Monday, 5 September 2016

Lazarus Book 3: Conclave (#10-15)

"We're Lazari. And that makes us different from everyone else in ways they will never understand" - Sir Thomas Huston

Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's series Lazarus has been structured in an interesting way.  The first book introduced us to "Forever Carlyle" or "Eve" as she is also know, a genetically engineered young woman designed to be able to recover from almost any injury bar head removal including briefly dying.  She is the youngest of six children of family partiarch Malcolm Carlyle and in the first book we were told they rule a certain amount of the ex-USA (the western parts and western Canada it seems), where the population are either "Serfs" in the family's direct employ who enjoy benefits and a higher standard of living or "Waste" who are given a subsistence life and exploited for what little the have.  The second book pulled out a little further showing what it meant to be considered Waste and what lengths Waste will go to for elevation to Serfdom in an annual testing program called The Lift.  In both books we're given glimpses of other families, such as Morray to the south and Bittner-Hock to the north who rule Mexico and Eastern Canada/ex-USA respectively. The beginning of Book 3 pulls right out and gives us the world.  And in fact it is not just the ex-USA being ruled by powerful families, every continent has been split amongst powerful monarchal style regimes, we don't yet know why or how this came about apart from a brief mention of "The Disolution Wars" in Book 2, but this Book is devoted to the new politics of this very different world and the important part Eve has to play in it as her role of the family enforcer is severely tested.

Before the Conclave arc starts proper, we get and Intermission which tells of what happened to Jonah, one of Eve's older brothers four months ago, when he and Johanna's (his twin sister) plan to kill Eve and sabotage a deal between Carlyle and Morray  backfired and Johanna framed him as the sole instigator of the plot.  He escaped in a plane and made it as far as the border between Carlyle and Hock before crashing on his side.  He wades over to the Hock territory and the soldiers there ignore his calls for asylum and knock him out. Stripped down to his underwear, Jonah wakes up to find out Jakob Hock is sending a team out to get him so the soldiers return his clothes.  His pleas to speak to Jakob are ignored and he is shackled and flown to the capital of Hock territory, New York.

He is stripped completely naked, beaten and locked in a cell, he can only curl up and whimper that he seeks asylum from his family.  Later he is taken out, hosed down and dressed in prison scrubs and taken to see Jakob Hock.  On the way he hears propaganda about the evils of Carlyle who have apparently have slaves and force women to breed in rape camps, "it's not true" whispers Jonah to himself.  It also appears that the population is controlled via distribution of drugs.
Jonah doesn't get the reception he hoped for.
Jonah finally gets to sit down with Jakob at a meal.  Jakob says it is forty years since he last saw Jonah and he hasn't aged a day.  This is the first reveal that the Carlyle family are very long lived and that nineteen year old Eve is very young in comparison to her siblings.  Johan wants to bargain with Jakob.  But Jakob says he has nothing to bargain with, what he wants from Jonah he can take by force.  Some guards come in and force a sedative down Jonah's throat. 

Later, after Jakob has talked to one of his allied families about ransoming Jonah and forcing Carlyle to call a "Conclave" he orders Jonah's finger cut-off and the Intermission ends with Jonah going under the knife as Jakob's doctors and scientists look for how the Carlyle longevity is acheived and how it can make Jakob young and no longer in need of leg braces again.

The Conclave arc starts proper with a visit to the border of Carlyle and Bittner-Hock's territory.  A woman armed with a sword approaches from the Bittner-Hock side.  The Carlyle soldiers realise she is a "fucking Lazarus", a genetically engineered enforcer like Eve.

Sonia: "My name is Sonia Bittner.  I am sent by my mother with a gift for Carlyle".

She repeats this as the Carlyle soldiers somewhat foolisly challenge her and she kills several. "Tell them I am here" she then says, pointing her sword at them.
Sonia Bittner.
We then join Eve, going through the physical assessments that are part and parcel of life as a genetically engineered superhuman.  She is subdued and when the tests are over she asks James if she is actually a Carlyle, does she have Carlyle blood?  James pauses then laughs and asks if she wants to know if she was adopted, actually he was there at her birth, she is fully Carlyle.  As she leaves though, James looks pensive.

