Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lazarus, Finally.

On my way back from jury duty, I bought comics. I bought the new issues of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman, Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye and Kieron Gillen's and Jamie McKelvie's Young Avengers.

These are all critically acclaimed comics, though Hawkeye more than the others, but I also bought one more: Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Lazarus.

My friends on Twitter who also like comics are new to comics and are committed to Hawkeye and Young Avengers in a way that gives me hope. Both series are anchored by creative teams that are absolutely essential to the premise. Without Matt Fraction writing or David Aja drawing most of Hawkeye, I'd be out. Not interested. Ditto for Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie on Young Avengers. When they leave, I'm out the door too.

Gillen's hinted that his end is in sight, and Aja's talking on Twitter about how he'd like to do something creator owned with Matt Fraction after Hawkeye wraps up.

Though, if Aja leaves and Fraction stays on then I can be persuaded to stick around, if Steven Wacker can keep finding new, excellent talent to pencil the comic. Mr. Wacker being an editor that keeps emotive and imaginative pencillers up his sleeve, that's a meaningful consideration. Hawkeye and Young Avengers are proudly superhero comics and that's what powers them. There's conflict and loss and fear without the appalling "grittiness" that invades a post-Brian Azzarello comics industry.

And that's not me taking a swipe at Azzarello. His Wonder Woman is a great comic. It's strange, and a friend of mine argues it has terribly little to do with Wonder Woman and I still am not on board with the Amazons being praying mantis style murderers, but it's Wonder Woman being written by an A-list writer that isn't being pushed into crossover hell. I'll take it.

That this is the best of all possible worlds in DC brings me to Lazarus.

The first image of Lazarus is a pistol being discharged and the second image is the bullet impacting a woman. The first double page spread is of said woman lying on the ground, bleeding out at least two quarts of blood.

Lazarus is not all-ages.

I talked to a different, dear friend, who I have to plead with to get him to read Global Frequency, I told him that Lazarus (or at least its first issue) was about family and money and power. And I was right, but I wasn't being terribly precise. Sure, it's about family, money and power, but it's mostly about manipulation, control and violence.

Two people get shot in the head in Lazarus and I suspect a lot more will further down the road. Words are thrown around, but the people who live their true value tend to die real quick.

I tried to read other comics after i finished Lazarus. I could only stomach Young Avengers because of the baleful twist at the end, with entire swaths of Hawkeye's dog issue being lost on me. Hawkeye #11 is a masterpiece of virtuosity from Fraction and Aja. It didn't entirely land with me. I respect the hell out of it, since I can see the work that went into it, but that's as far as it goes. As for what happened in Wonder Woman, I straight up cannot remember. Lazarus leaves me with a chill beneath my skin, sinking into my bones.

I do not believe the Twitter crew would be so excited for Lazarus as they are for Hawkeye or Young Avengers. Lazarus is Greg Rucka writing for penciller Michael Lark with a point and letting his anger power his storytelling. Lark, the co-creator is methodical, precise and not flashy. What they concoct is vile and perhaps even corrosive. Put another way, I don't think Tumblr's feels are ready.

Lazarus is 100 Bullets one hundred years in the future. It's a hard sci-fi comic about a handful of families that control the world's wealth and spend most of the their time scheming over how to take other people's money while jealously guarding their own. This gives Lark a chance to pencil what he's known for: conflicted people with handguns and also lets him do design and world-build. What I see looks plausible, sadly, and even accurate.

In 2011, I read Rucka's novel Walking Dead as I rode along the Amalfi Coast. Whatever joy I was supposed to take from the gorgeous scenery was obliterated by Rucka's exacting, unswerving vision of the global web of sex slavery. I didn't enjoy the book, it wasn't meant to be enjoyed, per se, but it was pernicious and it was precise. Between now and then, Rucka published another novel called Alpha and was given an offer he couldn't refuse by Steven Wacker to write the Punisher, but neither of those works, despite also featuring men with guns, had the same kind of tone. (We pass over Stumptown, since there's too much humor.)

It is now 2013, and Lazarus exists. It feels like it should have come sooner, but it's still timely. Alpha was about geo-politics and terrorism scares. The Punisher was about a man keeping his word, however baleful that word may be. But Lazarus is about right the fuck now and what's coming for us down the pike.

Welcome back, Mr. Rucka. We missed you.

I said elsewhere that I wanted to write something that feels like how I feel when I listen to Cursed. I think Lazarus has a very, very good shot of being that piece of media. Below, find  one of my favorite tracks, called Magic Fingers. "When they say amen/they mean I hope you live forever/hand to mouth."

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