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Most comic books have some sort of cliffhanger at the end of the issue these days. The majority of those are endings that pique our curiosity a bit about the next issue while there are a handful that make you stare at the page for a minute in disbelief at the shock you have just witnessed. Lazarus #18 is the second type of cliffhanger. The series has generally been about character building and tense action sequences, and that makes the end of Lazarus #18 more unexpected. It’s not a cheap surprise, either, as it comes after a very good issue overall. Warning, this review will contain SPOILERS.
A few issues ago, family patriarch Malcolm Carlyle was poisoned by a rival family, Jakob Hock. This started a war between the Carlyle and Hock clans as well as their family allegiances. So far, the war is not going the Carlyle’s way, which is why Forever, the trained killer Lazarus of the Carlyle’s, takes a small force to one of the war fronts, hoping to slowly take down enough of the Hock forces to turn the war. Although Forever makes quick work of them, a lingering soldier manages to get off a shot at Forever, one that would seem to kill her.
So the question is have writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark actually killed their main character? The Lazarus is bred to be physically heightened and actually rather superhuman. Still, they must have limits to what they can stand, right? It would be pretty unexpected and radical for this series to kill Forever because she is by far the most important character. Lazarus is one of those series, though, that seems willing to push the envelope in ways that are totally out of question for most comics. So who knows? I suspect Forever will somehow recover, but it’s quite possible she won’t.
As I mentioned at the top, it’s not just the perilous situation of Forever that makes Lazarus #18 work. This issue moves the story on a number of fronts. At the conclusion it’s impressive to look at how many story threads Rucka and Lark address here. Michael Barrett, formerly of the Waste family heading to the Lift, has been recruited to help Malcolm. Duplicitous Johanna is up to another scheme. Readers are also briefly shown other characters like Forever’s trainer Marisol and a Lazarus that Forever has battled and befriended, Sonja Bittner. Overall, Lazarus #18 is an important issue for the current arc and the series in general. There is a lot of story here.
Michael Lark’s art is distinctive and appealing most of the time. He gets many different types of scenes in Lazarus #18, so we get to see the range of his work. The best moments are probably the battle scenes, which have a brevity but clear look to them. They also hint at the violence without showing too much of it. The conversational scenes are also a strength of Lark’s, though there are a few times that characters have an odd look (especially Forever). There are many good moments for Lark in Lazarus #18, but it’s not his best work.
Lazarus is one of those comics that has large gaps of time between issues. It’s a quality series, so the sporadic issues are forgivable, especially when the resulting issue is as good as Lazarus #18. The gaps do make it a bit tough to remember all of the plotlines, and I would guess that it hurts the comics’ sales. Still, Lazarus seems to have developed a loyal base of fans and puts out consistently good work. I hope Lazarus #19 is not too far around the corner, especially after the cliffhanger in #18.