Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's "Lazarus" #5 continues to impress with its fine character work, exceptionally fascinating world building, and gorgeous visuals. This issue marks the beginning of a new storyline called "Lift" and it's the perfect time to jump on as a new reader (though I'd advise picking up the trade of the first four issues as well since they are excellent).
The bulk of this issue sets up the Lift story, picking up where events left off in book four and also showing a peek at a young Forever, and how she came to be the Lazarus for family Carlyle. The flashback sequence of young Forever is particularly nice as a contrast to present day Forever, as it's obvious what has changed about her, and also what has remained the same, perhaps against all odds.
There's a particularly brilliant and brutal scene in "Lazarus" #5 that well sums up the smart character based comics writing we're getting from Rucka. A scene in which Forever is shot in the back (though relatively unharmed) and instead of lashing out and killing everyone on the other side (as well as getting some of her own people killed), she simply has the shooter's own people turn on him. It speaks volumes about Forever as a character, re-enforcing what readers already know about her: she is gifted and a brutal killer, but she is also kind and even tempered. She could have been angry or even offended by being shot in the back of all things. She's not an angry or vengeful character, she's just a weapon doing her job. And so her choice to logically get the other side to turn on their shooter makes absolute perfect sense. It's also incredibly badass. It's moments like these that build great characters.
With an assist from Brian Level, Michael Lark continues to build the "Lazarus" world in beautiful but subtle ways. There's a subdued aspect to the artwork that is tonally pitch perfect for Rucka's story. Even fight scenes are not grandiose, they are matter-of-fact and it's exactly the right balance. Lark shows off a bit in a fantastic scene of young Forever sparring with her teacher, while her father watches and judges. She ultimately is beaten in her fight and Lark perfectly captures the failure, and in its wake the determination on Forever's face. Contrasted with the present day Forever, the work is even more impressive, because Forever is perfectly recognizable in her expressions and mannerisms as both child and adult. Santi Arcas delivers evocative colors that shift effortlessly from scene to scene -- the blue hues of a laboratory and a dark bedroom, the muted brown of a desert, the muddy greys of a stormy night -- all are layered and fantastic.
From its first issue, "Lazarus" was one of the breakout stars of an already impressive line up from Image. As the beginning of a second arc, "Lazarus" #5 proves that the book has lost none of its steam, growing in scope and complexity. Forever Carlyle is poised to become one of the comic book character greats.