The comicbook that’s more of a soap opera with every issue!
When it began, I wasn’t expecting Lazarus to be such a painstakingly slow-moving family melodrama. It had elements of that, but also of a sci-fi action series or a political thriller, both of which interested me way more. What I thought (or maybe hoped) was that the book would be all of these things in equal turn, but four issues in, it’s starting to become clear that the family stuff is the focus, at least for the time being. There are still dashes of science fiction—main character Forever Carlyle’s enhanced biology and resulting immortality is always relevant to the story, and some of the technology used is clearly futuristic. And I guess the political side of things hasn’t been abandoned completely, either. But the real guts of the story are Forever’s greedy, dishonest, entitled brothers and sisters scheming against her and one another like oh so many soap opera characters before them.
That’s ok, I guess. I mean, if Greg Rucka wants to do this kind of story in a non-traditional setting, that’s his call, more power to him. And he’s doing it pretty well, or at least he’s not mangling it horribly, but that doesn’t mean it’s my cup of tea. So far, the problem is that the parts of this story I find most interesting—the class system of the world, the five families’ bordering-kingdom-style relationships with each other, the science behind each family having its own unkillable Lazarus—have been left in the background so we can get pages and pages of Carlyle in-fighting. I don’t care if the children betray their father, because I barely know them and don’t know him at all. What we’ve learned about these characters is basically just that they’re all scumbags who can’t be trusted, which makes it hard to feel invested in any of them. Forever is the only sincere character, but even she is still too thin, primarily defined by the lack of familial connection she feels when it comes to her horrible siblings. There’s nobody to hold onto, and since the narrative centers on everyone fucking each other over as often as possible, I’m not sure I want to get attached to these people anyway.
Michael Lark’s art is fairly sturdy, but there’s this weird thing where the level of detail changes dramatically from one panel to the next. He uses a lot of empty backgrounds, but some settings, like the room where Forever’s physical condition is monitored by her family, are packed to the gills with detail. It happens with people’s faces, too. When there’s a close-up shot, you can see every wrinkle, but pull back a few feet and their flesh becomes wholly, unnaturally smooth. I’d much rather have one or the other, and the constant back-and-forth going on in here is distracting.
I’m cooling on Lazarus (obviously) and this issue is a prime example of why. There’s some vicious violence that Lark does very well, but it’s treated so casually by characters and creators alike, and is ultimately so inconsequential, that the brutality of it ends up feeling out of place. The narrative is more interested in the many lies the Carlyles tell each other, but they’re too fresh as characters, and too similar to one another, for me to give a crap how manipulative they are. Let them ruin each others lives if that’s what they want, but get it done already so something more worthwhile can go down.