Comic Book: Lazarus

Forever Carlyle.
" armies are our shield against our enemies, against the other families
...but Forever is the tip of my sword...
...and like the finest blade...
...she is beautiful...
...and she is lethal...
...and she is precise..."
— Malcolm Carlyle

Lazarus is a creator-owned Image Comics series by writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark (who previously worked together on Gotham Central).

It is the future and the governments of today have ceased to exist. Corporations have become the new ruling bodies of the world, dividing the planet into different "territories" that are under their direct control and ownership, instituting a new form of feudalism. The Families are the heads of those corporations; those who provide services for the Families are referred to as Serfs, having been "elevated to Service". Everybody else is Waste, uncared for by those in power, whose only hope for a better future is to be "elevated". Food is scarce, so each Family keeps their seed banks secure, doling out supplies only to those Waste who have properly registered as servants of the Family. To serve as the Family's shield, sword, and bannerman, each family can modify one individual to be their "Lazarus."

Forever Carlyle is the Lazarus for the Family Carlyle, the Family which controls the area of the United States west of the Mississippi River. Forever performs the dirty work for her siblings and her father, when one night, thieves break in a Family guest residence where she is staying and shoot her multiple times in a desperate search for food. On the same night, commandos from rival Family Morray assault the Carlyle seed bank with the help of someone on the inside, nearly managing to reach the seed vault. In the aftermath, war looms between the two families.

There is something else going on, however. Something deeper. There are schemes and plots and Forever is stuck in the middle.

And she is starting to question her orders completely...

Tropes included in Lazarus:

