Page 45 Review by Stephen
I swear this will speak to you: a series centred on family, loyalty and power.
In the very near future America's economy has imploded, its political system has collapsed and its State structure has melted away, replaced by territories ruled by families with the most money. Money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.
It is a feudal system, an archetypal pyramid structure with each Family at the top, a selected few Serfs with key skills in the middle, and the Waste toiling the land or eking out whatever living they can with little or no protection while paying a punitive tax.
The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She's been trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base. But in LAZARUS VOL 1 someone sent Forever a message:
"HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
"THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY."
This is where it gets really juicy.
Out in rural Montana, farmers Joe and Bobbie find no help forthcoming as their land is deluged with rain, the river bursts its banks and their home along with everything they own is swept away by the flood. Leaving their land means losing it, but they see no other option than to journey 500 miles to Denver in the hope that their daughter Leigh, their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey be elevated to Carlyle Serfs in the next Lift Selection in a fortnight's time. They will have to compete with 100,000 others for very few places, but first they will have to survive bandits roaming the open country.
Meanwhile, Forever discovers corruption in the Guard Corps and an active terrorist cell whose attentions seem focussed on Denver where the eldest Carlyle son Stephen is overseeing The Lift. And then there's that message:
"HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
"THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY."
I think I know who sent it.
Flashback to the Southern Sierra Navada Facility where a young Forever is in training:
"I'm trying to remember
when was the last time I saw her, James?"
"On her birthday, Mister Carlyle
so just over five months ago."
"Then this should be a pleasant surprise."
"I'm sure it will. Forever! There's someone here to see you."
A thrilled Forever throws herself across the lawn, hugging her father at the waist, her beaming face pressed against his stomach.
"I'm so happy to see you! No one told me you were coming!"
"And is this the proper way to greet your father?"
She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.
"No, sir. Sorry, sir. It's a pleasure to see you again, father."
I said this was a series about family and power. That and subsequent scenes are very telling: Carlyle doesn't want Forever's love; he demands her loyalty instead, using her status as a family member - and a subservient one at that - to consolidate it. He sets her in combat against her skilled trainer, Marisol, and though she acquits herself well, Forever fails.
"I think we both know your apology is meaningless. Our enemies would not hear it, because you would be dead. Your mother and I and your siblings would not hear it, because we would likely be dead too.
"You're not ready to wear the sword. I wonder, in fact if you should be allowed to wear the name Carlyle at all. The next time I visit, you will defeat Marisol
or you will no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter."
In a later visit he even addresses her as "my daughter". Who does that except royalty, and in the expectation of obeisance?
Forever's relationship with Marisol is very touching, their mutual affection strained not for one second by what they are commanded to do or ordered to endure. They endure quite a lot.
As for Bobbie, Joe, Leigh, Michael, and Casey, one of them too will discover harsh truths about the Carlyle family, the Lift Selection (Rucka's really thought that through, including scanning for physical impairments not for automatic exclusion but so that they can be compensated for during the tests if easily corrected at a later date), but above all they will witness first-hand how much loyalty is prized above all else.
LAZARUS would be immeasurably poorer without artist Michael Lark, here with Brian Level and colours by Santi Arcas. Quite why he's not on the cover is beyond me. He does youth - as well as age, wear and tear of which there is much - phenomenally well. There's both a natural softness (vulnerable is not a word I'd employ) and a resilient determination in the younger Forever's face and posture. Her body may be slight, but it is already precociously capable, Lark giving you no doubts whatsoever about that.
I've always loved Lark's urban landscapes, but here he proves master of hard-earth textures and sweeping, country panoramas even within a third-of-a-page panel overlooking the rain-drenched procession towards Denver. Arcas' subtly clouded skies are worth poring over too.
As for the crowded camp scenes at a distance, those are so, so tricky, but Lark pulls them off with the exact amount of detail a human eye would be able to take in and no more.
I will shut up now before I'm accused of gushing.