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Abhay: LAZARUS– The Worst, Just The Worst

Abhay Khosla

LAZARUS, a comic by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santi Arcas, and Eric Trautmann, published in 2013 by Image Comics:


As Mr. John Kane has already discussed more efficiently and with more of a sense of humor, LAZARUS is a talking head comic told in the faux-cinema vernacular of modern comics, which is to say it fails to offer any inspiration as a comic itself.   Michael Lark’s art is yolked to rendering nothing more than a televisually-limited depiction of Rucka’s script.

Though Lark’s style can be pleasant within the proper genre (e.g. Lark arguably “fit” with the detective comic Scene of the Crime), here, he’s drawing a science fiction comic, a genre where, at least in comics, an artist’s visual imagination tends to be a deciding factor.  Lark’s studious if not photo-referenced style doesn’t offer any pleasure on its own terms, not to the degree an attentive reader can find from other science fiction comics (see, e.g. the late Paul Gillon’s Les Naufrages du Temps, to pick a random example), especially in the brief action scenes which are disjointed,  and, in disregarding the 180-degree rule from panel to panel, don’t flow much at all.  While the 180-degree rule’s applicability to comics is admittedly extremely questionable, even for action scenes, LAZARUS disregards it in the context of a comic that otherwise is attempting to recreate the visual experience of watching a 10 pm NBC television drama.

Consider this action sequence from page 7 of the first issue, which given the lackadasical nature of “modern” comics pacing means that we’re still in the opening scene, the “hook”:

Lazarus Issue One Page 7 or So

And so the reader begins viewing this sequence from in front of the girl, with a man holding a sword to the reader’s left.  Then, the reader is pulled behind her with the man now holding a sword to the reader’s right; then, the reader is again jolted in the other direction and the man is again holding the sword on the reader’s left.  Any attempt to define the geography of the action terrain in the first panel is undone by the latter two panels.  No flow.

(This is not an isolated instance of this in the opening action sequence: the camera has an even worse shift in orientation on the page before, and a similar shift on the subsequent page.)

Again, one might find similar “problems” in a good action comic; after all, comics are comics, arguably a very lawless medium, and the 180-degree rule is a movie rule, not a comic rule.  But with its “widescreen” panels, unexaggerated “un-cartoony” plain-jane figure drawings, and “grass is green, sky is blue” color palette, the comic tries relentlessly otherwise to suggest the visual storytelling of movies (or perhaps mid-budget television, in the goodly Mr. Kane’s estimation).  Therefore, unlike other comics where that might not be the case, the violation of the movie rules here sub-communicates within the first 8 pages of the comic (exclamation mark) that we are not only watching a movie but a bad movie, photographed by an inattentive cinematographer.

Of course, the rest of the comic is talking, dialogue scenes, more “Widescreen” panels of course, panels of small heads making that narrow range of expressions that’s possible with the faux-reality style Lark has selected, adjacent to word balloons and caption boxes and, of course, nothing more.  Make no mistake that this is all rendered very pleasantly– Michael Lark is a skilled and experienced artist, and consequently, every panel shows an attentiveness to detail and effort and especially an attention to the texture of objects, the texture of locations, the subtle differences between tile and mud, etc.  Within the parameters of the choices he’s made, Lark perhaps excels, at least.


The moment where LAZARUS most crosses over from dreary to yuck is in issue 2.  Consider this chunk of uninterrupted dialogue from the middle of that issue, set Family Ties-style in a kitchen:

Jonah:  “How LONG is she going to be there with him?

Another character:  “Jealous?”

Jonah:  “This is FAMILY business.  She shouldn’t even BE there!  She’s not even his REAL daughter, she’s just–

Beth:  “You shut your FUCKING MOUTH, Jonah.  You don’t SAY it, you don’t even THINK it, ANYwhere she could POSSIBLY hear.  Do you know what happens if she learns what she REALLY is?  The QUESTIONS she’ll start to ASK?”

Jonah:  “So she LEARNS the truth and she goes BUGFUCK CRAZY, big deal.  We put her DOWN… And then you and James play hide-the-pipette for a while and make us ANOTHER one.”

