It's difficult to pick up after an explosive, presume-at-least-some-main-characters-are-dead cliffhanger and carry on the momentum and excitement without missing a beat. But LAZARUS does it seamlessly, with the precision and fierceness of its heroine. Following last month's explosion is this month's fallout, but it's anything but a lull. This may be the most action-packed issue of the series yet; and while the punches pulled and flights from scenes are impressive, it's the emotional tension that continues to drive LAZARUS forward.
Greg Rucka knows precisely when and how to throw a primetime-drama-worthy moment into the mix, and Johanna's particularly calculating brand of duplicity juices up the story in a major way. It's brilliant, because we don't know whose interests Johanna is really looking out for -- besides her own, of course. Is she making Jonah a scapegoat to allow him a chance to escape (as she tells him), or is she purely self-preserving, and throwing her twin into the lion's den to stay spotless herself? I'm eager to see whether she's truly conniving or just an opportunist in light of the failed initiative.
The alternating panels depicting Johanna's orders to Mason and Forever's orders to her attackers are brilliantly choreographed. The violence occurs in sync, the determination of both Carlyle women is palpable, and both leave the sequence victorious -- for now. It's an intense juxtaposition, because we're cheering for Forever and resenting Johanna, but both women (or their creators, rather -- much credit to Rucka and Lark for excellent scripting and execution here) knock these scenes out of the park.
Also notable about this issue: we peel back a layer (literally) on the Morray Lazarus, Joacquim. His face, partially torn off, reveals a Terminator-like metal skull. It's haunting, because we know that Forever is the same way, and that both of them still have feelings and lives and some shred of humanity, but they're not completely human anymore. Given Bethany's comments and the mysterious email at the end of the issue, it's also entirely plausible that they weren't ever human.
LAZARUS continues to be a stand-out, must-pull series. There's no lag in the narrative, no slips in the choreography; it's just compelling storytelling with beautiful illustrations and more drama than anything you'll see on network tv during the daytime. As Rucka and Lark continue to build out their world, it becomes more dangerous, more interesting, more real. The science falls very much in the could-be-happening-now or could-be-happening-soon categories, and the more we learn about how Forever and the other Lazari work, the more chilling it is. All of this is mixed into a setting rife with power struggles, secrets, and attempted coups, and nothing feels contrived; LAZARUS is just playing in an entirely different league than most comics on the shelves right now. If you're waiting for the trade, you're missing out. This one gets the pull-every-month endorsement.