Author: Greg Rucka (Author), Michael Lark (Illustrator)
Star Rating: * * *
Genre: Graphic Novel, Dystopia, Sci-fi
NOTE: This review is based off an advance copy of this book from Net-Galley.
Forever started her day by dying. Her enemies, however, didn’t realise that Lazaruses don’t stay dead for long. In a world controlled by a small number of families, the Carlyles created Forever to be their protector by altering her body to become a perfect fighting machine that can rejuvenate itself even when critically injured.
When war is about to be declared on the Carlyles by another family, their Lazarus is sent to arrange a peace treaty with them. The discussions end well, but Forever is betrayed by a family member who tries to kill her before she can deliver this news. After surviving the attack, she is left with the question of who can she trust in this crumbling world?
When I saw that Greg Rucka was writing a new story about a female protagonist in a sci-fi/dystopia, I knew that I had to get a hold of this book as soon as possible as it was a compilation of basically all of my favourite things. Forever is a tough, badass warrior, and it’s refreshing to see her not treated as a “female character”. Yes, she’s a woman, but she is not written as if the author was desperately trying to prove this fact. Forever is a human being, and she is allowed to develop without the baggage of what women are “supposed” to be like in fiction.
The art in Lazarus is beautiful. Michael Lark’s linework is thick and dark and makes the story feel moody and gritty. However, despite the fluidity and sketchiness of the work, the expressions of the characters are clear and powerful. I was quite impressed by the weight of emotions that the artist conveyed, and by the effective framing that he used.
My favourite part of this volume was the prequel in which father Malcolm Carlyle talks about Forever as if she is no more than a pet. Even though the Carlyles rely on Forever as their Lazarus, they really only see her as a tool to be used. Malcolm treats Forever as his daughter only because he thinks that this makes her a better Lazarus, and he explains this all rather coldly to one of his workers while Forever is off fighting for the family. Forever honestly believes that she is her father’s precious daughter, and Malcolm’s commentary about her make it easy to feel sympathy for this character.
The worst thing about Lazarus is the length. Only four issues and a short prequel are included in this trade, and it was hard to get more than an introductory glimpse at the story and characters. I know that the world sucks, Forever is being lied to, and people like be to manipulative. I would have liked to know a bit more about where the story is going to go in the future, and to see Rucka distinguish his new work from the swarm of dystopias that are being released lately. A dystopic world where only a few rich folk have power isn’t particularly novel, and the plot of a character who finds out that she isn’t really who she thinks she is is quite common in this genre. I do have faith that Rucka isn’t going to write a story made purely of unaltered tropes, but it would have been nice to see something unique and different in this first volume to ensure that readers come back and read the next installment.
The Lazarus series intrigues me quite a bit despite its slow start. Forever is a tough female protagonist with some very interesting powers, but she is being manipulated by the people that she believes love her. She’s strangely naïve, and I look forward to reading about how her life has brought her to this position as a Lazarus, and where she is going to go from there. Also, considering the lack of well-written women protagonists in comics, I want to support an author who has consistently done a good job at creating female characters who are interesting and nuanced human beings. And since the trades are shorter than most, I hopefully won’t have to wait that long for volume 2!