Sunday, 8 May 2016

Lazarus Book 2: Lift (#5-9)

"This is how you represent my family?  I should take your heads and see each of your families sent down" - Eve Carlyle

This is the second volume of writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark's series about a dystopian future where the USA is carved up between financially powerful families who currently have an uneasy truce between them.  The population is either lucky enough to be in their direct employ and called "Serfs" who have a higher standard of living. Otherwise they are regarded as "Waste" who are given a subsistence level of life, heavily exploited and pretty much left to rot.  The main character is Forever "Eve" Carlyle, the nineteen year old titular "Lazarus", a genetically engineered human able to recover quickly from horrendous injury and even death and acts as head enforcer for the Carlyle family.  She is the youngest of the five children of family head Malcolm Carlyle, at the end of book one she received a mysterious email saying "He is not your father.  They are not your family".  In book one, one of her brothers, Jonah and her sister Johanna tried to provoke a war with a rival family and attempted to kill Eve in the process.  They failed, Johanna managed to frame Jonah and he fled, as she was successful in deflecting suspicion from herself onto him. In this volume we learn a little about Eve's childhood and upbringing as well as what it is like to be considered Waste and the desperation that drives them to try and become Serfs as Rucka and Lark start filling in more of the background to their story.

Each chapter starts with a flashback to Eve's childhood.  On this occasion her father has come to see her.  She runs up excitedly to him, but he scolds her saying that is no way to greet him.  She becomes more formal, "Yes sir. Sorry sir." He shows her the family sword and says she needs to prove herself worthy of carrying it by beating her tutor Marisol in a duel with wooden swords.  They fight and Eve loses.  Malcolm says to her that if she doesn't prove herself worthy next time he visist, "you'll no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter."
Young Eve, her dad and Marisol.
In the present, Eve is apologising to the daughter of the man she executed in book one, who admitted to spying even though he was innocent to protect his family.  The woman thanks Eve saying it means a lot to her that she said sorry. 

Eve then travels out to the wreckage of a helicopter/plane hybrid called a "Dragon" which Jonah had used to escape in.  He'd ditched it on their side of the river bordering the territory of Bittner-Hock.  Some soldiers have gathered on the opposite banks and are cat calling them.

One of them shoots Eve in the back.  Unruffled, she says that if the person who did that did it under orders then "that means the armistice is broken and we are now at war."  If however the rogue soldier acted alone, and is punished, honour would be satisfied.  The soldiers turn on their comrade and despite his protestations kill him to avoid sparking a war.
War is averted
Elsewhere in the Carlyle territory a flood is on its way.  A husband, wife and two adult kids - Waste - are trying to call for help in protecting their home, but the service they require is unavaliable and they realise they are going to lose everything when the river breaks its banks.

In South Central LA, Johanna is overseeing the construction of a temporary facility to test Waste to see who has potential to become Serfs, or "The Lift" as it is known.  The line waiting to be seen is already about a mile long.  Eve reports in about Jonah, Johanna thinks he hasn't gone over to Bittner-Hock.  "It's how it looks" responds Eve thoughtfully.

Johanna says that Eve is there at the behest of their father, babysitting her because he doesn't trust her over the Jonah plot and subsequent fleeing.  Eve mutters darkly, "Father doesn't tell me his thoughts, Jo."  Later that night she restlessly broods over the mystery email.
But what does it mean?
Back with the Waste family, the flood has levelled their entire house.  Everything is gone, just a mound of rubble left and a communications terminal informing the item they needed to save the house is now availiable to them.

Another flashback.  We see Eve exercising, training and being checked over as Marisol and James talk in voiceover.  Marisol says Eve really believes her father would disown her, "that's never going to happen" she insists.  James says Malcolm is just pushing Eve's buttons.  "It's no way to raise a child" says Marisol before retiring to bed. 

James is left contemplating a room with the light still on opposite.  He goes and finds Eve doing press-ups while conjugating Latin verbs.  Jason puts her to bed, and Eve asks why she can't remember her mother and why do her siblings, bar Bethany, never visit.  James says managing the territory is a huge responsibility, one that she'll be shouldering to when she is older.

In the present, Eve takes her daily dose of tablets and looks at the mysterious email again.  At the headquarters of The Lift a news crew is covering the setup.  The reporter asks if Eve will appear as well, but Johanna says their father doesn't allow Eve to appear on TV or in pictures.  Eve goes for a check round the perimeter and once outside her brow furrows in deep thought.
Joe and Bobbie, left homeless.
The Waste families left with nothing after the flood are trying to figure out what to do.  They can be given the materials to rebuild but at enormous cost, their children would still be paying the debt years in the future.  The Waste family who we shall be following is made up of parents Joe and Bobbie, daughter Leigh and son Mike. 

