Money, Sex, Power: Should You Be Reading ‘Lazarus’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
Lazarus is the current ongoing collaboration between Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, a dystopian sci-fi series about family, class, and poverty, which launched in 2013 from Image Comics. Three collected editions are currently available, and the 20th issue of the series comes out later this month.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Lazarus takes place in the near future, where the countries we know have been abolished, and the world is governed by 16 wealthy ruling families. These families live in luxury, and those who serve them receive food and shelter. Everyone else is Waste.
Each ruling family has what’s called a Lazarus: a member of the family who has been genetically modified and technologically enhanced to protect the family. Forever Carlyle is her family’s Lazarus. The youngest of her siblings, Forever has been trained since childhood to be a weapon, a tool to further her father’s ambitions and maintain her family’s position.
Beyond the edges of their estate, a rebellion is brewing. The rigid caste system implemented by the families has left millions living in squalor and starving as the last of the resources are gobbled up by those in power. Between terrorist uprisings and divided family interests, Forever is struggling to find her place in the middle of the conflict.
WHO'S IT BY?
Lazarus was co-created by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, and marks their third major collaboration after their work together on Gotham Central at DC and Daredevil at Marvel. In Lazarus it's easy to see why they team up so frequently; Lark’s artwork sets a grim tone that compliments Rucka’s gritty realism. While it can be easy for such a combination to come off too bleak, these creators propel the story forward with artful action sequences and intricate exchanges between the characters.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Lazarus hits the sweet spot that many dystopias miss: the action is not too close to home, but it’s not so far removed that it’s hard to take seriously. The events of Lazarus take place in our own world, but at an undisclosed point in time. Everything that unfolds on the page could occur 5, 50, or 100 years from now, and its inevitability is immediately felt.
But really, it is the characters that set this comic apart. Even the most diabolical members of the Carlyle family get a chance to display their humanity, calling motives and intentions into question. This two-faced nature leaves readers unsure of who to trust, and blurs the lines between shades of morality.
This uncertainty is also reflected in Forever as she tries to protect her family, all the while wondering if they are conspiring against her. It seems that the only place Forever can find companionship is in the Lazari of the other families. But with allegiances constantly shifting, she never knows whether she will be ordered to kill someone she had considered a friend the day before.
Readers also get a chance to view these dynamics from the point of view of the “Waste”. Michael and Casey have traveled to Denver in the hopes of being “lifted” to Serf status. As they climb the ranks, they too discover the difficulty of finding trustworthy allies.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
As with any near-future catastrophe, there is a political dimension to Lazarus that isn’t for everyone. But fans of 1984 and other classic dystopias will be delighted. If action and adventure is more your speed, you won’t be disappointed, as the creators always have another surprising set piece up their sleeves.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Lazarus is currently available as single issues, in three trade paperbacks, or as a deluxe edition hardcover. You can find it in any of these forms digitally from Comixology or from your local comic store.