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 an ongoing(2013-present) creator-owned Image Comics series by writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark (who previously worked together on Gotham Central); colorist Santiago "Santi" Arcas is given third billing and writer/graphic designer Eric Trautmann handles layouts, weapon/technology design, and collation of the series' lore.

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, cared little for by those in power, with their only hope for a better future 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, and Canada west of Hudson Bay. 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, to whom 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 her brother 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 eventually becomes a squad leader in the Carlyle military.
  • All There in the Manual: Each issue's Back Matter gives information about events prior to the start of the series, from a timeline to the history of the Families. There's also a "Carlyle Sourcebook" which goes into far more depth about things in Carlyle territory.
  • 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 killing hundreds of millions of people.
  • 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.
  • 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, though with the son vanished and the daughter running things, that seems to be done for now.
  • 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. Furthermore, while she does have a Healing Factor, she doesn't have a mending factor, and new limbs attached could easily grow back at bad angles in the process of healing unless she is fast enough.
  • Break the Cutie: Issue #5 featured a flashback to Forever at nine years old, later revealed to be, in fact, a new Forever being raised secretly in the present, 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 heart wrenching.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Jonah and Johanna Carlyle.
  • Bullet Time: Forever's reflexes, perceptions, and reaction time are so fast that several sequences have demonstrated ordinary humans pose absolutely no threat to her in close combat.
  • 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. Alternatively, since she is technically outside the military structure, "Commander" could be merely a formal title.
  • 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 Johanna 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. Few other Lazari's weapons are shown, though Xolani Nkosi uses a spear and Cristoff Mueller carries a Scottish claymore.
  • 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 and summarily executed.
  • Designer Babies: Forever is one, as Malcom had her genetically engineered to be the perfect Lazarus. The Carlyle Sourcebook special issue confirms that there have been multiple Forevers over the past twenty-some years, with the Forever in the series being the seventh one.
  • Divided States of America: With the end of government, the USA is no longer a single whole. West of the Mississppi(along with part of Canada, from the western shore of Hudson Bay) belongs to Carlyle, while everything from the east bank of the Mississippi to the Atlantic belongs to Hock, with Bittner controlling the correlating area in Canada.
  • Dysfunctional Family: At least the Carlyles. Jonah & Johanna 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: 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Rucka often points out that there are no true heroes in the series, and has more than once brought up that the world is in its current state largely due to Malcom's actions. That being said, Malcom does come across as a better option than someone like Hock, in that Carlyle territory operates on at least the illusion of basic meritocracy, thus giving some hope of betterment to lower-class citizens. Carlyle also only practices "passive" censorship(in that they don't actively suppress information, but do selectively edit and subtly promote things that fall in line with their approach). And while most of humanity is once again living in a Serf society, Malcom has absolutely no tolerance for actual slavery, and is said to have devoted what some of his advisors consider to be excessive resources to breaking up Waste slavery rings instead of taking the more economical approach of looking the other way.
  • Exact Words: Malcom told Forever Mark VIII, 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 points out that his instructions were to defeat the woman, not kill her. Malcom congratulates her for obeying his orders and rewards her with the Carlyle family sword.
  • Faction Motto: Each of the sixteen Families has one, reflecting their views on the philosophy underlying their rule.(Hock's has yet to be revealed)
    • Armitage: Noli Irritare Leones(Do not provoke the lions)
    • Bittner: Par Loi et Droi(By Law and Right)
    • Carlyle: Oderint Dum Metuant(Let them hate, so long as they fear)
    • Carragher: Aut Vincere Aut Mori(Either To Conquer or To Die)
    • D'Souza: Qual en Seu Officio(Everyone to his trade)
    • Inamura: Ame Futte Chi Katamaru(After the Rain, the Earth Hardens)
    • Li: Man proposes, God disposes
    • Martins: Poverty is Slavery
    • Meyers-Qasami: Zero for Zero
    • Minetta: Kara Ya Maro(Do or Die)
    • Morray: Non Sufficit Orbis(The world is not enough)
    • Nkosi: Arte et Marte(By skill and valor)
    • Rausling: Diligentia Ditat(Industry Renders Rich)
    • Soleri: Nello Stile Antico(In the ancient style)
    • Vassalovka: Wait and See/Time Will Tell
  • Famed In-Story: Inverted with Marisol, Forever's former combat instructor. She was one of the "Pendleton Five", a fireteam of Marines who attempted to save a group of refugees from Army soldiers during the second Civil War. They were overwhelmed and killed, with their sacrifice becoming a huge propaganda tool for the Carlyle side. It's actually a matter of record only four of the five died, but most people believe the story of the Five, and that Marisol was the survivor is only known to a few people.
