In the second volume of Lazarus, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark continue the tale of Forever Carlyle, trying to survive and serve her family, one of the main families that rule the former United States of America. She is one of the lucky ones, if you can call it that, being of the Family. They have the money, the power, the comfort and everything else that comes along with being in power. She could be a Serf – those that serve the Family, or even worse, she could be Waste – those that fight to make it from one day to the next. It is a hard world that Rucka, Lark and company have carved out, filled with intriguing situations, dangerous scenarios and devious characters. It is a post-apocalyptic land where everything is not as it seems and everyone has their own agenda.
The current arc chronicles two different storylines, the first where Forever must deal with a terrorist group as well as doing her regular duties for her family and her sister. Simultaneously we are treated to a tale of a family who have lost everything and whose only hope is travelling to Denver to take part in the Lift and hopefully find favour there. Most of the book takes place during the Lift Selection, which finds those people worthy enough to serve the family in the Serf class, culled from the Waste. The two stories will come to a head in an explosive finale that will set up the things to come in the third volume. Also included is the story of Forever’s origin, as she grows up to become the woman she is, all to please her father, Malcolm Carlyle.
Lift is an apt name for the book as it not only details the process that takes place in this world for the choosing of the ‘middle’ class, but also the way Forever pushes herself while growing up simply to gain her father’s favour. As it is, both Forever and the Lift selection process are there to serve Malcolm so it is quite proper that the stories run alongside each other to show how completely the Family rules, both personally and professionally. Rucka does an excellent job exploring this world and all the many facets that make it up. His exploration of his protagonists from Carrie Stetko to Batman and Yelena Belova to Frank Castle have always been interesting to say the least, and always complicated. He digs deep into their psyches to bring out both the best and the worst in them and create the most dynamic character possible. In Lazarus, Rucka also accomplishes that with the setting as this new world holds unlimited possibilities and plays a huge part in the story itself.
Unlike the first volume which was seen predominantly through the eyes of Forever and her family, this book is split between the aforementioned people and the Barret family. The Barrets are Waste, and as such have very little and of that, they pay a tax to the Carlyle’s. When flooding takes out their farm, we get to see the laws of the land in play and how they work. Sadly, they are meant to benefit those in power and the Barrets have no option but to sell it to the Family and take part in the Lift. As Waste, the journey is hard and perilous and holds no guarantee of reward should their children not be chosen. The dichotomy between Waste and Family is significant, much like that between the poor and the rich, but even more so in this broken country.
The sequences that feature Forever growing up in near solitude are some of the best in the entire book. The storytelling is solid and Michael Lark’s art is gorgeous as we see Forever living amid violence and learning violence and knowing little else. Lark gives her grace and a deadly beauty even amid all the killing and the blood and it is some of his strongest work to date. The countryside he illustrates is beautiful in its sparseness and with help from Santi Arcus on colours; it really gives the reader a feeling of being both vast and hopeless. It is not a bad thing either, as it drives the overall thematic qualities of the book home, themes like class and power. Ultimately, Lark’s art is a nice progression from what it once was, being a little cleaner and a little sharper and possibly even more beautiful to look at than ever before.
With the exciting and surprising ending that the book delivered, it brings two different peoples together and it leaves the book wide open to numerous potential stories with many unanswered questions as well. Rucka and Lark’s dystopian society may be just that, but it makes for an enjoyable and engaging story. You cannot help but be entranced by Forever; a woman who is formidable on every level yet is still a little girl in so many ways when it comes to human interaction. She is very nearly a ticking time bomb in a sense, as she grows and learns through her experiences, for she is realizing things everyday and when she explodes, whoever is on the receiving end, is not going to like it all that much. Strong plotting, script and artwork make this a book not to miss.
4.5 out of 5