The Perversion of Meaning in Lazarus 28

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. Continue reading

Lazarus 27: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: An interlude is meant to be a break, a diversion, something different from the norm. In the case of Lazarus 27 — specifically billed as part one of a two-part interlude — it means that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark are taking a break from the story of Forever Carlyle to instead focus on her brother Jonah. Jonah’s adventure isn’t just an interlude for readers, though; it’s one for Jonah as well, a chance for him to experience a lifestyle far different than anything he’s ever seen before. Unfortunately, like most interludes, I fear this experience may be a temporary one for Jonah. Continue reading

There’s Power Hidden in the Style of Black Magick 11

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 11

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

As a medium, comics are limited to two dimensions and single moments in time, but those are really the only limitations. Even so, it can be easy to forget that comics art can be anything but representational, as so many mainstream comics tend to default to some much more restrictive rules. This is particularly strange given the popularity of supernatural or superhuman powers in comics. In a medium with infinite possibilities, these powers tend to be depicted in the same ways, again and again; a hard punch (like, a really hard punch), a big explosion (like, a really big explosion, a massive spaceship (like, a really massive spaceship), etc. It takes a much more thoughtful, much more subtle hand to actually take advantage of the medium’s possibilities to represent the otherworldly, which is exactly what Nicola Scott does in Black Magick 11, cashing in some of the stylistic choices she’s made from the beginning of the series to really sell the magic at hand. Continue reading

The Makings of a Monster in Lazarus X+66 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Lazarus X+66 6

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Comics tend to make a big deal about the prosocial mission of superheroes. That is, their origin isn’t just about why they can leap tall buildings or outrun a bullet, but why they choose to use those powers to protect innocent people. It’s interesting that creators emphasize this point — the choice to don a cape and charge into a burning building is a certainly a remarkable one, but it’s also understandable. That is, even if we don’t all have the courage and strength to do those things, we immediately grasp the desire to help people. Villains, on the other hand, demand a much more thorough explanation — if stopping a massacre is remarkable but understandable, causing a massacre is both remarkable and baffling. Creators are rarely up to the task, vaguely suggesting an overgrown thirst for power or money, but never quite convincing us how those things add up to a homicidal maniac. Those creators would do well to check out Lazarus X+66 6, which offers an origin for the Zmey that covers both his superhuman abilities and his monstrous psychology. Continue reading

Black Magick 10 Defines its Allegory

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

[W]e conceive the Devil as a necessary part of a respectable view of cosmology. Ours is a divided empire in which certain ideas and emotions and actions are of God, and their opposites are of Lucifer. It is as impossible for most men to conceive of a morality without sin as of an earth without ‘sky’. Since 1692 a great but superficial change has wiped out God’s beard and the Devil’s horns, but the world is still gripped between two diametrically opposed absolutes. The concept of unity, in which positive and negative are attributes of the same force, in which good and evil are relative, ever-changing, and always joined to the same phenomenon — such a concept is still reserved to the physical sciences and to the few who have grasped the history of ideas.

Arthur Miller, The Crucible

I don’t think I fully appreciated The Crucible until this last year. Or, more precisely, without any direct reference for McCarthyism, I couldn’t fully appreciate the allegory that underpins The Crucible. That we once again live in a world where problems can be made up and pinned on innocent individuals gives The Crucible an unfortunately renewed relevance, suggesting once again that we haven’t come as far from 1690s Salem as we might like to think. Black Magick 10 carries a similar allegorical weight, also centering around the persecution of witches, with the obvious difference that the witches in Black Magick actually exist. In this way, the parallels to our modern political climate (and, heck, that of McCarthyism) might be stronger — the persecuted class does actually exist, they just aren’t the scapegoats society has made them out to be. It reflects the attitudes that politicizes someone’s very identity, suggesting that peace and happiness should only be reserved for those who conform to society’s norms. Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Writers

Best Writers

In such a collaborative medium as comics, it can be difficult to say where a writer’s influence on the story ends, but there’s no question on where it begins: words on the page. Whether they thrill, elate, chill, or deflate, the best writers create characters, settings, and situations we want to return to, again and again. These are our top 10 writers of 2017. Continue reading

The Press Finds a Way to be Free in Lazarus X+66 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Lazarus X+66 5

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.

Thomas Jefferson

I think it would be difficult to overstate how much the founding fathers valued a free, independent press. In their minds, it was an essential check on power, providing the citizenry with vital information about the actions of the government. In that way, the press can be framed as an antagonist of those in power, but only when the actions of those in power are at odds with the will of the people. Unfortunately, recent cults of personality have made certain people more inclined to root for those in power rather than the citizens, managing to tar the press as the enemy of the people. At the same time, news sources have become increasingly consolidated and corporatized, calling into question exactly how “free” and “independent” the press truly is. As ever, the world of Lazarus exists in the space made by playing out these trends to their logical conclusion, creating a world where the press is intended as the PR arm of the family, even as it’s made up of people who are deeply suspicious of them. Continue reading

Black Magick 9 Keep Rowan in the Dark

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 9

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Whether it’s Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, I tend to think of the prototypical fantasy protagonist as being relatively unfamiliar with the strange world they live in. It allows their confusion or surprise at the unexpected to mirror our own, and their ignorance offers a reasonable justification for someone to explain that wizards are real or that the Jedi channel a power called the force. A more knowledgable fantasy protagonist, then, might be hard for an audience to keep up with. I suspect this is how I’d feel about Rowan Black — who is undoubtedly knowledgable about the fantastical elements of her world — if she weren’t on her heels from issue one. She may have knowledge and motives that we don’t fully understand, but she’s just as clueless about what the heck is going on as we are. Indeed, issue 9 might even leave us with more knowledge than she has. Continue reading

There’s Strength in Allies in Lazarus X+66 4

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Alliances between families have been a major part of the strategies and warfare filling the last few months of Lazarus, but those alliances are always tenuous. Each family has no real loyalty except to themselves and to their own interests, making alliances fickle and betrayals commonplace. In Lazarus X+66 4, Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, and Alitha Martinez show how teamwork is vital to winning battles, and why the families’ self-interest isn’t always in their best interest. Continue reading

Striving for Freedom, Not Comfort in Lazarus X+66 3

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

As much as Lazarus has shown us a dark vision of a future dystopia, it’s largely shown it to us from the point of view of that world’s most wealthy and privileged members. Introduced in the second arc, the Barret family allowed writer Greg Rucka to give readers a glimpse of the world from the point of view of its most unfortunate and downtrodden instead. As the series progressed, Michael and Casey have become more integrated with the world’s elite, but parents Joe and Bobbie Barret still provide that more grounded P.O.V., even as serfs. As Lazarus X+66 3 reminds us, the pain of the past can’t, and shouldn’t, be so easily forgotten. Continue reading