Lazarus #4, Written by Greg Rucka (Queen & Country, Stumptown) with art by Michael Lark (Daredevil, Gotham Central) is the last issue in the titles opening arc, Family. In previous issues we’ve been introduced to Forever, the “Lazarus” (defender) of the Family Carlyle, a ruling family in a near future of socio-economic ruin. The Carlyles and a few other families are wealthy, powerful, genetically modified and thriving while the rest of humanity are either “Serfs”, servants of a Family, or “Waste” barely eking out an existence. In issue #3 Forever was sent on a mission to negotiate with another Family. While there she met her counterpart and the two shared a moment after the talks concluded. Sitting on the border between their respective Families holdings they were bombed by a party that I won’t spoil.
Issue #4 opens immediately after #3 and deals largely with the fallout of the attack. From page one begins an exhilarating sequence that jumps between four different perspectives as the next few moments unfold. On the ground at the attack site Forever is just regaining consciousness, her vitals are being monitored from a Family facility (these panels feature red toned screens), her attackers are attempting to confirm her death at another facility (these panels feature blue toned screens) and an altercation develops between two Carlyle Family members in the last set of panels.
As Forever begins to fight back an incredible 10 pages unfolds; Lark interweaves brutal combat, the frantic analysis of the two interested parties and the savage beating of a Family member. It’s amazing to watch Lark work. There is no confusion despite a multitude of panels and shifting perspectives. At the attack site he has blocked out the action very clearly, the images are dynamic and flow from panel to panel to give the impression of frenzied melee combat. The two observing parties give the reader some insight into a Lazarus’ capabilities and the last set of panels reveal a betrayal that I hadn’t seen coming.
After the violence has subsided Forever deals with the fallout and I’m going to stop here for fear of spoiling what Rucka sets up as the issue closes. Speaking generally about Lazarus though, what Rucka has set up in four issues is impressive. There’s an incredible amount of world building done both in story and in back-matter elements in each issue. The action sequence in this issue is mirrored by a great sequence that opened issue one. In between Rucka has introduced warring families and shifting loyalties and has done an excellent job of introducing multiple characters with various devious motivations.
I really can’t say enough about Lazarus. It’s at the top of my read pile whenever it comes out and it’s one of the rare titles that I buy in both single issue and collected format. While this issue may not be the best point to jump on the series I would encourage anyone whose interest is piqued by this review to seek out the previous issues or wait for the first collection to come out later this month.