Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, and Santi Arcas craft an awfully compelling debut issue about a reluctant super-soldier in a dystopian future.
There’s a lot to like about this comic. The main character, Forever, is the seemingly immortal Lazarus of the Family Carlyle. They are one of five families that rule the world in this series, each of which has a Lazarus of their own—one member of the family who is given every possible mental, technological, and biological advancement and advantage. The exact details of what makes Forever impossible to kill are unclear, but since the opening scene has her being brutally shot thrice through the chest and then getting back up a couple minutes later, it’s safe to say she’s well more than human. She kills the men who tried to do the same to her, but afterward, when relating the story to her doctor James, she seems rather shaken up by having to take their lives. They were three poor, starving men in search of food, and though her sole purpose is to defend her family’s assets (which include several massive stores of food), Forever is smart enough to see the moral problems inherent in murdering the have-nots so that the haves can keep everything to themselves.
Sadly, those around her have no such moral quandaries, and even go so far as to lie to Forever and tell her she’s wrong and abnormal for feeling remorse or uncertainty. James does it first, and then so does Jonah, Forever’s brother. The implication is that these men see Forever as more of a tool than a person, a weapon they can aim at their enemies and control as they please. Forever gets together with Jonah at a location known as Harvest One, which appears to be a large farm run by their family. Harvest One was attacked the previous night by an enemy family, the Morrays, and the circumstances of that conflict indicate that the Carlyle’s have been betrayed by one of their own. So Forever is forced to weed out the traitor by threatening to kill all the possible culprits, and it leads to a powerful final scene that seems to get at the heart of what this book is going to be about.
Rucka writes a tight script, introducing the world Forever lives in quite naturally, without the need for forced exposition. She is a complex and immediately relatable lead character, trapped in a horrible situation but unable to escape because it’s all she’s known. This is the reality of her time and place, the rules of her family, and no amount of wanting out is going to change that.
It is Michael Lark who really takes the cake in this issue, though. As strong as Rucka’s script is, without the incredibly nuanced emotion of the artwork, many of these scenes might well have fallen flat. And Rucka gives Lark a lot of trust and space, leaving rom for silent panels where all we need to know is in a facial expression or two. This issue is an example of true collaboration, creators who understand each other and make one another better.
Colorist Santi Arcas deserves praise as well. The muted tones of the story display the dismal nature of its world. Even the blood and the gunshots of the opening scene are more restrained than usual, underlining the hopelessness and brutality of this future. Fluorescent lights add no real brightness, and neither does the blue sky of a clear California afternoon. This is a tale seeped in metaphorical darkness, and the physical colors match it.
A strong opening chapter, establishing a rich reality with a meaty, complex cast.