When we left off last month, Forever Carlyle had ventured into Morray territory, and things looked like they were about to get violent. Issue #3 brings us around to the real threat at hand; tensions from within Family Carlyle that go beyond petty sibling rivalry.
What Rucka and Lark have laid out for us is a setting that rests on the brink of conflict, which itself contains smaller subsets, equally poised for battle. Abstracted out, we've got the Families who are a few bad moments or a few short resources shy of war. Within them, a hierarchy begging for class warfare -- Family vs. Serf vs. Waste. And within that population, a leadership caste that seems nearly hell-bent on self-destruction, propagated by selfish and power-mad individuals. We've seen conflicts in small, precise doses -- Forever's assassination of the Serf scientist, Joacquim's dismissal of the sergeant, Jonah's plans to similarly dispatch of servants who see too much -- but we're aware of much larger battles that are mere moments from happening. If Morray or Carlyle betray the other and violate the terms of their diplomatic talks, the two Families are poised for war. If the large Waste population can find a means to empowerment, we're small steps away from a very large, violent class conflict. If the twins can supplant their father? Certainly, unmitigated disaster is in the cards. But none of this yet -- tensions are being escalated, not blown up.
Since we're not watching a war unfold just yet, interactions are the most intriguing element of this series, along with the relationships that guide them. Every single exchange is important, and every moment is selected to reveal something. Body language is critical. Facial expressions are loaded with meaning. The people in this world don't have throwaway conversations, or if they do, it's all off-panel, because everything on the page is nuanced. A passing mention of Joacquim's inability to eat guava isn't just small talk, but rather a revelation of the physical consequences of Lazarus modifications. James' decision to tell Malcolm that Jonah wants to know Forever's whereabouts isn't just tattling; it's an illustrative example of how others view the Family hierarchy (ok, it's also tattling -- tension-building is important, too). Joacquim's suggestion that he and Forever stop just outside of Morray territory is equally important, though we can't tell just yet if it was a genuine moment of friendship or a calculated betrayal.
The Lazarus-Lazarus interactions are surprising, in a pleasant way. Where they could have easily treated each other with hostility or mistrust, there's instead an instant respect -- perhaps because they're both finely-tuned instruments of war, they recognize a need for civility when it's an option. Civility even gives way to a sense of camaraderie; unique in their situations, Forever and Joacquim both possess a sense of longing for a relatable ally, even when such a person could be an enemy in other circumstances, and still has potential to turn hostile. Who else but another Lazarus could understand the special quirks of their kind, such as the side effects of bodily enhancements? And indeed, who else but a Lazarus could understand how some of those quirks serve as shackles that bind them to their Families?
Parlay protocols are fascinating in their formality; witnessing the conversation between Carlyle and Morray is like peering into a room that we don't belong in. "Carlyle agrees" and "Morray agrees" are especially foreign in their stiffness; the phrasing is carefully chosen to make it clear that the talks are between entities rather than individuals. Entities don't trust, entities don't feel. It's smart, too -- we can't tell who's trustworthy, on a Family level or on an individual level. It's easy to place trust in Forever, since the book is ostensibly about her, but it's also easy to see how she, as a pawn of her Family, could have less than honorable motives. It would be convenient to trust the Voice of Morray, but we know that Jonah has conspired with that Family before, and it's hard to tell how sincere Morray is about blacklisting him.
And when interactions shift from conversation to action? It's explosive.
Nothing to say here this month. Issue #3 was another solid installment in a new -- but already spectacular -- series.
Rucka and Lark have invited us to a world ready for a major war, and set a series of small conflicts that line up like dominoes -- we get the pleasure of watching new pieces join the board until it all comes crashing down in a spectacular way. It's primetime TV caliber drama mixed with deadly comics action, and they're nailing it. Three issues in, and we've got compelling characters, sensational rivalries, and an arsenal of weapons (including at least two in human form) just waiting for a firefight.