The grandaughter of another Waste called Casey flirts with Mike and Leigh has to encourage him to go talk to her in private.  As the adults discuss the terms they have been offered, Leigh notices the message on the terminal about The Lift and calls their attention to it.

Night time at The Lift headquarters, a pretty woman offers herself up to two guards.  While she keeps them distracted, three miscreants sneak past and steal some supplies.  Watching all this from above is Eve.  She lets the theives get away for now and goes and breaks up the sexual congress going on.

She tells the guards they are already facing charges of dereliction of duty, so they shouldn't make things worse with excuses.  Eve tells the woman she knows who stole the stuff and what they stole, but she is "going to tell me where they took it and what they plan to do with it".
The Waste family have come to a decision.  They are going to travel the five hundred miles to try for The Lift in the nearest city.  Casey's grandfather rides up and says he wants Casey to go with them, that way maybe "she's got a future."  They are on foot and on horseback, it is projected to take them fifteen days.  "Time to get started" says Joe, and they all set off.
Travelling to The Lift.
Back in Eve's past Marisol tells her about the "Dissolution War" she fought in.  When Eve asks if she was scared, Marisol says:

Marisol: "Before the fighting I was scared.  Always.  And maybe surprisingly sometimes after. But never during."

They meditate and Eve says she is scared.  But Marisol says she is a warrior for her family, "pain will always be part of your life."  Overcoming that pain will make her great. Then Marisol beats her with a cane. Eve then asks if she should kill Marisol if her father orders it, Marisol says, "you do as your father orders."  Would Marisol kill Eve if ordered?  She says yes.  "Don't tell him I cried" says Eve, tears running down her cheeks.  Marisol comforts her saying she won't.

In the present, the woman who was using sex as a lure, named Emma, is in a holding cell in the Twin Palisades residence.  She has no chip in her, so no identity.  Eve goes in to talk to her and says the lack of chip means she is either an illega; immigrant or she had her chip wiped deliberately.  Which means she is a spy and/or a terrorist.
Emma is unhelpful.
Emma snarls that she did nothing wrong, but Eve says the material stolen during her extraction is part of the components to build a powerful IED (bomb).  Emma shuts down saying she has nothing to lose, Eve's family has already taken everything from her.

The Waste family make camp one night.  Joe tells Casey she can call him "father" if she wants, he promised her grandfather he'd treat her like one of the family.  Then he sends her off to help Mike.  Bobbie laughs at his match-making.  Later Casey, Mike and Leigh are sat in a tent together.  Sick of the lovey dovey talk, Leigh goes to check on the horses.  Unfortunately at the same time bandits attack and she is shot in the back, dying in her fathers arms after they repel the attackers.
Leigh is killed by bandits.
Eve promotes the commander of Harvest One to head of security at the L.A. garrison.  She wants him to do two things, first root out corruption in the ranks and secondly find the terrorist cell.  Johanna thinks she might be able to reach Emma and goes in to see her.  She flatters her, and calls her beautiful and maybe she could be an actress.  Of course she'd have to be lifted to Serfdom as well as her family.  So, does she have anything to trade for this new life?

The Waste family trudge on in the rain, towards their goal in Denver.  They crest a hill and bear witness to a huge long line of Waste all making their way to the same place, all hoping to be elevated to Serf class.

Another flashback to Eve's tenth birthday.  She is running a simulation where she chops her way through a gauntlet of enemies.  Watching her is Marisol and her father.  He wants to know if Eve can beat Marisol in a fight yet.  Marisol says no.  Malcolm then departs saying he was never here but leaves a gift for Eve.

Malcolm: "I'll be back in thirty days.  She that she's ready by then."

Eve enjoys her birthday cake and unwraps her gift from her dad, it is a copy of "The Once And Future King".
Storming the terror cell.
In the present, Emma gave up the cell's location.  However Angel isn't there nor is the bomb as the soldiers discover when they storm the place and immobilise the terrorists.  Eve comes in and tells them Emma talked, now it's their turn.

Four days from The Lift, Mike's first aid skills are bringing him some attention.  As well as tending to his father's shotgun wound, he has been dealing with cuts and bruises and even resetting bones.  Casey is running messages up and down the line in return for fresh water.

Mike's talents bring him to the attention of the convoy's official healers, the nuns.  They offer Mike a place with them and will allow his family to ride with them where it is safe.  Mike agrees on one condition - he gets a decent pair of spectacles.
Mike and the high tech nuns.
That night Eve is standing by the pool holding her sword, deep in thought.  Johanna comes up and asks her what's on her mind.  Eve is concerned the IED and Angel are still out there.  They interrogated the two terrorists, one didn't speak, the other broke hard and that has thrown Eve a bit off balance. 

She has discovered that the target is The Lift in Denver.  She wants the lift called off, as over one hundred thousand people will be there.  She tries to reason with her father who refuses to cancel.  She's the head of security so it's her job to sort it out with minimum fuss.