Beth: “I’ll fucking KILL you– You miserable little ABORTION, you MALIGNANT piece of SHIT–”

Jonah:  “aah!  AHHH!!!  Crazy BITCH let GO–”

Beth:  “– I will flay you open, I will–”

Jonah:  “Let me UP let–”

Beth:  “– DRAIN every worthless DROP of your BLOOD–“

These are the characters whom the reader is paying to spend time with.

Besides the fascistic amount of bold-facing (and the weird comedy created by its ill-advised attempt at Altman-ish overlapping dialogue, at least when Beth says “I will flay you open, I will” like a crazed Dick-Van-Dyke in-Mary-Poppins), what’s striking about the scene is its relentless inauthenticity.  A character driven to rage using a three-syllable word like “Malignant” while waving a knife around?  Of course, lengthy Shakespearean monologues during fight scenes have been a mainstay of comics since time immemorial; three-syllable words never hurt Stan Lee’s career as a “writer with an asterix next to the word writer” any. No what rankles is that in its “ooooh, edgy” invocations of abortions, its relentlessly over-the-top references to malignancies and Bobby “flaying”, how this dialogue seems to spring not from any observation of people but from an observation of internet flamewars.  This is internet flamewar dialogue, thrust into people’s mouths.

The internet creates this illusion now that any user can be a voyeur; Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window could’ve spent all that time on the Something Awful forums, end of movie.  And with “geek culture ascendant,” more and more, perhaps people believe this alternate MMORPG reality their twitter accounts and tumblr dashboards feed them resembles reality, rather than the funhouse mirror it actually is.  A reality where it’s acceptable to ever use the word “amazeballs”, or certain bad, tedious special-effects films are somehow “original” and deserve championing over other equally bad equally tedious special-effects films, or every viewpoint that differs from our own must, must, must be a result of “privilege“.

But in LAZARUS, the reader can see the consequences of that at least to our art, a comic filled with carefully drawn, walking-talking Youtube comments.


What annoys with LAZARUS isn’t merely the moment-to-moment writing of it; other comics suffer in that respect far, far worse, after all.  Again, Rucka is an experienced professional so while LAZARUS is moment-to-moment dull, so dull, it rarely is as moment-to-moment dumb as many other comics now on sale.

(One might quibble how much that is the result of the very, very low numbers of chances Rucka took with the material, i.e. people who make the good old “we’re fine looking dumb because we tried something special here, man” argument might be irked to any undue praise to the relatively generic pleasures of LAZARUS.  Not sure really who “wins” in that argument– probably not readers.)

But LAZARUS pretends to more than its mere story, as it pretends to offer the reader a “critique” of late-stage capitalism.  The concept of LAZARUS is as follows:  the super-rich (or “the 1%“, if you must) have become feudal “families” who have divided a near-future world into geographical swaths; those who work for them are considered “serfs” while the remaining population of the super-poor are considered “waste.”  The comic, however, does not focus on the serfs nor the waste, but on Forever Carlyle, a highly-specialized, technologically-enhanced, high-ranking member of a particular Family (owners of the Monsanto empire who now control Los Angeles and its surroundings, apparently).  Every super-rich Family includes someone like Carlyle apparently, a “Lazarus” who handles the Family’s violent business for them and has to face-off against the … Lazari (?) of other family.

The comic hints that the story of LAZARUS will be the “strong female character” of Forever questioning her sociopolitical surroundings and ultimately opposing the income inequality posed by the Family’s very existence.

And so, once again, a slight variation on the Batman Fantasy.  In the Batman, the reader is presented a fantasy that in a broken-down society, a rich person will lead a war to repair that society, which war will involve the rich person waging a brutal war of violence upon the filthy lower-class.  At no time is it questioned that the rich person is inherently and unavoidably the beneficiary of the broken-down society, or that the under-class on whom he wages violence are reacting to the very inequalities that created him.

