Few things are as simple as we imagine them to be, Forever. If your mother had carried you nine months, or if we had adopted you instead of engineering you, you would still be my daughter…and you would still be the daughter I wanted. (Jacob Carlyle, chapter 3)
I don’t read many graphic novels, but I wait anxiously for each new bind-up of Lazarus. This fifth installment, Cull, continues to thrill with near-future dystopian world-building and interesting character development. Female characters take center stage, and Forever continues to be one of my favorite strong female leads.
If you’ve been following this series, then this bind-up of issues 22-26 will not disappoint. If you are new to the Lazarus world, then beginning with Volume 1, Family, is a must. Cull may have a succinct “Previously” page and a two page spread of the “Dramatis Personae,” but these serve better as reminders to those who have waited some time between volumes rather than a gentle leading of new readers into the war that is now raging between the Families. Rather, Cull drops you right into a graphic scene where Forever, the Carlyle Lazarus, is being treated for some pretty horrific injuries. Not for the faint of heart (and a good example of why I always include “adults only” as well as “high tolerance” warnings [blood, gore, violence, language, nudity…] in my Lazarus reviews).
Loyalty is one of the themes that stood out to me when thinking about the developments in this volume. Sonja Bittner, Lazarus of the now landless Family Bittner, proves her loyalty as a stand-in for the recovering Forever. Johanna Carlyle, as acting head of family while Jacob continues to recover from the events of previous volumes, becomes a more interesting character to watch (and not just dislike) as she attempts to manipulate those around her. The differing methods she uses in her attempts to win the loyalty of Forever and Eve, the young Lazarus in training also known as Forever Eight, left me intrigued and wanting to know how they would each react when she, inevitably at some point in a future volume, betrays them.
As usual, though, it is Forever who holds my attention the most as she learns more about what is actually behind being a Lazarus and considers where her loyalties should truly lie. Betrayal, though, is something she must deal with both within her Family and without, as a climactic battle pits the Lazari of four allied Families against a single, monstrous Lazarus.
The climactic battle that ends this volume left me anxious to continue the story, but rather glad that I hadn’t rushed to read Cull when it was first released, or switched to the single issue format, so that I (hopefully) have less time to wait for the next bind-up.
One of the strengths of this series is the continuity of the artists and artwork. Constantly fitting and complimenting the story, there are nuanced changes in the level of coarseness that seem to be based on the content of a scene while at times the artwork feels quite slick in contrast.
Easily one of the best volumes in this series, Cull is a must read for those who follow the series. And for fans of near-future dystopians, Lazarus is a fantastic choice in graphic novels (with the caveat of the prior warnings – the series includes content that would typically preclude me from reading and reviewing it).
Lazarus, Volume 5: Cull (issues 22-26) written by Greg Rucka, art by Michael Lark, color by Santi Arcas | Image Comics, Inc., May 2017 | paperback (library copy), 128 pages
In writing this review, I was surprised to find that I had read the first two volumes before beginning this blog. Here, then, are the reviews I posted on GoodReads in 2014, as well as links to the more recent reviews of volumes 3 and 4:
Lazarus, Volume 1: Family “An intriguing start to a dystopian series that left me wanting to read more.”
Lazarus, Volume 2: Lift “is a satisfying continuation of the dystopian story begun in Lazarus: Family. The truce between the Moray and Carlyle “Families” is holding and Forever continues to question her role. Where Family established the setting and introduced the mafia-style rule of the Family, Lift shows a broader view of society and the precarious life of Waste. The unrest is also more centered on the Waste, those not registered as Serfs and therefore not employed or protected by a Family.
Each chapter begins with a flashback to Forever’s childhood and training as a Lazarus. The chapters then follow various characters, most notably the Barrett family. The Barretts are Waste, farmers dependent on the Family to sell them seed, to buy their crops, and in return they pay heavy taxes. Throughout the graphic novel we follow their journey from their farm to Lift, where Waste are selected to become Serfs.
Continuity was no issue with this second of the Lazarus series, even in the muted, sometimes bleak, illustrations. I look forward to future installments, with particular interest in Forever’s story.
This review refers to a “Read Now” copy received through NetGally in exchange for an honest review.”
Lazarus, Volume 3: Conclave (review here)
Lazarus, Volume 4: Poison (review here)