In the future, the world is split not into countries, but fiefdoms controlled by the Families. The human population is divided into three segments: Family, who control everything, Serfs who have the skills and intelligence necessary to serve and be useful to the Family, and the Waste, who serve no purpose at all. Each Family has one member who is trained to be something more. Warrior, messenger, protector, envoy—whatever the situation calls for, the Family Lazarus is there to further the Family's ends, and protect them from all threats, internal and external. The Lazarus can be shot, cut, beaten, blown up, take an enormous about of damage, and walk away—eventually. Their bodies can heal themselves, bones can reset and nit, cuts close, bruises fade. A Lazarus is nearly indestructible. To truly kill one, you have to cut them up into very small pieces, which is why a Lazarus carries the Family Sword—just in case they have to battle a Lazarus from another family. In the Family Carlyle, Forever—or Eve for short—is that Lazarus.
Lazarus One, written by Greg Rucka and published by Image Comics, tells the story of Eve as she navigates the politics of her Family and the battles they want her to fight. Her father rules Family Carlyle, but that doesn't stop her brothers and sisters from infighting and plotting against him. Worse, they plot against Eve herself, although she doesn't know it. The Lazarus are genetically altered beings devoted to their family because they have to be—that, too, is imprinted in their genes. They cannot disobey an order from the Family. Unless someone of greater rank within the Family gives them a different order.
This is an intriguing book. The idea of these wealthy families taking over in the future isn't necessarily original—we've seen that a lot in science fiction—but the execution of the story is strong and compelling. Eve as a character comes off as this badass Terminator-like creature, who feels horrible about what she is forced to do. There's a kind of innocence about her and a definite internal struggle, one she has to hide from the Family or else they could turn on her and replace her. The power struggles within the Carlyle Family present an interesting backdrop that grows into the central conflict by the time the book ends. We also get a sense of the broader world very early on in the book, and that, too, comes to play a larger role in the narrative by the end. Add to that little teases throughout of who and what Eve really is, and you get a great book.
The art is done in a lot of muted colors that help set a brooding tone. I really liked it. Everyone looks like a real person, even Eve herself—although she's taller than most. There's cussing and gobs of violence, so I'd say this isn't for the kids in the house. I would say this falls into the far-future/dystopian fiction genre, and does well to stand out in that overly crowded space.
If you are a fan of: dystopian fiction, strong female characters, blood and gore, violence, mysteries, and thrillers, I think Lazarus One is the book for you.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal). He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012 and a 2013 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.