by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Do you feel that disconnect between what you love and what you have to do? Of course you do. Human beings tend to have pretty good bullshit-detectors, and we usually know when someone is selling us something. The problem is we don’t always reject false forms of happiness. That’s the real disconnect. We can recognize the flashing lights as hollow spectacle and still opt in. Lazarus 28 shows us both the meaningful and the superficial connections to the world Jonah lives in, and the damage exacted on one by the other. It’s a harrowing issue, and creators Greg Rucka and Michael Lark place sex and family at the very center of this dichotomy between meaning and meaninglessness.
The issue opens on the birth of Jonah and Pernille’s son. We’re not in the room with Pernille and the Jensen family while it’s happening, but clinically watching from outside the house, waiting to change the population in the village from 506 to 507.
Rucka and Lark are starting this story from an extremely cynical position, viewing the world through the eyes of its stat-crunching, resource-managing ruling families. There’s a brand new life in that house, and with it all the new connections between members of this little family. The baby is named for Jens, the patriarch of the house and their tiny fishing concern, and he represents the start of a new life and a new set of values for Jonah and everyone else in his life.
Or, he’s the difference between 506 and 507.
Of course, Rucka and Lark seemingly can’t help but slow down to focus on the legitimately moving moments within this new family dynamic as the ruling class recruits them for war. First of all, it’s absolutely chilling to see the hologram of Sevara Bittner issue a declaration of war to a totally silent and sullen-faced crowd. The villagers accept their role in this war, not because they’re personally invested in it, but because they feel they must. And that’s stupid. By the end of the issue, almost everyone we know is dead, and for what? A war they don’t fully understand or support. Pernille puts it pretty succinctly: “It isn’t right.” and Jonah responds “I know.”
But that’s where the real stuff kicks back in, and the creative team gives us a page and a half without dialogue that just allows Jonah and Pernille to live their meaningful lives. Putting the baby to bed, cleaning up the kitchen, having sex. It’s not glamorous, and it’s not impactful on some global scale, but it is personal and real.
It’s sweet and it’s vulnerable. In their pillow talk afterwards, Lark draws Jonah brushing away Pernille’s hair with a hand that has missing and mangled fingers, reminding the reader of the vicious gap between how safe the world is in this house and how dangerous is it outside.
As soon as Jonah and Jens make it on to their military fishing / supply boat, they’re bombarded with sexual imagery. There’s this kind of pornographic propaganda film that uses a combination of insults and titillation to motivate the workers. It’s over the top, a bunch of women and men naked and fucking on a sprawling pink mattress. Pointedly, it is not real and totally ineffective. What is real is that everyone who’s actually from this village is starting to get sick. Starting to die. And the family, of course, sees the best possible solution to disease to be containment. By this point in the issue, we should know that doesn’t mean treatment. Cue the “doctors:”
When Jonah returns to his home, he finds all but his son lost. Everyone and everything else has been destroyed by either this mysterious plague or its heartless “cure.” All of the meaningless, hollow things that took over his life also robbed him of the things that made his life worth living.
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