  • Abusive Parents: Malcom rarely shows any affection to any of his children. Even Forever, who he shows marginally more, is just being treated that way so she stays loyal, and is thought more as a useful tool than a person by him.
    Malcom: I have two sons and three daughters, and only one of them is worth a damn...the one I had built.
  • Action Girl: Forever Carlyle, of course. Bethany Carlyle almost guts Jonah with a kitchen knife before being restrained and reminded that it would be a bad idea. Waste farmgirl Casey Solomon is introduced with a rifle slung across her back. She uses it to great effect an issue later, and later becomes a squad leader in the Carlyle military.
  • All There in the Manual: The Back Matter gives a complete timeline of events prior to the start of the series.
  • Apocalypse How: It began with the worlds financial systems breaking down, allowing super-large corporations to swoop in and take control. Then politics began to go to hell in a handbasket(including a second, shorter American Civil War), then Jakob Hock attempted to take out the Carlyle part of the U.S. by releasing a super-flu that only his region had the vaccine to. Unfortunately, once it was in the wild, the virus mutated, rendering the vaccine useless and decimating the planetary population.
  • Artistic License Biology: Downplayed Trope by way of Shown Their Work; Rucka is extrapolating possibilities in human modification from things that are beginning to be explored in the real world. When he was stuck on how to go about explaining Forever's healing ability in a realistic way, he emailed Warren Ellis, who turned him onto iPS stem cell research.
  • Badass: Lazari, and Forever especially.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Family Carlyle includes Malcolm Carlyle, the father, and his two sons and three daughters. One son and daughter appear to be plotting against him.
  • Bio-Augmentation: How Forever's abilities are explained. Based on the real-life technology of induced pluripotent stem cells. Among others, she has a rapid healing factor that lets her recover from three fatal gunshots to the chest within two minutes(and on another occasion, she pretty much just walks off a single shot to the back), the potential to regrow severed limbs(though this is slow), and the ability to see in infrared. However, this comes with a price, and Forever is also...
  • Blessed with Suck: Except for decapitation or complete destruction of her body(i.e. an explosion), Forever's regenerative abilities mean that she can heal from any wound. But she still feels every injury and the recovery as her bones and tissue regrow.
  • Break the Cutie: Issue #5 featured a flashback to Forever as a young girl, being forced to fight and defeat an adult woman to be given the family sword. Not surprsingly, she fails, and Malcom coldly reprimands her. The look on her face is heartwrenching.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Jonah and Johannah Carlyle.
  • The Chessmaster: Very little seems to surprise Malcom, he reacts to most news as if he has ice water for blood. The closest he's come to showing any reaction to something going wrong are twice when he's contemplating what Jonah has done by fleeing Carlyle territory.
  • Colonel Badass: Forever's role in the Carlyle military structure. Since her given rank is 'Commander' and her immediate subordinate is a Captain, it seems to be more similar to a police ranking system as currently used in American cities like Chicago than the more well-known Naval rankings, where a Commander is one rank lower than a Captain.
  • Continuity Nod: In the "Lift" arc, Forever captures a member of a terrorist cell that plans to detonate a bomb at said Lift (a selection function that elevates Waste to Serfs). Her sister Johannah helps with the interrogation, pointing out that the girl is only nineteen and quite attractive, as well as dangling the carrot of having her family helped as well. On the final page of the last issue(roughly a week and a half later), the girl is seen in full pop-star mode on a TV screen, promoting her debut song "Compromises" from an album titled "Lifted Up."
  • Cool Old Guy: Edgar Morray seems like a pretty decent guy, all things considered. After settling business with Forever regarding family matters, he good-naturedly invites her over for dinner with him and his Lazarus.
  • Cool Sword: In keeping with the possibility that they would have to fight each other(and that the only really fatal injury is decapitation), Forever, Joacquim and Sonja all carry one. Forever's is a long-handled shortsword with serrations near the grip, Joacquim uses a more or less standard katana, and Sonja's is a cross-guard two-handed longsword.
  • Crapsack World: If you don't work for one of the Families, you are Waste. How each Family member treats their Waste depends on if they care or not (and Jonah Carlyle really doesn't care, though it later becomes apparent that he's a saint compared to Jakob Hock). Even if you do work for the Family, you could be killed by a rival Family or accused by your own Family of treason.
  • Designer Babies: Forever is one, as Malcom had her genetically engineered to be the perfect Lazarus.
  • Divided States of America: With the end of government, the USA is no longer a single whole. West of the Mississppi belongs to Carlyle, while everything from the east bank to the Atlantic belongs to Bittner and Hock, with an as-yet unidentified north-south border.
  • Dysfunctional Family: At least the Carlyles. Jonah & Johannah are screwing each other and plotting to take out their father, Malcom treats all the kids dismissively at best, and even Forever, who was genetically engineered and conditioned to be loyal to the family, is starting to have doubts. When someone who's been indoctrinated since birth for absolute loyalty begins to question things, you know its bad.
  • Establishing Character Moment / Establishing Series Moment: The very first page is Forever getting shot multiple times...and then getting up and killing her attackers. This is an expansion of a concept Rucka first used in his run on Wolverine.
  • Exact Words: Malcom ordered Forever, as a little girl, to defeat her swordmaster. He shows up to supervise their final duel but raises the stakes by having them fight with live steel blades instead of wooden training swords. Forever manages to injure and defeat the older woman, but stops fighting once she's down. When Malcom asks why she held back, Forever reminds him that his orders were to defeat the woman, not kill her. In an inversion, Malcom congratulates her on obeying his orders and rewards her with the Carlyle family sword.
  • Feudal Future: The societal set-up; the Families own all the land on which their Serfs and Waste live and work, and the only way to improve your lot in life is to be elevated to one of the higher classes.
  • Friendly Enemy: While the families may not like each other, the Lazarai seem to get on with each other regardless of alliance. In the "Conclave" arc, Forever, Xolani Nkosi, and Sonja Bittner have a friendly sparring match despite Bittner being in conflict with both Carlyle and Nkosi. All the Lazari then attend a more-or-less friendly all-night poker game with only a little trouble(one Lazarus insulting another, then backing down), and Forever and Sonja seem to genuinely like each other.
  • Going Cold Turkey: This happens to Sonja when Bittner switches allegiance from Hock to Carlyle in issue #15. Hock's drugs were the source of much of her Lazarus abilities, and she suffers a long period of violent withdrawal symptoms without them, though she appears mostly recovered by issue #18(three months later).
