Best Shots Advance Reviews: LAZARUS #2, DHP #26

Lazarus #2 Cover
Lazarus #2 Cover
Credit: Image Comics

Lazarus #2
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Michael Lark and Santi Arcas
Lettering by Michael Lark
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

After a bleak and gruesome start, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark take a more subdued turn for their second issue of Lazarus, focusing on the seedy intrigue that is the Family Carlyle. A little bit of Joss Whedon, a little bit of Game of Thrones, the characterization makes this issue an easy one to jump into, even if Rucka and company leave much of their high concept at the door.

Where Rucka succeeds most with this book is just the sheer confidence with which he lays out his story. From introducing Forever's other-than-human physiology to the infighting between the ranking members of the Carlyle Family, it's very easy to pick up on the character dynamics in play. And as Rucka begins to introduce some of the darker twists and turns within the Carlyle ranks - let's just say it's a family affair - you are already trying to figure out just which members of this clan can be trusted. It's no longer the political allegory of the first issue, but instead a cutthroat political game.

That said, you could also argue that we've seen that sort of backroom dealing in the past. I mentioned Game of Thrones, and, indeed, you can say you've seen this sort of "who can I trust" tension in movies like The Departed. The things that set this comic apart - namely, the division between the Families and the Waste, or the enhancements Forever is sporting - are barely touched upon here, and that's not great for Johnny-come-latelies.

The art, however, is striking as ever, as Michael Lark shows the resentment seething beneath each of the Carlyles' faces. His layouts aren't flashy - although one scene where Dr. Johanna Carlyle explodes into violence is a highlight - but instead he focuses on smooth panel-to-panel storytelling, letting his dark shadows evoke a lot of atmosphere. That said, I do wish that Rucka had given Lark a little bit more to work with, just to give him some sort of memorable visual sequences to throw in there.

After a solid opening issue, Lazarus does slow down a bit in its sophomore installment, focusing less on its high concept and more just leaning on the prodigious talents of its creative team. There are worse ways to go about making a comic, however - Rucka develops his characters swiftly and imbues them with sickness and menace, while Lark shows these family grudges with all the seediness he can muster. Now that the backstory has been fleshed out some more, here's hoping that Rucka and Lark can bring a little bit spotlight back to their title character.

Dark Horse Presents #26
Written by Ron Randall, Steve Niles, Andrew Vachss, Mike Richardson, David Lapham, Mike Baron, Patrick Alexander, Phil Stanford, Jane Espenson, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Frank Barbiere, Dan Jolley and Dara Naraghi
Art by Ron Randall, David Lapham, Patrick Alexander, menton3, Steve Rude, Patric Reynolds, Karl Moline, Steve Lieber, Micah Kaneshiro, Leonard Kirk, Dom Reardon and Tom Williams
Lettering by Ken Bruzenak, Nate Piekos, Steve Rude, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt, Frank Barbiere and Tom Williams
Published by Dark Horse
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

At the Comic-Con International in San Diego last week, Dark Horse Presents took out the Eisner Award for Best Anthology for the second year in a row. As it enters its third year of continuous monthly publication, the book retains its high standards by simply doing what it does best since its relaunch in 2011. Still attracting top flight talent from all corners of the comics globe, this month sees the debut a new vampire story from Steve Niles and menton3, and David Lapham’s slice of the “Juice Squeezers.”

The Transfusion team of writer Steve Niles and artist/multi-instrumentalist menton3 (known on his birth certificate as Menton J. Matthews III) launch a new serial vampire tale called “Nosferatu Wars”. On one hand, Niles could be accused of getting stuck in the vampire rut, but "superheroes" could just as easily be described as a rut, and Niles keeps finding new angles on familiar themes. Here it’s a narrative of vampire love in the time of the plague, finding each other again in the midst of a war between the undead.

This first chapter is all about setting the tone, and it is a nightmarish vision. Menton3 brings an artistic style that is both an apocalyptic past and future, shifting us out of our reality and into one he and Niles handcrafted, it’s a twisted set of characters that stand out against a minimalist background that finds depth of colour within browns, greys, blacks and things of a more crimson variety. Taking inspiration from the 1922 film that shares a partial title with this story, the long shadows and bald-headed monsters makes this visually steeped in the classics.

David Lapham’s much more light-hearted tale is the other debut this month, a boys’ (and girls’) own adventure comes in the form of “Squish: A Juice Squeezers Tale”. Solicited as a “gory all-ages story”, Lapham lives up to the descriptor and introduces us to the first rule of basket weaving club. Giving off a bit of a Gilbert Hernandez vibe, a group of students all wind up in the arts-and-crafts equivalent of The Breakfast Club. It all seems like a bit of summer hijinks, except that Mr. Samnee appears to be shooting off giant bugs from his farm with a shotgun. It’s a perfect start to an addictive new serial.

There’s a continuation of Jane Espenson’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Love Vs. Life” story, tying directly into the Season 9 arc, more “Trekker” from Ron Randall and editor Mike Richardson’s interesting adaptation of Andrew Vachss’s “Underground”. Yet the moment of zen brilliance is Patrick Alexander’s “Steggy Wilmot and Spimps”, a satirical bit of surrealism in which the idly rich Steggy is brought his morning pig by butler Spimps, creates a list of things he could buy (including Spimps’ house and daughter) and is saddened when his Great Newspaper article about why pigs are sad fails to yield the fan-mail he desires. If that doesn’t get you running out to buy this always terrific anthology, then nothing will.

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