By: Greg Rucka (writer), Michael Lark (art/letters), Santi Arcas (colors)

The Review (with SPOILERS): This is a little bit of a quiet issue of Lazarus because it is totally a “middle chapter” of a bigger story.  We get a little bit more of Story A, a little more of Story B, a little more of Story C, etc.  But the pieces aren’t fully connecting yet, so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions.  There are some definite themes emerging and we can speculate about future plot directions, but Greg Rucka is so well-read and aware of stereotypes, that I suspect most of those speculations won’t come true.

We spend some of this issue on two Forever stories.  In the present, we see that she is clearly beginning to see some of the injustice of the current status quo where a few wealthy families control everything.  Remember back to the first issue where she killed that group of “waste” for stealing food from Family Carlyle?  Well, this time, she just kinda watches the thieving waste watches from the shadows.  She clearly could have stopped/killed these “waste”, but she elects to let them go.  And they’re not stealing food, but things like tanks of gas.  They’re making a bomb (probably) and she lets them go.  Hmmm…

Now, she isn’t totally derelict in her security duties for the Family as she does question one of the other “waste” about what the others are doing with the tanks of gas.  So, Forever still has that familial loyalty that was brainwashed into her at a very young age (and maintained by handfulls of pills that she may or may not be taking).  Still, you can see the cracks at the seams.  She is beginning to question her role in this system.  It’ll be ugly when it breaks.

I also found the references to Forever’s old teacher and Forever’s youth to be interesting.  What an abnormal childhood: no real family interaction, wanting to please your “father”, doing fingertip push-ups while conjugating in Latin (It never leaves you if you did it: venio, venis, venit, venimus, venitis, veniunt…), training to kill her teacher/mother-figure…  And then there is this revelation that her teacher is still alive?  And that Forever didn’t really “beat” her, the teacher possibly allowed Forever to win?  It seems too stereotypical for Rucka, but could we be headed for a Forever/Teacher rematch when Forever inevitably goes rogue?  I’m intrigued to see what wrinkle Rucka layers on so it isn’t just Carlyle sending the teacher to hunt down and kill her former student.

The part of Lazarus that isn’t clicking for me is this whole thing with the sharecropper waste family and how they’re going to travel to the city in hopes of being uplifted to Serf status.  I mean, this story is interesting and it adds some background to the overall tale of just how extensive the Family’s control is AND how they ended up taking lands from people (indentured servitude), but I’m not sure how it connects to what Forever is doing.  This story does add some irony to the interaction between the gas-thief waste and the security Serfs.  I mean, those security guys were obviously waste themselves at one point and they don’t have any problems accepting sexual favors from a hungry woman.  She’s basically one of their own, but they’re rather abuse their positions than help out.  In the ante-bellum South they called those types of people Uncle Toms.

The whole comic is a pretty rich tale about class, inequality and injustice.  There is a definite proletariat slant and I’m just really curious to see what Rucka does with it all.  He’s got some very rich pieces and a well conceived world.

The art is really splendid (again).  There is just something to how Michael Lark draws Forever so that she looks aloof, watchful and predatory.  I really appreciate all the nuance to the facial expressions in the issue because they’re key to why we sympathize with some characters and loathe others.  It’s really easy to take this nuance for granted because it just seems so natural on the page, but anyone who has every tried to draw knows that this is hard stuff to do.  I can’t even draw a decent stick figure.  I can’t imagine being able to draw an attractive woman like Forever, much less be able to dial in how much muscularity she has… Much less different hair styles, different types of clothes, and much less make her exhibit different moods.  But, when she is watching those “Waste” steal the gas cylinders, you can just tell she is watching, no approving, but is concerned enough about the macro-situation that she doesn’t want to intervene – yet.  So much more effective to do that with a facial expression than a thought-bubble.

Conclusion: Even in a quiet issue, Lazarus shows it’s power and how well Rucka knows how to tell a story about class and inequality.  There are a few pieces that don’t connect yet, but is there really any doubt that they will?  It’s nice to be able to trust the storyteller….

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell