Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Family Above All."
LAZARUS is one of my favourite current comic series: gripping intrigue, balletic action and phenomenally intelligent extrapolation from recent scientific developments, as well as a thorough exploration of the socio-political ramifications of a societal reversal. Each of the first four volumes is reviewed, including the two-in-one hardcovers, with attention to regular artist Michael Lark who here provides the cover.
Spoiler-free summary, for it's important to what follows:
In the far from distance future the world's economies didn't just collapse, they imploded, taking all nation states with them.
The entire globe has reverted to a feudal society ruled by 16 Families: the Families with the most money, because money buys people, money buys science and money buys guns.
Underneath them lies a slim stratum of society with key skills vital for the Families' prosperity and hegemony. These Serfs are richly rewarded, their needs taken care of. Everyone else is Waste.
All Families have a Lazarus, each augmented by differing means according to the individual Family's scientific resources, to the extent that - although they cannot rise from the dead - their bodies can withstand and recover from the most brutal physical punishments. They are then rigorously trained to become the Families' bodyguards, military commanders and ultimate assassins.
In the Carlyle Family's case it is their youngest daughter, Forever. Ever since she can remember she has been told, "Family Above All". And by 'told', I mean 'indoctrinated'. And by 'indoctrinated', I mean lied to.
LAZARUS: X PLUS 66 is a book about loyalty. It's about loyalty within families, but above all loyalty to The Family in whose domain you are permitted to reside. Those loyalties will all be sorely tested.
X Plus 66 is a year. It's the year immediately following LAZARUS VOL 5, marking just over six and a half decades since the Families met in Macau to carve up the world and its riches between themselves. To give Michael Lark a well earned breather, the collection's comprised of six short stories drawn by different artists, each of which picks up on ancillary - but by no means peripheral - characters and their fortunes which there would have been little room to have covered within the central series. In doing so, it provides a wealth of extra flesh on the main body's bone, so I would urge you not to skip it.
There are some superb neologisms for new scientific research and development, like "sleeving": the ability to slot an archived personality, complete with its memories, from one Lazarus into its successor. Not yet possible, but they've achieved the next best thing with Sir Thomas Huston of the Armitage Family taking advantage of all his predecessor's internally recorded and externally archived experiences.
"As experience is the best teacher, each new Sir Thomas benefits from the life of the last."
I think you'll especially want to learn the fate that befalls the Morray Family's Lazarus, Joacquim Morray, given the horrifying swerve in his fate last volume. You'll also discover exactly what relation he is within the Morray Family Tree. This has no small bearing on his past, present and dubious future. Mack Chater (BRIGGS LAND) draws a halting first-page panel which could not have present Joacquim as more vulnerable, his shaved pubic area making it all the more clinical.
Tristan Jones gives the grizzliest chapter the grizzliest of dirty, detailed texture set in The Dragon's lair (The Dragon is the least pleasant Lazarus of the lot - I mean, bwwaaaaar). He's holed away in a remote, claustrophobically dark subterranean bunker with mauled dolls dangling from chains. Unnervingly, there's also one in a rib cage directly outside the entrance to the snow-swept cave entrance and more with cameras for eyes inside. Surprising, then, that there's a fine piece of painted portraiture framed on a wall. All to do with his upbringing, as you shall see...
The media's plight under feudal control is examined, and the lives of some of those newly elevated from Waste to Serfdom is shown with an extra vantage over a shanty town of those left behind. You may want to smack one mother.
Lastly, I do know why the elite army training episode comes first, in order to re-introduce and re-emphasise the main theme - loyalty and Family Above All - but it isn't in all honesty quite as gripping as the rest, so do please soldier on.
Next: Michael Lark returns in LAZARUS #27 any day now.