On her way out Eve bumps into Marisol her trainer and surrogate mother figure when she was a child. Marisol is there for a "treatment" to keep her young. "For a human being coming up on ninety, you have to admit I look damn good" she says.  Eve confides in her about the message she got telling her she was not a real Carlyle at the end of book one.  Marisol asks if she traced it.  Eve said she couldn't find a source, but it was obviously from Jonah, fucking with her head as part of his revenge.

Eve is then called and informed about Sonia Bittner's arrival and protocol says Eve should be dealing with this. So she flys up to the border and greets Sonia formally.  Sonia hands over the "gift", it is one of Jonah's fingers. "I am to await your reply" says Sonia.  Eve tells the soldiers to give Sonia all "comfort and courtesies" while she confers with her father Malcolm.

Malcolm reveals that he wanted Jonah to be captured, which is why he didn't send Eve after him, he has a plan he isn't sharing just yet.   Hock has left them with three options, pay the ransom, bring in the other families or fall into open conflict.  The best option is to call all the families together in a Conclave with a neutral family as arbiters. 
The terms of the Conclave are agreed to.
We then get a page where we see Eve and Sonia talking, but hear Malcolm narrating how negotiations will go.  As predicted Sonia agrees to their terms and returns to her territory while Eve comes back to see Malcolm in person. His other children are gathered there as well.  He tells them that Eve and Bethany are going to accompany him to the Conclave while his other children manage the territory while he is gone, Johanna is pissed about this but Bethany says she has to go to keep Eve "maintained".

All the children leave bar Bethany who says that while Eve's growth continues to outpace projections, she is asking questions about who she is and who her family are.  Malcolm muses:

Malcolm: "Someone put that question in her head, Beth.  Someone is making trouble."

As Eve goes to get ready to leave, Johanna catches up with her and says to be careful with Jonah, who lied to them, used them and beat her when he was discovered. As we see Jonah and Jakob disembark from the plane they have travelled in to the location picked to host the Conclave, an oil rig in the North Sea because the Armitage family who run Britain and United Ireland (hah!) are in charge.  Jonah is drugged and shackled and over this image are Johanna's words, "don't forget what he did to both of us... he's not our brother anymore".

Later, Eve is attending to her father while he discusses the situation with a man called Arthur Cohn.  The coversation covers who is opposing and allied with who, the major players being Carlyle's coalition versus Hock's.  Malcolm then asks Eve what she thinks.  A bit taken aback she says she thinks Morray might go over to Hock and that having Jonah for four months means they might have cracked the "longevity code".   Arthur says that if that's the case, despite the food supply Carlyle controls, everyone will go over to Hock if he can give them immortality.  Thoughtfully, Malcolm tells Eve to go and relax before the gala that evening.
Sonia and Eve hang out.
So Eve goes down to the training room and works out on a bag.  Then Sonia, Bittner's Lazarus appears.  They have a pleasant conversation while they spar together. Then a handsome black man appears, he is Xolani, the Nikosi family Lazarus.  He says the others are scared of the Lazari and have supplied them with facilities to keep them out of the way.  Sonia is a bit uncomfortable because Bittner is in oposition to Nikosi.  "It's not the race thing?" he teases.  Then they all spar together.  Xolani ends up in a clinch with Sonia and she stammers that she should be leaving to get ready. Eve smiles and says they should.

Jonah is standing looking miserable.  He is given some food.  He asks what's in it but eats it anyway when told it doesn't matter. Jakob Hock is having his leg braces put on ready for the gala.  Back with the Carlyle's they are all in evenng dress except Eve who feels uncomfortable with wearing a gown, "I'm going to look stupid.  I won't be able to wear my sword."  Malcolm sends her off with Bethany to get her ready, "you can survive knives, guns, poisons.  But you can't manage an evening gown" she says exasperatedly.

Later at the gala, Eve catches the eye of Joachim, the Morray family Lazarus she has a crush on.  Sir Thomas Huston, the Armitage family Lazarus, introduces himself to her and asks if she'll come to the Lazari poker game tonight.  She says if her father allows it. He points out the Rausling family's new Lazarus, a severe looking blonde man called Cristoff Mueller.  Thomas says he needs to be told how things work.
Joachim and Eve dance.
Then Joachim comes up and asks for Eve's hand for a dance.  Shyly she says there is no one on the dance floor.  He just smiles and leads her on there, when she says she doesn't know how to dance, he replies "of course you do".  And under various watchful eyes they twirl together, until others join in and the dancefloor is full of people. Severa Bittner, the head of the family says she wants to talk to Malcolm about changing her alleigance.  He says they'll talk later and leaves the gala with a glass Jakob Hock had drunk out of.

Joachin and Eve make plans to meet later when Jakob Hock interrupts and says he would like the pleasure of a dance with Eve.   She says she doesn't mean to be rude, but will his feet be able to keep up? Jakob says he appreciates her concern, but... and he releases the braces and stands unaided.

Jakob Hock: "As you can see, I'm feeling better than I have in years.  Shall we dance Miss Carlyle?"

We then jump forwards to Eve leaving the gala.  Joachim catches up with her, she says her father needs to know about this turn of events.   Joachim strokes her face and says he'll wait for her at the poker game.
The rest of the Carlyle family figure out their next move.
The rest of the Carlyle family are in conference.  The DNA of Jakob Hock, taken from the glass, is being tested to see if he has used the longevity treatment.  It'll either confirm Jakob has created his own treatment or that he has ripped off theirs, "I've been waiting for this for years.. believe me.  I've accounted for everything" says Malcolm.

Eve bursts in and tells them what happened at the gala.  No one is surprised.  Eve realises this was supposed to happen, "you let him humiliate me" she says.  Malcolm says that wasn't his intent.  Bethany is angry though, "big fucking deal" she says.  She goes on to accuse Eve of "practically riding" Joachim on the dancefloor. Malcolm tells her to apologise to Eve.  Bethany gives an insincere "sorry."

Malcolm then faces Eve and says he should have warned her that Jakob would go for a grand gesture and that he is "very sorry".  Eve says it's OK.  Then Malcolm tells her to go to the Lazari poker game and gives her a kiss on the cheek saying not to stay out too late.

We then cut to the poker game, several of the Lazari are playing.  The game is being hosted by Li Jiaolong of the Li family who run China, Hong Kong, Kazahkstan and Mongolia.  He is an interesting Lazarus because he is physically infirm but appears to have superhuman senses and implied superhuman intelligence and the others seem a bit afraid of him.  The other Lazari, including Eve, Joachim and Alimah - a young Muslim woman who is a bit of an Eve fangirl - watch from the sidelines.
The Lazari poker game.
There is a disagreement during the game from the Rausling family Lazarus, Mueller.  He accuses Li of cheating.   Li gives an analysis of the game and how everyone has played to prove he doesn't need to cheat.  He then implies Mueller has taken virility drugs and he can smell the perfume of a particular woman on him and would he like everyone to know who that is?

Chastened Mueller sits back down. Thomas then says that although their families may be in conflict, they have one thing that unites them, that they are Lazari.  They will do as their families order them to do but it "doesn't mean we'll have to like it".  And the game continues.

Joachim asks Eve to accompany him on a walk.  She says she is worried his family will go back to Hock.  Joachim says that will never happen.  Then he says he would very much like to kiss her.  And they snog.  They part and Eve asks anxiously if she did it right.  He says very much so.  She says he is her first kiss.  And then he becomes her second and third one.
Eve and Joachim share an intimate moment.
Next day the families are all in conference so their Lazari are hanging around waiting.  Sonia comes and sits next to Eve.  She notes that Eve left with Joachim and asks if she and Joachim are...?   And Eve says  "I think so.  I hope so".  Sonia says she hopes Jonah will be returned to her and no escalation will occur.  Eve asks her what she means?  And she says she overheard that if Hock has what the Carlyle's have, Morray will return to them.  Eve looks upset.  The families adjourn for now.

