As regular readers probably know, I read a lot of Marvel and DC comics. Every now and then, however, I like to take some time to browse – be it at comic con or my local shop – to find a new graphic novel that’s not just another superhero title. These sporadic searches have led me to discovering some excellent books, like Alex Alice’s stunning Siegfried trilogy, and the book that I am going to review in this post is a new discovery from this last week.
Lazarus vol. 1, written Greg Rucka, with art and letters by Michael Lark and colouring by Santi Arcas, is a graphic novel set at some point in the future (maybe a couple of hundred years from now), in a time where the world is not broken down into sovereign nations, but into domains ruled by small families. There are some who serve these families, living relatively normal lives, but the majority of people are simply Waste. In each family, there is someone who is trained to be a brilliant fighter, and given every technological advantage that family can come up with. This one person is that family’s protector, called a Lazarus.
The book focuses on one Lazarus, Forever, who is a member of the Carlyle family, and plots her emotional development as she navigates the brutal, dystopian world that she lives in. For readers of series like the Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, you will be familiar with the idea of following one character who is essentially trying to fight against a system that has set the pattern of your life for you.
For fans of books like those, Lazarus will appeal, but it is by no means a carbon copy of those other series. A key difference here is that Forever is not a subversive character. Never once does she question the validity of the brutal feudal system that the world runs on, and whenever she has doubts about what she is doing, her instinct is to work through them and stay loyal to her family.
As well as a very interesting main character, there are some interesting supporting cast members. Because of how short the book is, you don’t get to see loads of these others, but there is enough to see the conflict that exists within the Carlyle family, and to get a sense of who these people are who will undoubtedly be important as the series continues.
Alongside the strong characters and world-building there is also some great action, and fun future-tech on show, as well as some engagement with the wider problems facing the domains in the world at large.
Having said all of this, the book isn’t perfect. Some of the dialogue came across as a bit artificial, and I thought that some of the twists of the storyline could have been made more subtly, or communicated in a cleverer way than characters just happening to bring these things up in conversation. That said, you don’t have as many words to work with in the graphic novel medium, so I suppose that they could run the risk of going too far in the other direction and leaving the reader confused. On balance, I would rather be clear than not, but I just felt that some of it could have been executed more elegantly.
The team of Rucka, Lark and Arcas have put together a fantastic opening book to the Lazarus series. It was not perfect, but it was engaging, and left me wanting more. I highly recommend it to fans of dystopian or superhero stories, and I will definitely be picking up volume 2.
My Rating: 8/10