  • 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 genuinely like each other. Sonja also befriends the younger Forever Mark VIII, treating her like a little sister and getting into a snowball fight with her.
  • 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; some of 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 because this is so slow); 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). After Bittner breaks with Hock, Bethany and James begin to restore Sonja's abilities with genetic modification instead of drugs.
  • He Knows Too Much / She Knows Too Much: Johanna and Malcom's views of Michael Barret and Sonja Bittner, respectively. Despite Michael being the one who devised a cure for Malcom's poisoning and his being touted as a genius by Bethany, Johanna orders him to be kept from working with Forever Mark VII until he's given a more in-depth security vetting. Malcom is uncomfortable with Sonja knowing about Forever Mark VIII, and advises Johanna to have her killed before she lets anything slip to someone (like Eve) who doesn't know.
  • Invisible Parents: Only an invisible mother. As of issue #23, Abigail Carlyle has yet to appear in person, only being mentioned by others and seen in a few photos which show that Bethany looks almost exactly like her. The only in-story explanation is that she developed a serious illness while working on The Longevity Project, and has rarely if ever been seen in public since then.
  • 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.
  • Longevity Treatment: The genetic modification called Longevity, used by the members of the Carlyle family and a handful of their closest non-Family allies. It's extremely effective, as evidenced by Malcom Carlyle, who looks to be around 50 but is actually 110.
  • 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.
  • Loyalty Mission: Johanna sends Sonja on one in issue #22, partially to get her out of the way while she tries to decide how to handle Sonja knowing about Forever Mark VIII. Crosses over with It's Personal, since while Sonja is in command of a team of Carlyle soldiers, their purpose is to reclaim her family's home from occupation by Rausling forces.
  • 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 Sevara to his side anyway, he orders Forever to stand down.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: To a certain extent, this is how some of the Lazari view their role as "champions."
    Sir Thomas: We may not all of us be friends, but we're all we've got. We're Lazari, and that makes us different from everyone else in ways they will never understand. We know our loyalties, same as we know the purpose we serve to our respective families. We may all be set to killing each other before this is over. We'll all do as we're ordered Doesn't mean we'll have to like it.
  • 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 Mark VII(who is said to be 19), Bethany, Jonah, and Johanna are in their sixties, while Stephen is in his early 70's. 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 74 but looks no older than her late 30'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: As noted above, several of the Families have one(others use their native language). Carlyle's is "Oderint dum metuant". "Let them hate, so long as they fear." Allegedly a favorite saying of Emperor Caligula, though scholars are divided on whether he coined the phrase or was just quoting someone.
  • 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.
  • Rising Conflict: The series began with Carlyle and Morray pretty much one step away from open warfare, and Forever beginning to have her first doubts about herself and her role in the Family. Both of those have long since fallen by the wayside, with Carlyle and Morray more allied than ever before as they wage a war against some of the other Families, and with Forever having realized how much she's being used and acting almost openly hostile to her sister Johanna.
    Forever: I want you to think about something, Johanna. I want you to think about what would happen if it turns out the drugs you use to control me don't work anymore. I know what you did. I know what I am. And I want you to get out of my way. Now.
  • Ship Tease: James and Bethany openly flirt with each other in issue #4, and later take to the dance floor after Forever and Joacquim.
  • 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"). In issue #23, she's shown to be half a head taller than Johanna.
  • Super Reflexes: Forever's are advanced to the point that when confronting a Morray soldier, she is able to draw her sword, cut off the man's hand, and then sheathe her sword all in the space of about half a second.
  • Super Soldier: Forever, who is much stronger, far more difficult to disable, and is exponentially faster than an average woman of her age and build. Even when critically injured by an explosion in issue #21, she's still able to injure two of the people trying to restrain her before being sedated.
  • 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. Cristoff 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 scenes showing Forever Mark VIII 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.
  • 20 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 "Year X plus number" of years.
  • Undying Loyalty: Seargent Orioso's attitude to Forever. Their familiarity suggests he's been working for her quite a while. This loyalty pays off big-time when Forever promotes him from Seargent to Captain, jumping him ten ranks up just on her authority.
  • 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.
    • The end of issue #21 had an even bigger one. Another young Forever is training under Marisol at the Sequoia compound, and the Carlyle Sourcebook issue confirms that James and Bethany are continually creating new versions of Forever which have their most cutting-edge genetic modifications(while using the one still active as a test subject for the modifications viability). This is partly because they haven't been able to solve genetic problems that would be caused by Rapid Aging, but also because Forever's training is so extensive that Neural Implanting wouldn't work either, so each new Forever has to age and be instructed at a normal rate.
    • Issue 24: Johanna decides to go against her family's decisions and shows Forever exactly what is going on with the Forever Lazarus Program.
  • 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.