Author: Greg Rucka
Publisher: Image Comics
Illustrated by Michael Lark" and Santi Arcas
This is the third of three reviews of work by Greg Rucka, who has an article on strong female characters. Lazarus is yet another really uninspired title as B&N's website shows - there is a over dozen stories with this title on their first page of results alone.
This is the third (and last!) work of Greg Rucka that I ever plan on reading. I started reading his material after I saw a referral to that article. Somehow he has garnered this reputation for writing such characters, but after three different outings with his writing, I see no reason at all for it.
This novel in particular was beyond sad. It's pretty much a Romeo and Juliet redux, and far from promoting a strong female, it’s the graphic novel equivalent of wife-beating, promoting a female protagonist who is just as clueless as Juliet is, and who, as an action figure is really nothing more than a rip-off of Laura Kinney, the female version of Wolverine from the Marvel universe. The opening few panels depict his main character being killed in a very gory and bloody fashion, but that's okay, you see, because she's a Lazarus - she will recover, her wounds will heal, and she'll be as good as new. That must be why it’s okay to repeatedly abuse her. Seriously?
This is how you introduce your strong female character: dead and bloody
This novel is set in a sad future world were the environment has gone to hell, and the world, evidently, is ruled by a few mafioso-style families which control territories - and I'm talking about old west style territories, not segments of a city. The Carlyle (Capulet) family is very strong and controls seeds - genetically modified seeds which will grow in the appalling conditions found out there in ravaged nature. They had a treaty with the Morray family, but it’s put at dire risk when it's discovered that the Morrays (Montague family), which controls weaponry, apparently tried to raid the Carlyle seed vaults.
The Carlyle family 'Lazarus', whose name is not Juliet, but Forever Carlyle, yet who ought to have been named Mary Sue, is an enforcer who is dispatched south to parlay with the Morrays to heal the rift before outright war breaks out and the two families go to the mattresses over it (so to speak). The parlez seems to go well, and Forever travels back to the borderland between the two territories, escorted by the Morray Lazarus, with whom she's...kinda, sorta, 'friends', but even though she's headed north, things start going badly south.
The problem with this story is that it’s pretty obvious from the start what’s going on, so there are no real surprises, and as soon as we learn about the trip back with the male Lazarus escort, it’s obvious what’s going to happen, so where is the mystery and suspense? For that matter, where is the world-building? Nowhere. And why, oh why does Forever carry a sword? Seriously? What's with the friggin' swords?
The world is very sketchily portrayed. We get tedious announcements every few panels giving terse details of location and demographics, but these are not only annoying, they're pointless since they really mean nothing to the reader. I don’t know if they were intended to be shocking, depressing, or just 'cool', but they made no impression on me unless you count rolling eyes as an impression. The human world here works as a caste system, with family members (which appear to be few and far between) at the top, serfs, who are highly expendable employees of the family in the middle, and 'waste' which is everyone else, at the bottom. No one cares about the serfs or the waste. Or about the Lazaruses (Lazari?!) for that matter.
It turns out that while Forever is superficially treated as a family member, no one really thinks of her that way, and the Lazarus program makes no sense. Why only one? And why would a Mary Sue like her have any loyalty to any family? The fact that she does their bidding, putting her welfare at risk on a routine basis, and gets nothing in return means that Forever is really not very smart or perceptive.
Why tolerate this for so long with no complaints and no suspicions? She has no real incentive. Yes, it’s 'family', but she's carrying the entire load all the time, and despite living with her family for so long, she's evidently not got the first clue as to her status or to the internecine rift in her own family. So how is she a strong female character?
Beat ♪ up your ♫ girls regularly, ♪ if you ♫ want to ♪ be loved.♫
Forever is, in fact, an ass-backwards idea of a strong female character. Strong ≠ physically tough. It can include that, but the two are not equivalent sets. Rucka evidently doesn’t get this from what I've now read of his writing, so whence his rep for writing strong female characters? I don't know. Forever Carlyle is definitely a Mary Sue. She cannot fail. She can do no wrong. She has no vulnerabilities - except that she's not too smart.
Worse than this, she is a stereotypical "super-babe" - drawn as a superhero with rather improbable mutant dimensions and proportions, and she is almost literally put through the mill. Since when is a strong female character nothing more than an excuse to depict mindless and repeated violence against a woman? And she's not the only woman who appears in some state of undress either. Nothing new or revolutionary here....
Get your strong female characters half nekkid if possible (and it's always possible!).
I cannot recommend this comic and have no desire to read any more of this series or any more from Greg Rucka's pen. This one is nothing original, nothing interesting, nothing inventive, and the world makes no sense. The only thing strong about it is the distaste it leaves with me.