My trajectory with the Lazarus series seems to be inverse to that of most other readers. I read the first volume (full confession: sneakily, and in a Barnes and Noble because at that time, my local library system didn't really buy trade paperbacks of any comic) and loved it. It pushed all my happy reading buttons:
- Dysfunctional family
- Kick-butt heroine who is not itsy but super-muscular and fierce
- Post-apocalyptic setting
- Genetic enhancements
Hmm, looking at that list, I may seem a bit intense. Oh well!
The basic premise of Lazarus is that the world as we know it is over, and sixteen families took over the globe in this sort of psychotic oligarchy. Each family has a territory over which they rule, and Waste to manage. Waste are people, actually. Unmodified humans whose existence is misery and toil.
NOTE: This is not a dystopia. In a dystopia, everyone would think life is hunky-dory and then one person would realize, "Dear lord, life is awful! Those rulers are murderous megalomaniacs! I must fight them!" Said savior either succeeds (modern dystopia, i.e. The Hunger Games) or is crushed by the system (1984). Lazarus is not dystopian fiction because the vast majority of the population is unhappy with this system of government, and no one is kidding themselves that life is perfect.
Okay, mini-rant over. Anyway, each of these ruling families has made the most of advances in genetic engineering, and has created a Lazarus to protect and represent themselves. A Lazarus is an unkillable (okay, super-regenerating) killing machine in human form. The protagonist of the series is Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of House Carlyle.
In volume 4, the Head of the House of Carlyle, Marcus, has been poisoned by a rival House. With this act, House Hock declares war, and both Houses battle for control of Duluth (who knew Minnesota would have strategic cities in this bleak future?). These battle scenes are what ruined the volume for me. Michael Lark obfuscates every panel by smothering them in white dots because Minnesota=snow. I had no idea what was going on during the battle scenes, and the soldiers of the fighting houses look so similar that I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.
Mostly, I just feel perplexed, because there were supposed to be two big twists in the story, but ... did I miss them? I suppose that when I hear "twist" I automatically go to Luke-I-Am-Your-Father-level twist. Ultimately, the story of this particular arc underwhelmed me, especially coming off of the amazing sword fight at the end of the last volume. One reviewer noted that Rucka has background in choreography, which definitely explains why those wordless panels were so amazing. I want more of that type of art, not this fuzzy, wartime grit that permeates this volume.
However, I really enjoy reading Ever as a character, and I find Johanna Carlyle deliciously twisted. Hopefully, the art in the next volume will improve and the writing will be clearer as to what is actually going on.