By: Greg Rucka (writer), Michael Lark with Brian Level (art & letters) and Santi Arcas (colors)

The Story: Forever begins to piece together the terrorist mystery.

TheReview (with SPOILERS): This was the issue where things began to click together.  Through the first cycle of stories, Greg Rucka and Team have created a very intricate, detailed and entertaining dystopian future that is highlighted by the ruling families and their respective Lazaruses (Lazari?) – supersoliders who manage the families respective security operations.

We’ve also been introduced to the concept of the castes of society (Family, Serfs and Waste) and seen how unequal society is with the Ruling Families living in opulence, Serfs in a sort of middle class existence and Waste in abject poverty.

A few issues ago, Rucka started spinning this tale of of a family of Waste who were headed to Denver in an attempt to be “uplifted” to Serf status.  Their trip has had a sort of “Wizard of Oz” feel to it as this family has endured struggle and death to reach Denver, but they were extremely excited to get uplifted.  Then last issue we saw that the line of desperate Waste auditioning for Serf status stretches for miles outside of the Denver city limits.

At its heart, Lazarus is really a class warfare tale.  It is supposed to be a funhouse mirror version of what our current society could be like if the 0.01% keep getting richer and the economy continues to provide few jobs for everyone else.  That’s why it is such a fun story.  Rucka isn’t saying that this is what WILL happen if things continue along a current path, but it has enough similarities that people can follow along.  Probably any reader who has been jobless knows how the Waste feel.  Anyone who has had a terrible job for a terrible boss, but needs the salary, knows how the Serfs feel.

The only problem I’ve had with the story so far is that Forever’s story of investigating Waste terrorists has seemed totally disconnected from the story of the Waste going to the uplift.  Both stories were good, but at times Lazarus seemed a little more like an anthology series with two separate stories set in the same world.  It wasn’t really a super problem because I trust Rucka as a storyteller and knew he’d tie it all up nicely.

This is the issue where the dots connect.

By learning that Forever is going to Denver, she’ll doubtless come into contact with this family of Waste.  All along it has seemed somewhat inevitable that Forever would end up on the side of populism and be a Spartacus-like figure.  You just can’t have the story go on with Forever as a hero with her also being the enforcer for a big corporation and he terrible family.  Eventually Forever needs to be on the side of angels.  This seems like a nice device to make that happen and I look forward to that ride.

The other incredible thing about this story is how amazing this Daddy-Daughter tale is between Forever and her father.  Her Dad is just a horrible, horrible person– worst father ever.  It isn’t even clear that she is really his child and he’s got her off learning to be a warrior before the age of 10.  She’s been subjected to some manner of enhancements that probably weren’t pleasant.  She’s going to have to fight/kill Marisol – her de facto mother.  And through it all… Forever sill loves her Daddy the way all little girls love their Daddy.  It’s sad and tragic because she’s only 10 and doesn’t know that her Daddy is a piece of crap.  I mean, who gives their 10 year old girl a book for the birthday.  This storyline is powerful because it is really hammering home how important and hard it will be when Forever has to fight her father.  It’s just reinforcing that Forever is really hard-wired to please her Daddy, so turning Spartacus isn’t going to be easy for her.

The art is incredible.  The part that really got to me was all the art of Forever as a little girl.  I mean, the GLEE she has when she finds out her DADDY has visiting and left her a PRESENT!!!  Most artists can’t even really draw a little girl worth a darn.  Lark can not only do that, but he can nail all the emotions from glee to a little girl rocking-it in the VR simulator.  It’s just so affecting to know that this emotional child is buried somewhere inside the stoic Forever we see in the present-day story.

Conclusion: Probably my favorite new-ish series of the last few years has another wonderful issue.  The pieces are clicking together.  Everything about the issue is deliberate and excellent.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell