Greg Rucka and Michael Lark take a break from the palace intrigue of the Families to give us another perspective. We are once again introduced to Sister Bernard as she travels across Hock territory on a mission. Is it good?
Lazarus #16 (Image Comics)
The majority of the book is written from the perspective of Sister Bernard’s journal. Rucka and Lark create huge splash pages of journal entries as well as minor snippets for exposition. The lengthy journal entries give the sense you are reading a short novel rather than a comic book. The font used to denote the journal entry is a little difficult to read, but that may be just the version supplied to me.
Rucka uses the lens of Sister Bernard to do some heavy lifting in regards to world building. The last time she made an appearance we got a glimpse into the lives of non-Carlyle family members. In this issue Sister Bernard is bringing the word of God to Hock territory. She is constantly put through security checkpoints throughout the territory where the guards can be a little too friendly if you get my drift. Bernard’s description of the occupants of Hock territory paints a horrid picture in one’s own mind and Lark isn’t really able to do the words justice, instead supplying us with an image of a homeless child. Rucka’s writing conjures up images much more powerful in my mind as I recall my trips to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C.
Aside from the world building, there is a large emphasis on Sister Bernard’s characterization. She is constantly questioning her decisions, especially her duties for House Carlyle that allow her to spread the word of God and move somewhat freely through the territories. This self-doubt is made abundantly clear in a rather shocking scene where Sister Bernard’s colleague prescribes what can only be an abortive medicine to a pregnant woman. The scene makes my stomach queasy since being raised in a Catholic household and attending Catholic school, what Sister Bernard’s colleague does is anathema to Church doctrine despite the child having a spinal cord disorder. I also take umbrage with her colleague claiming her decision to provide abortive medicine is the same as Sister Bernard working as a spy for House Carlyle. This is a ridiculous claim and it is unfortunate Rucka does not explore the differences in morality between the two any further.
The rest of the story focuses on Sister Bernard’s mission for House Carlyle as she journeys through Florida and into Cuba to meet with and extract a rare viral weapon. It dives into her psyche as she constantly fears being discovered and questions her own faith. There is a nice little twist which will hopefully be touched on in a later issue. The book wraps up with some intense action sequences, but it is unclear where Sister Bernard stands with her faith as Rucka’s ending is a tad ambiguous.
Michael Lark’s artwork is once again top notch. He receives assistance from Tyler Boss as well as Owen Freeman and Eric Trautmann who contributed to “artifact” pages although it is hard to identify which pages those are. As mentioned previously, Lark failed to capture the powerful images Rucka’s writing evoked when he referred to the Waste of Hock as nonhumans, but was able to capture the internal conflict brewing within Sister Bernard. Colorist Santi Arcas does a fantastic job with the colors as usual, especially the final scene where the police lights are being used for lighting. It captures her raw emotion and feelings regarding the wrath of God and how it relates to the Lazari.
Is It Good?
Lazarus #16 had its really good moments, but it also had its pitfalls. The overall design of the issue with the lengthy journal entries drew out the comic and took away from what a comic is all about, words with pictures. Instead we just got words. On the other hand, the internal conflict Rucka is able to portray is wonderfully done and I am not sure he would have been able to do it without the long-winded journal entries. Lark’s artwork was awe-inspiring on some pages, but also felt disconnected in others. The issue was moving, but complacent at the same time.