While the variation that LAZARUS presents is a main character who wages war on the “filthy upper-class” instead, the underlying deficiency to this fantasy is the same:  the fantasy posits that the only true “Solution” to late-capitalism must unquestionably come from the victors of that same capitalism.  And so, the reader is comforted that they are nothing more than a victim of late-capitalism, with no agency in their own impoverishment and no agency to end that impoverishment.  Most importantly, the reader is given no tools to question the structure of late-capitalism or hint that any such tools even exist, other than to hope, hope, hope for a Redeemer to arise, to save them.  In making the Redeemer a member of the upper-class, it is thus inherently sub-communicated to the reader that the current social order is in some way correct, and that the class structure they are imprisoned in is as a result of the heroics of these “rugged entrepreneurs” who bestride the world of late-capitalism, who are contained within the upper class.  What is left for the lower classes but to marvel upon the spectacle of these figures whether they are robber barons, the fairy tale “benevolent multi-conglomerate” Wayne Industries, or now Forever Carlyle?  What is the reader truly told but to stay asleep?

In previous feudal systems, the Redeemer superhero in question was at least Christ, who say what you will about beard-rock, offered a more comprehensive lesson-plan for the lower classes than the lone-wolf warriors advanced by late-capitalism, whether that be “criminals are cowardly” with Batman or whatever thin “eat the rich” sentiment LAZARUS ultimately evolves.

The business of comforting the reader is not the business of critique, and thus LAZARUS fails at its very core in that mission.


What makes the LAZARUS critique especially obnoxious is the possible autobiographical aspect of it. Namely, to the extent that LAZARUS is the ‘dutiful servant’ who learns that her masters do not have her best interests at heart, to what extent is that an attempt by Greg Rucka to rewrite his own history in comics, to reposition himself as the victim of that history, and to posit the existence of LAZARUS itself self-flatteringly as a redemptive act?

Consider the year 2005.  According to Wikipedia, Dan Didio had been named Vice President -Executive Editor, DC Universe in 2004, and so in 2005 we see him before the series of events that would make him the Co-Publisher of that company.  And 2005 also marked the great legacy of Greg Rucka to mainstream comics, in the publication of Countdown to Infinite Crisis, a comic which he co-wrote and far and away, the most important comic he ever wrote to the history of mainstream comics.  As its title portends, Countdown commenced a wave of DC crossovers, with those crossovers then culminating in the Infinite Crisis mega-crossover, soon to be followed by a host of other crossovers, including Final Crisis, Flashpoint, Blackest Night and so forth.  This in turn triggered Marvel Comics to shift away from their previous strategies to a similar strategy of crossovers, endless crossovers, with Marvel presently publishing about two-to-three mega-crossovers right this second, eight years later.

Critically, this is not the first time this happened in comics; this all happened before in the 1990’s.  Every single thing about it had happened before.  And so, unless they are canaries or simple creatures of limited memory unable to remember 5 years earlier, it should have been well known to comics professionals that a crossover-driven environment is inherently one in which editors become supreme, editors become bullies, and the creative personnel suffer accordingly. The current situation in comics, which now sees freelancers write coded “I heard from a birdie that someone somewhere is getting bullied maybe” hints out of fear, and sees even that little lauded as “courage,” can all be tracked to that ascendancy of Dan Didio, an ascendancy to which Rucka is inextricably intertwined at its roots.  Rucka contributed to Countdown, 52, a myriad of Final Crisis tie-ins, whatever was asked of him…

… Until he woke up to “discover” that despite being a “good soldier,” Didio somehow did not respect his contributions to the horrible edifice to which he had willingly contributed, that in late capitalism, there is no “loyalty” to the employee and any such concepts are just advertising for commodities.  Oh, the shock of it all

And so, LAZARUS, the comic where it turns out that the good soldier was just being lied to all along, you guys, was a decent person who was mislead, wasn’t wasn’t wasn’t an oblivious clown who got clowned and deserved to get clowned for their sins, and certainly didn’t have their head in their sand as to the mistreatment of others or their own responsibility for the state of things because they were at all times guided by their own sense of honor and code.

How fucking convenient…

Thus, both within and without, LAZARUS suggests over and over again that the only way to receive late-capitalism is with a victim mentality.  Greg Rucka’s attempts to rewrite his own history accordingly simply lack credibility.

This might be tolerable if LAZARUS had the decency of being entertaining.  Whether this comic is entertaining will differ reader by reader, but for those who think the job of being entertaining eludes Rucka and Lark, LAZARUS offers a uniquely obnoxious comic experience.


Never Not enough hentai.

36 Responses to “ Abhay: LAZARUS– The Worst, Just The Worst ”

  1. heh heh heh bueno

  2. I would go so far as to use IV, Greg’s Rucka’s personal rationalization, to explain III, Society’s Rationalization, as well. Forever may be a “member” of the Family, but she is really jus another Serf. She is the Middle Class, used by 1%, told they have value, but in the end just as replaceable as the Poor.

    We (myself and the mouse in my pocket) want to have value, so we hew to the Rich because they give us stuff, and disdain the Poor because the Rich disdain them. But we never (seem to/want to) realize that we are just as trapped by the System as those below us. The Overseer has more freedom than the Slave, but he is not free to quit.

    Open question: Can any Superhero truly be a representative of the Lower Class? Doesn’t the possession of powers beyond those of Mortal Men by definition place them above the Have Nots? Even if Peter has to suffer under the heel of JJJ, he is better off than Betty Brant, or pre-Symbiote Eddie Brock. He has other choices, even if he ends up choosing responsibility.

  3. Well, if you’re gonna bring up Spider-Man, Steve Ditko would *probably* suggest (NOT THROUGH INTERVIEWS, OF COURSE) that the whole idea of superpowers is representative of individuals realizing their personal capacity for excellence, beyond the illusory appellations of class or rank…

  4. The Ditko Spiderman is just an extremely strange work though because in almost every major conflict, Spiderman is a young person changed by science fighting an older scientist whose work has been stolen by industrialists, and the most Spiderman tends to achieve is preventing those scientists from obtaining an entirely justifiable revenge on those same industrialists or the society that permitted those industrialists to rob the scientists. The story is really one of a young man who becomes so deranged by his Uncle’s murder that he can only see villainy when it originates from the lower classes, but remains oblivious to it otherwise (e.g. Spiderman permits Jonah Jameson to deceive the public, somehow not seeing that deception from a relied-upon institution like the press as being an evil akin to whether Doctor Octopus should rob a federally-insured bank). I don’t know. I kind of hate Spiderman, basically. It’s just WEIRD. That’s just a weird comic…

    I would say no to the question because all those comics are about a character using violence to protect (and thus validate) the status quo. Moral authority deriving from the repressive use of violence is, like, pretty not-cool…? Or it hardly challenges the social order, anyways. The Ellis superhero comics at least seem cognizant of the problems at the heart of that, though I don’t know they went anywhere interesting with it– Stormwatch seemed like it was headed a certain way but… His interests in superhero comics shifted away from that, and more success certainly seemed to come to him when it did, so…

    The most interesting case is probably Marshal Law, probably (if I remember it correctly)(WHO KNOWS?). I think Joe wrote eloquently there about how the thematic success of that first series is undercut by that work’s dodgier sequels. I haven’t read it in YEARS but in my memory of it, it was the one most suspicious of iconography and most interested in imparting that suspicion to the reader. Of the 80’s works that struggled with that “Superheros: facist?” question, I think that Fear & Loathing stretch of Marshal Law was the most interesting in that particular regards– Dark Knight just sort of said “hellz yeah”; Watchmen is ultimately just a different thing altogether; (I’m not sure about V for Vendetta as I don’t really even think of that a superhero comic, though it arguably is one); Elektra Assassin or Gimme Liberty… hm. Elektra Assassin is just a very odd book, so I’m not sure. I haven’t read Gimme Liberty since high school, so I just don’t remember that well enough (if that’s even a superhero comic– that was more a science fiction action piece; I haen’t thought of it in years but pages from it came onto my dashboard the other day…) Anyways, I’d say Marshal Law is the most interesting in that regards within the parameters of my limited memory…?

    (There’s the Enigma but the Enigma’s not really about class … It’s just always sort of my go-to answer since I think so highly of it. I remember there being parts of that book critical towards materialism– there were furniture-related villains or the “And Then What?” page, say– but… I wouldn’t say that’s The Enigma’s focus).

  5. Man I think the 180 rule might be received wisdom at this point… I mean aside from the great thing Cronenberg said about “Frank Miller doesn’t know what an axis is” (all-time greatest insult from one genius to another – but what makes Frank Miller’s best work great is because he will cross cut like he doesn’t know what it is), it isn’t representative of how movies are made. It’s this weird Bazin idea about movies that people now treat as gospel. The problem is shitty representation of space, not the axis. I just think it’s a great rule to follow, if you don’t know how to break it. Which is also what TNT/USA shows are like – all those guys think they’re Michael Man and they’re making Burn Notice 22 episodes at a time. And this comic doesn’t even get to Burn Notice levels.

  6. Where did Cronenberg say that??

    I definitely don’t think the 180-degree rule is sacrosanct, *especially* in comics– you’re right that even in movies, it’s an old idea… I’m not as knowledgeable as you are, but netflix used to have this great documentary on demand about film editing, the evolution of classical film editing and how that became the post-classic age, starting in the 70’s (I think it was the Cutting Edge but not sure). It was fascinating because you could see how much bad film reviews, people shitting on Michael Bay or the post-MTV guys or even the British commercial directors or whoever, was just people responding not to them as directors but to the changes in editing brought about by the evolution of film technology…?

    Audiences seem to grasp geography and cuts quicker than they’re given credit for. I don’t know– I don’t believe in the rules as “rules”, but they sure are pretty helpful in explaining why something doesn’t work, I think, even if other people can get away with not following them. Like, that James Herren (Harren? Herran?) BPRD fight scene everyone loves, I went and checked that and he broke the rule a couple times in there, not as blatantly but once or twice. But it works there completely because he does it for impact and it … it works and who gives a shit, if those pages don’t follow some rule? He drew his ass off on that thing.

    But… I don’t even know how to articulate why he gets away with it and Lark doesn’t.

    That rule, classic story structure, the rule of thirds, stories having consistent points of view– there isn’t a rule someone hasn’t broken and it’s been awesome, *awesome*, but… at the same time, when something doesn’t work, it’s usually someone screwing that exact shit up! I really have no idea how to reconcile that in my head, but it’s…

    Incidentally, this (http://supervillain.tumblr.com/post/63796477308/1-48-hrs-1982-dir-walter-hill-2-uncanny) was amazing. *Amazing*. I hit the little tumblr heart icon but in case that wasn’t heart-y enough, I really dug that…

  7. That was some interview circa History of Violence where they asked him about the book’s similarity to Sin City. And Cronenberg was like “no I read books, comics dummy”. Which is what Cronenberg should be like, always.

    Also, yeah – people are way more intuitive about why shit works in movies and doesn’t, they don’t need to be educated about most of it – the Bourne movies and Chris Nolan really suck at defining space people have no trouble following them.

    And with rules – I think incompetence is incompetence, and rules help people who wouldn’t be any good hit the good notes. If Harren wants to do a fight scene, he’s going to get physicality and emotion and character, etc., beyond being able to just draw like a BEAST. All that stuff, if he breaks one other rule it’s so much less important. But if it’s someone like Lark who’s maybe not as good at everything else (though I think Lark has done some really great comics before, but usually with Brubaker who’s a better writer than Rucka), he’s not gonna bring anything, him breaking the rule might be a *huge* problem. I completely get what you’re saying. Also in comics – when someone brings one of those things it’s insane, like the stairwell fight in Applessed 3, using geography suddenly becomes the coolest thing you can do in a comic, and I think he sticks to the 180 rule for that.

    And on the 48 Hrs thing – I know, It is so awesome that 80s Romita Jr has the same shitty taste in movies as I do. Dude swiped from Lustig, Hill, his Phoenix is based on Susan Sarandon in the Hunger! I think I might even like those movies because I read his comics first. So cool. I want that guy to do like a criterion cover for Vigilante or Streets of Fire or something.

  8. “…so while LAZARUS is moment-to-moment dull, so dull…”

    Yeah, I’ve liked some of his stuff but I’ve always felt that if I had to describe Rucka’s writing in one word that word would be BORING.

    I remember a year or two ago Josh Flanagan had an iFanboy column saying something like, “If I could have one person write all of my comics, that person would be Greg Rucka.” I was like “Why do you want all your comics to be boring?”

  9. I don’t want to make excuses for Lark because heaven knows that comic “art” today is fundamentally flawed*, but it’s almost certain that he was working off a panel-by-panel, shot-by-shot script from Rucka. That makes it hard to appropriately assign blame.


    *(Writers thinking they have a better visual sense than artists being one of those fundamental flaws, of course.)

  10. On class and violence in superheroes – I don’t think that superheroes are inherently “fascist,” exactly (that word gets tossed around so much that it starts to lose meaning, which grates), but I do think that there’s a good argument to be made that superheroes are inherently authoritarian – which is to say, even when pursuing progressive goals, the basic power-fantasy aspect of the superhero places its protagonist above ordinary people in ways that leaves them helpless, and reinforces the idea that ordinary people can have no role in their own liberation.

    Take Superman, for example – the original Superman, the Golden Age, 1930s one, who fought war profiteers and corrupt bosses and mining interests. Here is a populist, even leftist figure, fighting on behalf of the working class – but the way he does so is basically disempowering to the working class, because freedom for, say, the miners he’s fighting for doesn’t come from the agency of the miners (organizing to strike against the bosses, as actual miners had to do) but from the power of Superman beating up those bosses. The message is that the workers have little power on their own, and have to wait for an outside savior to take action.

    When you look at the actual history of working people trying to challenge power, it’s generally the history of organizing mass movements – something that doesn’t really mesh with the formulas of the superhero genre, which typically rely on power fantasies and a kind of hyper-individualism. All of which is to say that it doesn’t surprise me that when Greg Rucka sits down to write a comic book about class warfare, he ends up writing a superhero story where a badass fighty person has to punch economic inequality until everything’s better. Hell, that’s more or less what Alan Moore ended up doing with “V for Vendetta”; was Greg Rucka going to really end up doing that much better than Alan Moore? (Granted, with Moore you get bonus rape, because, hey, it’s Alan Moore, and oh my god, let’s face it, Alan Moore is a gibbering rape-junkie, he is to rape what Frank Miller is to prostitutes.)

  11. MBunge – Isn’t that the flip side of giving the writer all of the credit for a great comic? Lark drew it, Lark put his name on it–if there are criticisms to be made, in the absence of hard evidence, he shares responsibility.

  12. Huh. Doppleganger.

    So not posting in this thread beyond that.

  13. “Lark put his name on it–if there are criticisms to be made, in the absence of hard evidence, he shares responsibility.”

    Sure, but getting into the bigger picture again, how do you blame an artist who is “raised” in an environment where his own storytelling ability is stunted by always having to follow the direction of someone else? The full-script approach of today’s industry actually works against artists developing the skills and knowledge needed to know how to tell a story in the most coherent and compelling manner.


  14. That was a really good piece of criticism, Abhay — making me think.

    I accept everything you say, yet I still pretty much like LAZARUS (I’d be on the low GOOD side)

    I wonder, though, can we properly criticize artists for being who they are, or presenting what they see? I mean, even if your IV (and maybe even the I) are accurate, I don’t see how it’s really a point against the WORK — I don’t necessarily expect artists to solve our social problems, or even to inherently recognize that the mirror isn’t just glass. Isn’t art *about* putting up that mirror?

    I don’t know… ALL of my favorite creators have tics. Usually pretty SEVERE ones. That’s typically WHY I like them. Am I alone in that?


