Artist: Michael Lark
What if you couldn’t die, but lived only to serve? This is the story of the aptly named Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family. Her tale takes place in the Southwest corner of the United States, in a dystopian future where rules are not determined by geographic boundaries or political power, but by how much money you have. Powerful Families rule large swaths of territory and each one has a Lazarus — people who are cybernetically-enhanced to the point of perfection and serve as their Family’s sword.
Crafted by Greg Rucka (Punisher, Gotham Central) and drawn by Michael Lark (Daredevil, Winter Soldier), we follow Forever as she strives to serve her family while wrestling with her own humanity. Rucka and Lark make up a pretty famous creative team, and I’ve been looking forward to checking this one out for a while. Let’s take a look at Lazarus Vol 1: Family.
Our story begins with our hero being shot point blank several times, then lying dead on the floor. Literally, those are the first things that happen. And then Forever (or Eve for short) gets up and kills her attackers. Yes, the name Lazarus is a bit on the nose, but it’s nothing if not accurate. This scene is actually a flashback, with Forever recounting events to the Family doctor, James. James looks after both her physical and mental state. Forever doesn’t get much time to rest, as she is called away to investigate a raid on a Carlyle grain facility. A rival Family has tried to get at the Carlyle’s food, and it looks like they had help from the inside. The Carlyle’s are on the brink of war, and Forever, as commander of their military forces, is at the tip of the spear.
Rucka’s talents for world-building are definitely on display here. Information about how this new world works is slowly revealed to the reader. His dystopia is technologically advanced but socially regressive. Anyone who works for the Family is a Serf. Anyone who does not is simply Waste. He’s crafted a futuristic world where cybernetic implants and genetic enhancements grant extraordinary abilities, yet it is mired in the feudalistic structure of days gone past.
As far as the actual narrative, not much happens, but you wouldn’t realize that until after you read it. This first volume serves primarily as an introduction to the world and its characters, with most of the action occurring towards the end. Some might find this slow, but I thought it well-paced, like the first few episodes of a show that you know is building up to something big. What does occur is very compelling, and I found myself unable to put the book down.
The depth of the characters, especially Eve, is greatly responsible for why the book is so engrossing. From the jump you can tell that Forever isn’t exactly ecstatic about being the designated killing machine, but her dedication to her Family overrides all. She’s a strong female protagonist, but she has her moments of vulnerability. She is by far the most sympathetic member of her Family, as they all reveal themselves to be crazy in one way or another. The Family dynamic reminded me greatly of Game of Thrones. In fact, describing the book as “cyberpunk Game of Thrones” wouldn’t be too far off.
This story does not hold back, as evidenced by the opening scene. While the violence isn’t gratuitous, the colorist certainly had to break out the red ink a lot. The action is graphic but comes in spurts. When there is combat, expect stabbings, shootings, and a few neck-breaks for good measure.
The characters use the F-word more than once (earning an R-rating by movie standards). Expect some curse words running the gamut. I did have to flip for a bit while I was looking for examples, so they’re pretty infrequent.
Beyond the Biblical allusion in the names, none.
This might qualify as a spoiler, but there is implied incest.
Eve obeys the commands of her family, but she is not happy about the things that she must do. She’s split between a heart that has retained a degree of innocence in a cold new world, and a family made up of pragmatic dictators at best and tyrannical psychopaths at worst. The fact that she feels any resistance is impressive and shows the kind of strength it takes to overcome one’s environment.
Lark’s art has a scratched quality, suitable for gritty crime dramas like Gotham Central and Daredevil, but it translates well here. What stands out are the faces. Even from far away you can easily make out the emotion on a character’s face. We don’t get an internal monologue from Forever, but Lark makes it easy enough to tell what she is thinking.
The action is expertly done. You can see every move that Eve makes as she deftly fights multiple attackers at once. Lark also did the covers, which look great. This is probably my favorite piece of Lark work so far. The colors, by Santi Arcas, are decent; if you don’t have much to say about a colorist, then they did a good job. The world takes a neutral tone — not washed out, but not vibrant either. The blood is a sort of muted red, which I thought fit well with the tone of the book.
I’m just gonna come out and say it: I really loved this book. I ordered the next volume after I finished the first issue. The story really gets going towards the end, and I’m really interested in the dynamics of the world that Rucka has created. Forever is strong, yet sympathetic, and I’ve already fallen in love with her. Lark’s art is great, with the perfect amount of detail for whatever the situation calls for. Lark ad Rucka are a powerhouse team and they do not disappoint. Here’s the kicker: This book is only $6.40 on Amazon. For less than the price of 2 issues from one of the big publishers, you can have this dynamite book. It’s a no-brainer.
Convinced? You can order the book from the Amazon tab below.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1607068095]
+ Deep Protagonist + Great Art + Fascinating World + Engaging characters
- Plot moves slowly at first
The Bottom Line
If you're a fan of dystopian fiction, strong female characters, or just good things in general, then you should pick this book up. Rucka and Lark surpassed my high expectation and crafted a work to be read in one sitting from start to finish.