First published in a collected edition format back in September of 2013, ‘Lazarus: Volume One’ (sporting the subtitle “Family”) formed the first instalment in Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s ‘Lazarus’ graphic novel series.

DLS Synopsis:
The world is now divided between sixteen powerful families.  The rest are leftovers.  A population of scroungers and the poor.  They are the waste.

But these powerful families are not allied.  Their wealth and position has put them at odds with each other.  But their rivalry causes great danger amongst them.  They will do anything to protect their families and assets.  They are the power, they are the law.

Each family has their protector.  The family’s defender.  A select family member who has been given the very best training, weaponry and scientific and technological advancements.  They are more than a person.  Genetically engineered super humans able to withstand even the most destructive of assaults.  They are the deadliest of weapons the families have.  They are the Lazarus.

For the Carlyle family, they have Commander Forever Carlyle to protect them.  The Carlyle armies form the family’s shield against their enemies, against the other families.  But Forever is the tip of their sword.  And like the finest blade she is beautiful and she is lethal and she is precise.

Forever is always on guard.  Always fighting.  Always defending her family.  However, after a Morray strike team assaults the Carlyle family's Harvest One compound before the alarm could be raised, questions are understandably raised about an inside job.  The Morray family are known to be low on such supplies.  A hard response is undoubtedly required.  Although such action is not the only solution.

To tackle the matter Forever is sent into Morray territory to discuss a possible mutually beneficial arrangement.  A diplomatic touch is sometimes the best approach.  However, others in the Carlyle family are deeply unhappy with the choices the family have been making.  The direction the family is going.  And they will do whatever it takes to get their way.  Even if it means killing their own…

DLS Review:
When dystopian fiction’s done well, when the writer is able to create a truly believable and realistic option (however disagreeable it may be) for our race, then you’ve got a story that will almost always suck the reader in within minutes.  The power of the premise alone is so damn captivating.  The scope of imaginative exploration and nods towards potential true-to-life warnings such a draw for intrigue.  It can quickly become an unveiling examination of our own psyche.  And that alone can be quite incredible.

This is all here in this first ‘Lazarus’ volume.  The premise and backdrop are superb.  The atmosphere projected through this vision is breathtakingly gritty.  A sort of hard-boiled, dog-eat-dog world where wealth is absolute power.  We have pushed ourselves to such an extreme.  And the end result is sinfully ugly.

Now inject in the Lazarus.  Near-immortal, self-regenerating half-human half-genetically modified creations.  They’re there to protect their family whatever the cost.  And these rival families are feuding.  Attacking each other when supplies run low.  The end result becomes somewhat akin to ‘The Godfather’ (1969) with the feuding families of power at each other’s throats, only with some proper arse-kicking assassin-like half-humans stuck in the middle of it all.

Pacing is relatively reserved.  Instead we have much more time spent on laying down the fabric of the complex hierarchy and family relations (both inner family and between the other families).  The character of Forever is also given a gradual unveiling – with more and more layers to who she is peeled back and exposed with every few pages of the graphic novel.

There is violence and bloodshed.  This is definitely an adult read.  But again, this is only brought in when needed and is not overly gratuitous in its extremity.  In this first volume we’re given literally just a handful of scenes of graphic violence (one being the opening introductory sequence).  The rest of the volume is dedicated to laying down and building upon the (already reasonably complex) inter-weaving plot.

Michael Lark’s artwork is spot on.  Vivid, bold imagery accompanied by dark, brooding shadows and strong bold line-work.  Santi Arcas’ colouring further compliments the absolute quality of the artwork, making the whole read a real pleasure.

For an introductory first volume it’s not bad at all.  It certainly whets the appetite with plenty of loose threads and hints of what’s to come, intentionally pulling you into volume two.  From where we end up, pretty much everything’s left open for the next volume to take up.  There’s no closing chapter.  No wrapping up.  It’s open season for the repercussions to come.  And for that, you feel pulled into a much bigger story – whether you like it or not.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 96 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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