  15. Well, for many readers Lazarus is entertaining…not dull–myself included. The pacing of Rucka’s books seems very deliberate and the unspooling of the story is pleasurable, as is the art here, which is moody and low key, fitting the deliberate pacing of the story. Obsessing over some rule from movies is crazy, in fact I hate it when people try to view comics as a relative of movies. If you can read the story from panel to panel and it stays visually interesting, you have the makings of a good comic book experience–the continuous shots of a movie are a whole different artform.
    Yes, this is not a deep or at all effective critique of socio-economics and any attempt to promote it as such is a bit annoying–the society here is just a straw man for a violent rebellion story–a staple of popular entertainment. I can understand being pissed with this general pattern, but as an example of this shallow, pretend social critique wrapped up in an action story, Lazarus seems pretty cool to me.

  16. “…how do you blame an artist who is “raised” in an environment where his own storytelling ability is stunted by always having to follow the direction of someone else?”

    The writer/artist relationship has been on my mind recently, as I’m reading THE FROM HELL COMPANION right now. And even in the case of somebody whose scripts are as dictatorial as Alan Moore, when there’s stuff that doesn’t work, or where Eddie Campbell just thinks of something that works better, he fixes it/does his own thing. That’s collaboration. I don’t know Greg Rucka, and I’ve never seen one of his scripts, but presumably he’s not so egomaniacal as to be closed to allowing his artists (especially one as clearly talented as Lark) some leeway in presentation–especially in regards to something as minor as the positioning of figures in the panel.

  17. Hey, look what a little Googling turned up:


    The script for some of the pages in question. Make your own judgments about who’s to blame for “violating” the 180 rule.

  18. “The full-script approach of today’s industry…”

    Depends on the writer, the artist, and how they’re approaching the book together.

    There is no one way writers write scripts today.

  19. “There is no one way writers write scripts today.”

    That is of course true, but full-script certainly seems to be the dominant format in the industry…at least as far as I can tell.


  20. “Make your own judgments about who’s to blame for “violating” the 180 rule.”

    Maybe the artist is to blame for the 180 rule but…holy crap! I pity the artist trying to follow Rucka’s direction. Just count up how many times he tells the artist to draw someone in motion, sometimes multiple movements in the same panel.

    Those are not comic panels. Those are movie storyboard descriptions.


  21. […] layouts where the real art is how they cut from one image to the next (like many styles, it has its drawbacks). Yet, here we enter the panel as an action is happening (the guy being shot), then pan over to see […]

  22. Interesting points all around. Have to ask: is there any comic that got politics correct, in history? Were comics ever good in the first place? Are we living a lie?

    The slow death of American print comics is getting more and more tiresome to watch, is what I’m saying. It poisons the love one has for comic books in general. Maybe it’s the extended trauma of seeing bizarro versions of “our dudes” rise to supermassive popularity. With billboards and shit. Maybe it’s the unceasing puke-fountain of praise “creators” now get for work that would be deemed sub-competent in literally any other field. Whatever the case, more and more people seem to be giving up, dropping out. This sense of general disengagement started on comics blogs circa 2011.

    No clue what I’m talking about here.

    Anyway, moose n squirrel makes a good point that I completely disagree with. Best Superman fucked on the wealth havers because the common man wanted to. It’s the same way that there’s no reason Clark Kent should exist other than for the benefit for the reader. Literalists have been struggling with legitimizing the Clark Kent concept for years, trying to have it make sense “in-universe” for “character reasons”. It’s also why so many fools believe Captain America to be an insult to the World Greatest Generation Support Our Troops Buy War Bonds. Captain America didn’t punch Hitler because in a make believe world he was so much better than a multibajillion soldiers. He did so because most everybody in the real world reading that shit wanted to see Hitler punched in the face. The point is, early Superman, unlike every iteration afterwards doesn’t make you think “if only somebody would save us”. It makes you think “I want to give people like that a taste of their own medicine”. It’s defensible as agitprop, if that makes any sense.

  23. “Interesting points all around. Have to ask: is there any comic that got politics correct, in history? Were comics ever good in the first place? Are we living a lie?”

