There’s definitely a sense of rising dread in Greg Rucka’s and Michael Lark’s Lazarus #8, both for our heroine Forever Carlyle and for the beleaguered Barrett family. For Forever, the goal is simple: find and stop The Free, a terrorist group looking to destroy a major American city with an IED before it's too late. For the Joe and Bobbie Barret, grasping at a one-in-a-million chance for their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey to be 'Lifted' into a life of servitude to the Carlyle family…not so simple.
But for all its doom and gloom, Lazarus still knows how to have a little fun. The opening panels, depicting a young Forever navigating a computer simulation filled with 15th century Spanish soldier wielding assault rifles, are reminiscent of a Metal Gear Solid game. It’s silly to be sure but Lark, who renders each scene in gritty detail, draws it completely straight and never lets the scenario fall into farce. Rucka once describde Lark’s style as “not so much photo-realistic […] but photo-journalistic”. There aren’t a lot of crazy angles or poses here. Instead, Lark uses a lot of clear, flat shots, letting the actions and emotions (or lack thereof – Forever’s so stoic most the time she could give Clint Eastwood a run for his money) of these characters tell the story.
The one problem this arc has lies with the Barret family’s character development. We get little snippets of personality here and there, indicators of who these people might be, but for the most part they're a little shallow. Joe and Bobbie love each other and love their kids even more. Casey is handy with a gun and likes Michael. And Leigh, well…Leigh died last issue, which left me feeling a little cold as we barely knew the girl.
Thankfully, this has been partially corrected in eight with Michael Barret’s conversation with Sister Bernard. Not only do we see Michael demonstrate a useful skill (he makes a pretty decent nurse in a pinch; something that may prove useful to the Carlyles), but also how frustrated he is at suddenly being the center of attention for dozens of injured travelers. This tiny bit of humanity was just enough to make me start rooting for the guy. That’s not to say I wasn’t pulling for his family all along – as miserable and dystopian as the Lazarus universe is, the Barrets still find themselves at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder – but until this chapter I was more sympathetic to the situation and less to the actual people.
Seeing as this is the penultimate issue of the “Lift” arc, I’m curious to see how the the Barret family’s plotline will resolve. The bomb Forever seeks is headed to Denver, the same place as our weary travelers, but I’m really hoping their journey doesn’t end with that kind of bang. Despite my apathy for all the non-Michael characters, the perspective that they bring to the book is doing so much for the world-building that I’d hate to see ‘em go.