of intelligent sci-fi, I’d advise you to pick it up.