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Waste are desperate, but the Families (and Forever) are very much on the darker side of grey. The three thieves that Forever kills in the first issue are only searching for something to eat, not valuables. And there are also shades of grey in how each Family handles things; Carlyle territory has been shown to be pretty bleak, but issue #10 shows that Hock operates like a even darker version of 1984.
  • Healing Factor: Each Lazarus has one, including Forever. The Back Matter establishes that the doctors can even regrow limbs if they have to(though Word of God says Forever has extra 'parts' in storage); however, cutting off the head is pretty much the end. There are differences within each family, however. Forever's abilities are from Carlyle's advanced genetic modifications(with some drugs mixed in to keep her in top condition), while Joacquim's are derived from Morray's cybernetics expertise and Sonja's from a Hock pharmaceutical regimen(since Bittner and Hock are allied).
  • Jerkass: Oh, where to begin? The biggest ones so far, however, are Jonah Carlyle and Jakob Hock. Jonah's jealousy and lust for power drive him to try and kill Forever; when this doesn't work, he flees to Hock territory. Jakob is a power-mad despot who has ground the people in his domain down with drugs and endless propaganda, and is seemingly motivated solely by his personal hatred of Malcom. Jonah at least gets better after Forever saves his life instead of assassinating him, but Hock remains bad and gets worse.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: According to Issue #16, Sister Bernard notes this with regards to the Bittner, Morray, and Carlyle families compared to Hock. Case in point, whereas the former three refer to non-serfs as "waste", such a status is still of some use, as "waste can be recycled", and they are counted in census notations. On the other hand, anyone who is not a citizen in Hock territory is an unperson, and he even went so far as to cause "Hock's Flu" to lower their population, with deaths in other territories seeming to have been incidental at worst.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Inverted, since Carlyle and Morray are allies. In issues #2 & #3, Forever and Joacquim are friendly but slightly awkward around each other, spend a good deal of time together and even watch a slightly romantic sunset before Jonah's attempt on Forever's life causes all hell to break loose. In the "Conclave" arc, Joacquim(in a tuxedo) and Forever(in a very flattering gown) do a bit of ballroom dancing, with both looking like they're quite enjoying themselves. They finally kiss in issue #13, but the events that follow the Conclave have prevented them from taking their romance further.
  • Mama Bear: Sevara Bittner is just as ruthless as any of the male heads of the Families(this isn't a scenario where weakness is tolerated), but when Sonja is defeated in the duel against Forever, her facade cracks and she asks Malcom to show mercy. Since he's been trying to sway her to his side anyway, he orders Forever to stand down.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Forever was genetically engineered, so this gives Rucka great latitude in 'upgrading' her throughout the story. Lampshaded in issue #11 when James tells Forever that they are considering activating some of her latent genetic enhancments, which will further her resistances to cold, heat, radiation and toxins.
  • Obviously Evil: Jonah Carlyle's hatred and cruel behavior is so obvious that when he attempts to have Forever assassinated, everyone immediately knows he's the one who did it. This makes him an easy scapegoat for the other collaborator.
  • Older Than They Look: The Carlyle children each look comfortably in their twenties or thirties. With the exception of Forever(who is said to be 19) at least Jonah, Johannah and Stephen are actually in their sixties. Lampshaded by Jakob Hock, who says when he sees Jonah in the present that he hasn't aged a day in 40 years. Marisol, Forever's former combat trainer, is 90 but looks no older than her 40's.
  • Mega Corp.: Each Family is the head of one. The Family Carlyle is the head of the Carlyle Future Foundation (CFF).
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Oderint dum metuant. "Let them hate, as long as they fear." Allegedly a favorite saying of Emperor Caligula.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Forever gets shot in the back of the head in issue #18, and even though its with an assault rifle, the exit wound is barely larger than the entry wound.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Forever catches a few guards having sex with a young Waste woman(she was supposedly bartering sex for food but really distracting them from a theft her friends were pulling) and she is not happy, threatening to have them and their families "sent down"(expelled from Serf land and rights).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In the Back Matter, Rucka explained that he was trying to stay within the realm of possibility, so he is using real technology that is currently in its infancy, including iPS stem cells. During the writing of the issue, new articles about iPS stem cells were even published.
  • Shoot the Dog: In the first issue, Forever is forced to shoot an innocent man because he (falsely) confessed to treason to save the rest of the people at the seed bank. She knew he was lying, too, but had to do it to keep Jonah from killing the rest of them instead.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Forever qualifies, as she's very attractive and rather tall(Word of God says she's around 6'2").
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jakob Hock really isn't a very pleasant man, and he doesn't have a Lazarus himself, so when he challenges Malcom's charges of industrial espionage with a trial by combat, it's down to his allies to step up. Christoff Mueller(Rausling) and Zeferino Cardoso(D'Souza) do immediately, but Sonja Bittner hesitates due to her budding friendship with Forever. Jakob proceeds to ignore Mueller and Cardoso and chooses Sonja, then lets Sevara know that he was aware she'd been secretly negotiating switching allegiance to Carlyle.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Jonah flees Carlyle territory in the hopes of winning favor by givng Jakob Hock information about his family. Even after he's repeatedly beaten and then imprisoned, he fails to realize that all Jakob really wants is information on his altered genetic structure. And not by asking questions about nucleotide sequences, either.
  • Training from Hell: There have been several flashbacks showing Forever as a young(9-10 years old) girl, taking part in full-contact martial arts and sword training with an adult woman, who is of course much stronger and faster than her.
  • Trial by Combat: When Malcom accuses Jakob Hock of industrial espionage(pretty much the most serious crime in this world), Hock demands judgement by this method, Lazarus vs. Lazarus.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Any reference to current or near-current events in the Back Matter glosses over exactly when the timeline for the series starts, referring to events crucial to the story as "Year X minus number" or "X plus number" of years.
  • Undying Loyalty: Orioso's attitude to Forever. Their familiarity suggests he's been working for her quite a while.
  • Up Through the Ranks: Forever promotes Sergeant Orioso to Captain for his loyal service. Casey Solomon gets promoted from Lance Corporal to full Corporal when her squad leader is killed in issue #17.
  • Wham Issue: Issue #15 features Hock openly declaring war on Carlyle and their allies, and Jakob has poisoned Malcom, leading to his incapacitation while war begins.
  • You Are in Command Now: Joacquim kills a Morray sergeant for defying his orders and promotes another soldier from the squad as the man's replacement on the spot.