Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Michael Lark & Tyler Boss
Colourist: Santi Arcas
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Cover: Michael Lark
Publisher: Image Comics
Lazarus, Greg Rucka’s post-apocalyptic epic, has now reached its fifth volume, and whilst not the ideal starting point for new readers, it does a more than admirable job of continuing the action so far. I do however, thoroughly recommend catching up on earlier volumes, as they have been consistently excellent.
The story follows the richest and most influential families that remain after a world-shattering apocalypse, their politics, battles and how they treat the ‘lower classes’ outside of their expensive estates. The titular Lazarus is a nigh-indestructible soldier, created and trained to carry out missions no-one else could. These vary from Wolverine-esque regenerators to full-on cyborgs. Most importantly, only the richest families can afford such soldiers, and this leads to all manner of high-tech backstabbing. These volumes follow the Lazarus ‘Forever’, a sword-wielding member of the Carlyle family, but her high-octane missions may be less dangerous than threats far closer to home.
Warning: Minor spoilers follow from here!
When we last left Forever, she had barely survived a colossal battle, and was in no state to defend the Carlyle family from further attacks. Equally, following suspicions about both her family and her origins, Forever is left untrusting and uncooperative. Unknown to Forever, her next-gen replacement clone ‘Eve’ is actively being trained. Unfortunately, she is not even a teenager, and acting head of the family Johanna Carlyle is left with deploying Sonja Bittner, a Lazarus from another allied family, who may have her own agenda for cooperating. Pitting Lazarus against Lazarus, the action amps up, whilst Forever herself is put through an emotional rollercoaster. Her treatment by her father and other family members is compared against their treatment of ‘Eve’ which calls into question just how much of her upbringing was real, and how much was an elaborate drug-infused training exercise to keep her under control. The illusion soon shatters, and Forever learns some horrific home truths about her inception, including just how many attempts the Carlyle family went through to get her correct. With support from an unexpected source, Forever is thrust back into the war, coming up against a particularly vicious Lazarus known as ‘The Dragon’. Unsure of who to trust, will her newfound awareness about what she is help or hinder in the final blood-soaked battle?
Rucka, with a jam-packed writing history that includes Batwoman and Wonder Woman, keeps the story flowing at a breakneck pace. The dialogue is quick and snappy, and characters have their own distinct personalities. Action is handled deftly, and is both brutal and unforgiving. Combined with the excellent art from Lark & Boss, there are no wasted frames, and even dialogue-free scenes are crammed with detail. This also leads to excellent world building, giving us hints of this fictional future beyond the confines of the story. Incidentally, the striking cover for this volume was also created by Lark, and demonstrates his style admirably without spoiling the content. Santi Arcas provides the colours, adding dynamic bright dashes across the grim backgrounds, which also includes copious gallons of blood. It’s worth noting that this issue is not for the faint hearted, with some particularly grisly scenes that make for tough reading.
Overall, Lazarus Volume 5 is another worthy entry in the continuing story, filled with breakneck action, intrigue, betrayal and some pointed (and some would say timely) political criticism of the mistakes made by those with power. Highly recommended, and sets events up perfectly for the next in the series.
D. J. Baldock is a 30-something scientist, father, profound geek, and writer of superhero novels (‘Alicia’ and ‘Honey’ both available now on Amazon Kindle). In between editing and reviewing for Comic Buzz, he can be found posting nonsense on Twitter.