Back in the Carlyle quarters, they have the DNA analysis and it definitely has some of their work in it.  But it'll be difficult to prove what is proprietry and what isn't.  Hock was part of the Longevity Project at its start and will argue he has made the discoveries on his own.   Malcolm pinches his brow and says "not ideal, but expected". 
Then he goes to speak with Eve privately. He says he needs her to do something only she can do. It'll be difficult and dangerous.

Malcolm: "There is no room for error or hesitation. Believe me when I say either will bring ruin to our family".

Eve then makes like James Bond and moving round the outside of the rig and finds Jonah alone in his room.  Mumbling to himself he says he doesn't want to be hurt anymore.  "It's funny" says Eve as she comes up behind him, "I've thought the same thing more times than I can count."  Jonah hugs her, practically weeping that he is so sorry about everything. "So am I" says Eve to him and injects him with a sedative in his back.
Eve drugs Jonah.
Eve drags him into a secluded area zipped up in a bag.  She opens it and he gets out, now wide awake.  She forces him to his knees and gets out her gun and he realises what she is going to do. "Father sent you to kill me" he says sadly.  He begs her that he doesn't want to die and she gets mad and punches him.

She says he's only still alive because he has something she wants, when the alarm is sounded that he is gone, he gets a bullet to the brain and dumped on the seafloor.  She tells him he tried to kill her and her father and betrayed the family as well as badly beating Johanna.  Jonah pleads guilty to everything except beating Johanna, he says he loves her and everything he did was for her.

She shows him the email saying she is not part of the family she has been brooding over since Book 1.  She asks if Jo could have sent it.  Jonah doesn't know.  Then Eve demands to know if it is true?

Jonah: "You were grown in a fucking lab.  Bethany and James made you to father's order.  You're not his daughter.  You're his tool.!"

He immediately regrets saying that, noting that their father probably loves her most of his children. She thanks him for telling the truth then points her gun at him again.  Jonah says she doesn't have to do this.  Eve says she does, "It... hurts when I don't Jonah".  He says it's the drugs, she is medicated into loving them.  She is still going to kill him and he says if she lets him live she'll never have cause to regret he was her brother.  Then the alarm sounds.

Eve: "I have to make it look like Hock did it you understand?  It's what father told me to do".
Jonah: "And we must always do as we are told".

We then cut to Armitage's security forces sweeping the place for signs of Jonah.   When we return to Jonah and Eve she's put him in some sort of inflatable suit.  She says the storm should hide him and if he can get to a current he can let that carry him along.  She says it may not work.  Jonah asks if it is scary to die? "Only the first time" she responds.  They embrace and he thanks her.  Then he drops off the rig and into the sea.
Eve decides to spare Jonah.
Eve makes it back unseen to the Carlyle quarters. Lockdown is lifted and everyone is being summoned to the main hall.  When James asks how she feels, Eve says she "feels fine".  But in the shower she punches a wall hard enough to crack the tiles and numbly regards her wounds which are immediately healing.

Everyone bar Malcolm has gone to the main hall when she comes out of the shower in her official uniform.  Malcolm says he wanted a word in private with her.  He says stealing the evacuation suit was "inspired".  Now it looks like Hock is trying to cover up Jonah's murder by implying he disappeared.  He says it must have been hard killing Jonah, he has also lost a son now as well.  By his calculations there is one thing left to do that he knows Eve won't let him down doing.

In the main hall are all the families and their Lazari.  Armitage says the preliminary investigation has found that Johan is no longer aboard the rig. Because the Conclave was called to deal with his safe return, Hock must now answer for his loss of Jonah.  Angrily Hock says it's all Carlyle plot to discredit him.

He knows Hock has cracked the longevity code and is scared because his power over the other families is lost.   He asks the other families to stand with him and end the Carlyle "scientific tyranny". Malcolm says Hock had Jonah murdered to cover up the fact Hock stole the longevity code from his body.  This is serious stuff as theft of a family's source of wealth is "grounds for war."
Jakob tries to deflect blame onto Carlyle.
Hock refuses to hand over a sample of his blood for testing, and says he wants to resolve things another way. A trial by combat.  Malcolm says Hock has no Lazarus to fight with.  Hock asks of the other families who will fight on his behalf.  No one steps forward.  So Hock picks Sonia Bittner, even though it looks like Bittner is going over to Carlyle after the Conclave he can still use her Lazarus now.

