This Magazine Kills Fascists looks at times that comic books and superheroes have dealt with tyrannical, corrupt and outright fascist world leaders — not because we think we can find a solution, but because art can provide inspiration in the face of oppression.

Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Santi ArcasLazarus is a dystopian possible future where corporations have replaced countries, and a small number of a families have all of the power. While the series is decidedly science fiction, there's a grounding in reality and our own world's potential for catastrophe that makes Lazarus one of the scariest comics on the stands.

The series primarily follows Forever Carlyle, AKA Eve, who is the titular Lazarus of the series. In order to maintain a peace between the families, they each have their own Lazarus --- enhanced by biological, technological or other means --- who is more a weapon than an actual member of the family, although they don't always know that's how they're seen.

 

Michael Lark & Santi Arcas / Image Comics

 

The world of Lazarus is one of the most interesting and well built in comics, and the population is divided into three categories. There's "Family," who belong to one of the sixteen controlling factions. There's "Serf," who are the working class, which includes doctors, chefs, soldiers, and pretty much anyone who has a job that contributes to the families. Then there's "Waste," which is everyone else.

The only way to get a job in the world of Lazarus is to participate in the Lift, where people can be elevated from "Waste" to "Serf" based on skills valued as useful to the Families. The Lift is attended by millions of people who travel from all over the territory just to get a chance of a better life for them or their children. I don't know if it's just because I'm a millennial and I see how competitive it is for even the most unskilled of jobs, but this aspect of the series feels terrifyingly familiar in an overstated sci-fi way.

 

Michael Lark & Santi Arcas / Image Comics

 

The backmatter of Lazarus --- assembled by Eric Trautmann ---  is fascinating, and the early issues present a timeline of how the world came to be this way. At some point in the past, the sixteen controlling families met in Macao and agreed to a truce that effectively ended the rule of governmental law as we know it, placing the families in charge of their respective territories. This became known as Year X to "commemorate our world's fresh start and put the ghost of failed government to rest."

The time prior to Year X saw the rise of the families, as companies like Malcolm Carlyle's CCI stabilized and effectively privatized the economies of Greece and Portugal, and engaged in armed military combat with other corporations. The collapse of the Chinese economy led to the world's financial institutions granting numerous independent firms unprecedented power that led to currency devaluation around the world and widespread civil unrest.

 

Michael Lark & Santi Arcas / Image Comics

 

Last year, Rucka commented on Twitter that 2016 was Year X after the Supreme Court reversed a decision made by the Environmental Protection Agency and advised it to be aware of cost before issuing standards. Roughly two weeks ago, Rucka noted with a wink that "Year X was 2017, or thereabouts," but that's not happenstance; Lazarus is intensely researched, based on up-to-date information regarding technology and socio-economic trends. It's no surprise to see elements of the sci-fi dystopia come to life in the real world.

Usually I try to end on a positive note, --- or at least an optimistic one --- but the world of Lazarus is pretty much the worst-case scenario. Outside of global annihilation, a world where sixteen families control everything and millions of people are referred to as "Waste" and essentially forgotten about, feels frighteningly possible sometimes.

Hopefully we haven't already hit Year X, because there's no turning back from that sort of world that I can envision.

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