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Review: Lazarus #2

lazarus2-webThis is what I’m talking about. This right here. Lazarus #1 was a great debut, but it felt a little rushed, like Greg Rucka was trying to cram as much as possible into a tiny space. Thankfully, this issue breathes a little easier.

(SPOILERS) Actually, this issue breathes a lot. In fact, there’s not much action at all. Most of this issue is talking and scheming and learning about the Family Carlyle. If anyone other than Rucka was writing this issue, I would call it boring. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Issue #2 is a master class in how to pace and plot a comic book. I was so struck by how every scene had a purpose; nothing went on too long, nothing was unnecessary. I learned the pertinent information and then the comic moved me right along into the following scene, which is another fantastic aspect of this book. Every scene leads to the next, with information from one scene having an impact on the next. It lent the book an incredible flow that made it so easy to read that I hardly noticed that there was little to no action. (Of course, part of this is the art, which I’ll get to.)

Not only was the book great scene to scene, but the dialogue was pitch perfect. Nothing felt hacky or rushed. For the most part, the characterization and voices were consistent. I never took issue with how the characters said anything, but I did have a bit of a problem with what they were saying.

For instance, Jonah Carlyle (Forever’s brother) seems like a bit of a dick, which is hard characterization to come back from. He seems pretty one note to me, which is worrisome: I really don’t want one of the primary antagonists to have his only characterization be, “I’m a bit of a dick.” Secondly, there was a moment in which Beth Carlyle (sister to Jonah) just kind of went off on Jonah, beat the crap out of him, and then threatened to kill him with a knife. All of that is great, and I have no doubt that there is a crazy amount of blackmail, stress, and hatred within the Carlyle family, but we don’t really know any of it yet. To have Beth just straight up attack her brother seemed a little premature.

However, all of that being said, I still believe in the characters. Nothing about the characters of Beth and Jonah make them particularly bad characters right now (it’s only issue #2, after all), and I have no doubt that Rucka will soon expand on them. And although this issue is a bit of an information dump, the main plot did move forward, and a new subplot comes to light: Jonah and his (twin?) sister Johanna are plotting to make moves against Forever. Also, they’re incestuous, which is gross, but kind of fun in a weird way.

A big part of what I mentioned above had to do with the easy readability of this comic. I can talk all I want about how good the writing is and how the dialogue is very convincing, and all of that adds to the book’s great sense of pace and momentum, but none of that could be accomplished without Michael Lark’s stellar art. The page design is simple and easy to read, which makes it easy for a reader’s eye to travel from one panel to the next; I was never, ever, confused about what I was supposed to read and when, which is a complaint I frequently have. This, in turn, allows this comic to get away with using less dialogue and caption boxes than the average comic. There are almost entire pages that are wordless, which is always a plus in my mind: any time the art can tell the story, it should.

Of course, it wouldn’t be able to tell the story so fluidly and clearly if the character models weren’t clear and consistent, and thankfully they are. Movement seems entirely natural, as do facial expressions. Lark can show disgust, anger, happiness, and lust so clearly it’s almost uncanny. The character movements are also drawn in a way that seems natural. The moment during which Beth attacks Jonah is presented in such a understandable way that I never had any doubt where I was, or how things had happened. The action was always fluid and it always looked perfect.

(Actually, on kind of a lame side note, on page 15 the middle panel shows Jonah knocking a tray out of a housekeeper’s hands. It’s not a huge moment, it doesn’t have lasting consequences, but I just stared at it for a good minute. The movement was so real I just couldn’t believe it. So anyway . . .)

Lazarus #2 simultaneously expanded the world and also focused on character. It’s a great issue that will without a doubt lay the foundation for the rest of the arc. I fully expect issue #3 to be explosive, and I, personally, can’t wait.

Story: Greg Rucka Art: Michael Lark

Story: 8 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.