Malcolm: "This sounds remarkably like excuses for failure.  Are you now telling me you intend to fail?"

He sends her off to Denver to check things out and not to contact him until the terrorist is dead.  Mike has settled into his new role with the nuns quickly.  Casey is still running messages up and down the line, occasionally getting into a shouting match with the driver of the pimp mobile.  She bumps into a man and knocks his briefcase to the floor. She apologises profusely and picks up the case which the man snatches back.  She introduces herself to him as Casey.  He tells her his name is Angel.
Young Eve defeats Marisol.
One last trip to the past.  Malcolm arrives at the bunker and orders Eve and Marisol to fight.  With real swords this time as well.  They clash with Marisol saying encouraging things to her as they fight.  Finally Eve dodges a swing and slashes Marisol across the back of her leg disabling her.  "Why didn't you kill her?" asks Malcolm.  Eve says she did as she was told and defeated Marisol. She wasn't told to kill her.  Malcolm accepts this and presents her with the family sword.

In the present day, Eve oversees the surveillance cameras trying to identify Angel via facial recognition, though he has most likely used mud or paint to disguise himself.  At the Denver family home, two aides are trying to convince Stephen not to attend The Lift, but he is determined.  He says "you and Forever overstate my importance".  This is his domain and he ha a job to do.  Eve assigns a Dagger team to protect him which he agrees to.

At the camp in Denver things are very chaotic.  The nuns take Mike and Casey and his mum to priority selection, his dad stays with the horses and their things.  They get to jump to the front of the queue and through a door marked "A".  The nuns admit they work as talent spotters for Carlyle although they can't influence if they pass the tests or not.
Casey and Mike step closer to Serfdom.
Selection involves a physical exam screening out potential for disease later in life.  Some with "bad genes" are still allowed through if they have a greater potential to be useful.  Then the candidates brains are tested, although promising candidates who are illiterate aren't automatically kicked out either.

They run a battery of tests against the clock, after these many people are dismissed from the process as not up to scratch.  The remaining ones get examined some more, with dismissal hanging over them for any reason at any time.  Stephen meanwhile, gives his speech to the gathered masses while Eve prowls the crowds. Casey runs into her absolutely furious that she has been rejected from The Lift for having the potential to develop breast cancer later in life.

After giving Eve an earful she stomps off and into a side alley where she bumps into Angel. She sees the bomb round his body but before she can warn anyone he stabs her and leaves her for dead.  Mike finishes another round of tests and goes through a door into a room with "Congratulations" written on the wall.  He has done it, he is now a Serf in the service of the Carlyle family.  Talking with Stephen he says he is hoping to go into something in the medical field.  They send people out to find his family who can join him.

When Angel appears in the middle of the crowd he starts stuttering out a speech, but Eve jumps on him and they tussle with Eve trying not to set the bomb off.  Then a badly injured Casey comes up behind him and stabs him before collapsing herself.  She wakes up in hospital to the news that her heroism has seen her elevated to Serfdom on merit.  Mike is sat with her and tells her, "we work for the family now."  End book two.
Casey saves the day.
Another winner from Rucka and Lark.  By expanding the view of the world from the haves of the Carlyle family to the have nots of the Waste trying for one desperate shot at a better standard of living, the world in which they live is painted in greater detail.  Eve's childhood under the care of Marisol and her desperate need to feel love from a father who seems to have a hard time expressing it are fascinating glimpses into what has made her the efficient and loyal soldier she is for the family now.  Some tantalising hints are dropped as to what caused this world to become the way it is now that I would like to see elaborated upon in books to come and the new characters introduced in this book - bookish Mike and firey Casey look like they'll drive some interesting stories in the future.  The existence of a resistance movement dedicated to protesting the status quo is an inevitable side effect of such an unequal society and Eve is ruthless in dealing with them which almost makes you feel you're identifying with the bad guys.  It goes without saying that it looks fantastic, Lark's moody and gritty art complements the dystopian feel beautifully.  If you're interested in sci-fi with a more realistic bent than that of say Saga, this is definitely worth checking out.


  1. damn i wish i could afford all these cool comics :(

  2. The advantages of being a childless, teetotal non smoker is even when you have a tiny income like I do, you can still afford to treat yourself every now and then. :)

  3. So... it's a dystopia about America under Trump?

    I dunno if I'm a fan of the lettering in this comic. Too much white space in the balloons.

    If someone killed my dad and then said sorry, I'd be like, "What good does that do? Words are wind."

    If we all have subdermal ID chips in the future, I won't be surprised.

  4. Sure sounds like a Trump-like society, ick.

    I think if the person apologizing to you had the power to kick you down to the bottom of the social strata you'd thank them no matter what you really though.

    You can actually get subdermal chips implanted now. I've seen them on TV shows, people have their credit card details implanted so they can go clubbing without the worry their cards might get nicked. Thin end of the wedge!