Forever Carlyle is not a woman. She’s a killer, a tool, a blade wielded by the powerful Carlyle family but she’s also just a little girl. She’s a girl who still naively believes in the words of old men and the love of brothers and sisters. When the truth stares her in the face (in this case, a text message on her phone saying that what she thinks of as her family really isn’t her family,) Forever refuse to believe it. Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Santi Arcas’s story of a woman who lives completely for her family, for its love and its security, is actually a lot like Forever; it’s a very controlled, bordering on repressed. Even under the carefully controlled thumb of Forever’s creators (both the comic’s creator and her own father,) there are hints of a growing rebellion in Lazarus #6.
Rucka and Lark make it easy to believe that there’s not a corner of this world that they haven’t mapped out. Even though we’ve only seen a small portion of the western United States, Rucka’s varied and solid plotting plus Lark’s ruggedly realistic character work and settings make this feel like a complete world. When Forever breaks up a sexual liaison between a couple of family guards and a Waste (everyone else who isn’t one of the controlling families,) the rock solid hardness of both creators shine through. Rucka never uses more words than he has to but yet he almost always picks just the right words while Lark’s artwork hits this steady and captivating beat from panel to panel.
Lark is not a showy artist. In Lazarus #6, there’s no one moment that jumps out as a visual feast. That’s part of the character of Rucka’s reserved writing. Lark is actually a lot like The Walking Dead’s Charlie Adlard. Both Lark and Adlard are very good at pacing the stories through their artwork, even though Adlard gets a lot more sensational moments in his comic. Through their strong figure work and a realistic sense of time and place, they create worlds that engulf you as you read their comics. Adlard does it through the emotional beatings he gives his characters but Lark does it through the constant tension that exists in his artwork. Every single moment that’s captured in each panel is just rippling with this unseen, foreboding energy as he and Rucka push Forever’s story forward while also still establishing the lay of the land beyond the walls of the Carlyle’s well-secured homes.
Everyone talks about how strong Rucka’s characters are, particularly his women. They’re not strong; almost all of his characters are like Forever and are incredibly broken. Here’s a woman who has basically been bred to be the badass, strong arm of her family. As we saw in the first issue, you can’t kill her. You shoot her in the head and she gets up. From Batwoman to Tara Chase to the Punisher and now to Forever Carlyle, Rucka creates these highly functional but incredibly damaged characters that get on with their what their lives are supposed to be because they can’t face what their lives actually are. From the opening pages in this issue of Forever’s training when she was just a young girl to the end where a grown up Forever is dealing with people who are stealing from her family, Forever is this incredibly wonderful physical specimen of humanity even while the core of her beliefs of family are rotten to the roots, which just happens to be her father.
Lazarus #6 shows how tightly wound up Forever is and really always was. She believes she’s in control as she holds onto the idea that she is part of a real family. By cutting back and forth between Forever’s childhood and the present day, you’ve got to wonder just how much she’s really grown up as she’s held onto the same beliefs in father and family even though the truth is staring her in the face of who and what they really are. No matter her age, she’s still just a little girl trying to live up to her families’ expectations of her. But Rucka and Lark have planted the seed of the truth in her mind that maybe everything isn’t what she’s been told that it is.