In the comic book series “Lazarus” by Greg Rucka, the world is divided into swaths of land each ruled by a different family. The nation states we currently know have been swallowed up by these families. Each territory is a feudal system with three distinct social classes — family, serfs and wastes. We do not see how the world became this way or, for example, how the Carlyle family came to control Duluth Minnesota. What we do see is a stark world of haves and have-nots where the haves use their ample resources to fight each other for more.
The central character is Forever Carlyle, the “Lazarus” of the Carlyle family. The lazarus for each family is a member chosen to represent them in combat. They have been trained their entire lives and artificially enhanced to be outstanding fighters. As Forever learns more about her family, her place in it and the way this world works she begins to question it.
With the battling clans, divided territories and palace intrigue “Lazarus,” resembles “Game of Thrones” set in a dystopian future with advanced technology and science. The feuding families and their shifting allegiances also echo the machinations of mafia stories like “The Godfather.” As we learn more about Forever’s place in the Carlyle family and how she was raised, the inhumanity of this world, even at the familial level, becomes apparent.
A revealing episode takes place in the second volume when there is a pilgrimage of sorts. Members of the waste class are flocking to be tested for the opportunity to “level up” to become serfs, if they have adequate skills that fit a need in the hierarchy. We see the squalor and desperation that this class lives in. It’s a stark contrast to wealth and privilege we have been shown previously as the story followed the drama surrounding the different families. It is apparent that the technological sophistication and opulence the powerful families live in comes at the expense of the lower classes.
Greg Rucka said in an interview a few years ago that “Lazarus” had changed from a dystopian science fiction story to a documentary. Social commentary aside, this is a pretty fun read. It is full of the kind of speculative technological advances that is a hallmark of a lot of good Science Fiction. It also has a lot of intrigue, action and plot twists that keep you guessing. The series isn’t over yet. We don’t know how it will end, but hopefully with the world turning in a new direction.