Malcolm gives Eve a pep talk saying Sonia will not let their friendship get in the way of defeating Eve, especially given that Hock is threatening her mother.  The terms are set, if Carlyle wins, Hock will surrender all the research and technology related to the longevity code.  Hock in return demands Eve as his prize alive or dead, she'll be useful either way.  And with that, Sonia and Eve both armed with swords, reluctantly begin to fight.

We then get a multiple page, beautifully choreographed, completely dialogue free fight scene showing how the precise movements of the blades to start with, degenerate into grapples and punches as they get bloodier and more desperate as the fight wears on.  Sonia manages to wrestle Eve's sword out of her hands, but Eve gets it back and ends the fight by spearing it through Sonia's torso.  Eve goes to finish her off with her knife when Sonia's mother yells to stop and that the fight is clearly over.
Sonia and Eve fight.
Malcolm stops Eve and immediately she goes to help Sonia, pulling the sword out of her and congratulating her performance.  Sonia says Eve's sword is so light, she did not know what to do with it. "You knew enough to make me pay to get it back" says Eve.  Malcolm says Hock must yield.  But Hock says "Never!" He wants the combat to end in death, Armitage says the terms said nothing about the death of the combatants and that Hock must hand over all that they have stolen or "face the consequences".

Hock spits something green in Malcolm's face saying that's all he gets from him. "I defy this Conclave.  This charade.  If this is grounds for war, so be it".  And he leaves saying he'd see the world burn before having it fall to Carlyle.  Then Malcolm collapses, frothing at the mouth.   Eve holds him and says "Father? Please father... say something. Please daddy.  Please..."
Jakob Hock:  A total dick.
And that brings this exciting volume to an end.  What I like so much about this series is it always throws up new and exciting plot points that you hope will be addressed in the futre, such as what catastrophe befell the world that it's population now seems to number in the millions rather than billions, and how one family can run so much physical landmass effectively.  How did the world get divided into the relative well off under the families and the rest become little more than slaves.  It's all fascinating food for thought.  This volume is pacy and exciting and it's cool meeting all the different Lazari and the bond they share.  Eve's shy courtship with Joachim is charming and shows a completely different side to her than the all business enforcer who will carry out assassinations and fight a friend to the death if ordered too, also Joachim's gentle manner with her and checking her consent at every stage is very sexy. I'm not into guys myself, but he's attractive to me now thanks to how he treats her here.  Also we do get to see her just-following-orders side as well, in a fantastic fight scene by Michael Lark the series artist who has an amazing sense of visual pacing and Greg Rucka writes very much to his strengths.  I'm glad Sonia was allowed to live, Eve needs good friends badly.  Of course Eve sparing Jonah is going to have repercussions for her, but will he stay true to his word and never let her regret saving him?  We shall see I am sure.  With Jakob we finally get a shade of black in a world that is most definitely shaded different types of grey, a truly nasty piece of work and quickly becomes a formidable baddie.  In the meantime I hope you'll join me for volume four in a couple of months when we find the world at war and Malcolm still incapacitated by the poison Jakob spat at him and more revelations on just what it means to be the Carlyle family Lazarus.


  1. I need to borrow these books from you. I'm actually getting properly into them just from your reviews. I am super glad that Eve spared Jonah, because in my head killing a sibling is one of the worst things you can do, especially when he was defenceless and actually pathetically grateful to see her, and had said sorry.

  2. Yeah, I was glad she didn't kill him too, I just hope this is a good deed that does go unpunished. I have one more volume to cover then I think I am up-to-date with the trade releases so you are more than welcome to borrow them. I'll write up book 4 in the next week or so, though won't be publishing the post until November and I'll lend 'em to yah when I have it done.

  3. this comic looks so good, i think i'll buy the omnibus that's just come out as soon as i can afford it!

  4. Yeah the omnibus is definitely the way to go pricewise now.