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REVIEW: What’s the cure for ‘Lazarus, Vol. 4: Poison’?

 
Lazarus Vol 4 Cov
Lazarus Vol 4 Cov
Lazarus Vol 4 Cov

 
Overview
 

Story by: Greg Rucka
 
Art by: Michael Lark
 
Cover by: Owen Freeman
 
Publisher:
 
FG RATING
 
 
 
 
 
4.5/ 5


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To sum it all up..

Family, the fundamental unit of society, is the true focal point in the not-so-distant-future science fiction series Lazarus by the collaborative efforts of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Since the beginning of human history, societies, civilizations, empires, technology, religions, and culture come and go, but the concept of family is one of the fewest and most formidable social institutions that […]

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Posted January 27, 2016 by

 
FULL REVIEW
 
 

Lazarus Vol 4 CovFamily, the fundamental unit of society, is the true focal point in the not-so-distant-future science fiction series Lazarus by the collaborative efforts of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Since the beginning of human history, societies, civilizations, empires, technology, religions, and culture come and go, but the concept of family is one of the fewest and most formidable social institutions that is also serve as the base of almost every socioeconomic-political-cultural activities of every human society.

However, that same social structure does not go unchallenged. Karl Marx once theorized that with the dissolution of family itself, true human progress would be possible. With radical thoughts like nationalism, socialism, communism, anarchism, utilitarianism, existentialism, industrialism, and even postmodernism that question the overall essentiality of family over nation, the greater good, individualism, and choices, it comes no surprise this “family” soon enough evolves since the Industrial Age in the 18th century. But in the brilliant minds of Rucka and Lark, that same social unit comes back with the vengeance and soon returns to its medieval prominence but in more technological and sophisticated forms. In the fourth volume of Lazarus aptly entitled POISON, family is once again threatened due to the same primeval calling of the human race — war.

Lazarus Vol 4 02This time, powerful families Carlyle and Hock and their respective allies are locked in bitter conflict for supremacy once the last gathering, or the Conclave as previously narrated, broke down. This arc focuses more on the Carlyle’s delicate hold of power, not only its territorial holdings against the Hocks but also with the family’s own internal conflicts while trying desperately to save its poisoned patriarch, Malcolm. Indeed, the title itself is the obvious giveaway for what actually happen in the entire story. However, Rucka is no ordinary writer to just narrate a shallow tale with a simplistic title. Poison can be interpreted to many things if readers reread this masterfully crafted arc. The literal level is Hock’s nigh success of assassinating his former associate and bitter rival on the grounds of obtaining the necessary tools of almost taking the latter down. Even the most dedicated and brilliant medical minds in the Carlyle estate scrambled literally on finding the cure that is akin of watching some suspenseful medical-themed television. In the first chapter alone, religion can be considered as such because it arguably promotes submissiveness and total control to the majority, echoing again Marx’s infamous dictum, the opiate of the masses, but in medical form. Another one is how the members of the family and their respective allies handle this dire situation. It is apparent that without the formidable presence of the patriarch, most of the so-called heirs apparent are basically crushed under pressure or their façades of superiority are cracked until some of the members of the low castes offer/render their hands to solve/mitigate the delicate and serious problems at hand. Also, the family’s Lazarus, Forever, is visibly torn apart on the revelations she learned from last arc. Are the truths she learned can be considered as venomous to her family’s legacy, loyalty, or her own individuality? Apparently, she learns the consequences of her actions the hard way in one of her fateful missions. And, each of the Carlyle has its inherent poisons that manifests in the most depressing moment, particularly the elder siblings. That same venom also gives rise to an unexpected member who actually possesses the same personal qualities the patriarch is known and feared of. That is how a title should be taken seriously.

Lazarus Vol 4 02
Though the interactions between the Carlyle and the subordinates read more medieval than ever, the plot is given emphasis here, as the family has to deal with the enemies, its fragile alliances, and its own personal demons as well. Characterizations are also presented here, and the writer likes as much as possible to give voices to the different casts of characters involved, both in the battlefield and the Carlyle facilities. Of course, Rucka is known of portraying his female characters, especially the series’ leading protagonist Forever, as strong and as vulnerable as possible.

Lark’s art continues to improve as the series progresses, particularly during the wordless or silent paneling sequences that needless to say, he goes beyond the writer’s original concepts and even his own expectations. Facial projections are also important in this series because wars or any conflicts occur are anything but a walk in the park. Even the most powerful Lazarus shows her anxieties and fears, which Lark exactly illustrates. Lazarus Vol 4 04The same goes with most of the characters that deal with so much depressions, worries, and hopelessness in the midst of this familial battle. Both Rucka and Lark handle the military confrontation moments as if they do their serious homework regarding military strategies and tactics. In Rucka’s case, this is a reminiscence of his previous opus, Queen and Country, which also presented his knowledge about military espionage and infiltration, including guerrilla warfare. Henceforth, this latest volume combines some of the best in political drama, medical suspense, and great battle and actions scenes ever witness in the graphic medium yet.

Although this edition has some additional features, particularly Lark’s artworks, I could have wished that the Lazarus creative team could present the other conflicts in different parts of the world as briefly mentioned in the main narrative. This one centers entirely with the Carlyle and Hock, outside is invisible but still felt by the populace of his dominion. Also, there are some medical and other technological terminologies that may rather intimidate some novice readers around. Furthermore, more serious Lazarus collectors can actually wait for the hardcover volume two deluxe edition for a couple of months, unless they can do double-dipping.

Nonetheless, Lazarus, Vol. 4: Poison proves once again the demonstration and capability the graphic novel can do in bringing up and tackling serious problems of the modern times, particularly the continuing repetitions of humankind’s mistakes that are wars, conflicts, territorial disputes, and even familial struggles, while the biggest losers—the masses or the “wastes”—suffer the most. Poison deserves that kind of title, and that begs the question, when will the human race ever make a total anti-venom for this kind of malady? Go figure.


Paul Ramos

 


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