    From what point of view? I think how politics have manifested in books has changed not only as comics has changed but as people’s politics have changed. Like, I don’t think Kirby’s politics were the same as Claremont or Nocenti’s politics is the same as a modern comic writer’s politics, but they were all temporally positioned differently to, like, the actual hippies, the actual historical events. So you end up with the Forever People, or you end up with Claremont’s tolerance, or you end up with whatever it is now– I think something maybe colder and meaner– but that’s not just because comics have changed but maybe because people have changed.

    But yeah– I’ve been looking at old Romita-era X-Men issues lately. Those things are great. Yes, much of it is clumsy from a modern political sensibility, perhaps, but is that the way one really views it? Or at least I like how … He was writing about misfits and outcasts in a way I don’t think structurally can write about now even if they had it in them– can you do that when it’s one book of 40 and there are crossovers and your book is a lynchpin of a publication wheel not to mention a media empire? Can you be in that place and write about outcasts and misfits? Can tolerance be anything but a sales pitch to, like, Nerdist-dot-com level “outcasts” (which I say only with affection for nerdist-dot-com), but if that’s the scheme of thing? Claremont and Nocenti were writing for teenagers, though, and so it wasn’t– there wasn’t that sense that they were trying to impress that one gets from a “we’ve got a minority Spiderman” publication initiative thing… One can look at it less cynically, at least for that reason…

    But they had that thing the other day in some Fraction Fantastic Four coic where some skexie chose its gender, and the family of that comic accepted it and continued to love it anyways. There’s a modern politics to that, that seems perfectly fine. I don’t read that comic or anything so I don’t know if it was good or bad, but. That kind of thing is still a thing, at least. I mean, though I’ll admit a personal cynicism to that kind of thing being as “meaningful” as a thing like a Claremont thing that operates more on the level of metaphor, where… the thing of those books was intertwined in it and not the surface of it, which means more to me when I go back to look at it than if it had been, like, “tear down that wall, Gorbachev.”

    Then again, some people say don’t do anything that ages anything– the example they always give is don’t have Spiderman meet the Beatles. But why not? I’ve never seen that comic because it’s a fucking Spiderman comic– they make a new one every month, you’re not supposed to look at the one where he meet the Beatles because it wasn’t published this month! Like, why wasn’t there an issue where Spiderman met Public Enemy? Public Enemy’s great– Burn Hollywood Burn? Great song. We all got robbed. SO I don’t know.

    “Best Superman fucked on the wealth havers because the common man wanted to”

    I have this theory that I think the mistake people make with Superman is they make Metropolis a nice place to live. If you look at the Fleischer cartoons at least– it seems like it’s just next-door to a screwball 30’s movie Hudsucker universe where… where the heros, Lois Lane, Perry White, they’re all journalists– a world where you think journalists are heros is one where every other institution has something to hide! All those Capra movies work not because Jimmy Stewart’s a great guy in a great world. They work because Jimmy Stewart manages to STILL be a great guy in a shitty world run by Mr. Potter and if he doesn’t be great, everyone ends up living in Pottersville. Sweet, sweet Pottersville. But in the modern DC, at least some of the comics I’ve read, it seems like they always want to do Metropolis as this great art deco future city and Gotham as the hell-hole. But if Gotham was a hell-hole? Superman would MOVE THERE! BECAUSE HE’S A FUCKING SUPERMAN. (I think they got it pretty good in some of the Ordway issues but my memory’s are a bit fuzzy…)

    Okay, my lunch is here so…

  24. The difference between old and new you’re describing here, it’s the difference between working through a political concept and doing a cheap “political” publicity stunt. None of these political gestures in modern comics are at the core of the comic’s concept. It’s Spider-man “but black!” and FF “with added tolerance this issue!”. And whoever’s reading Young Avengers, it’s like they’re old people who want to be happy on the behalf of those tumblr people with often vague notions of human rights. The ghost of scans_daily perhaps? Meanwhile those actual tumblr people are reading something bordering on decent or at least not utter pap.

    You can’t prevent anything from getting dated. Any man who says otherwise is a filthy liar. Comics should be up to date in the right ways, capturing the feel and relevant issues of the modern era. Trend-hopping is the antithesis of this. When was the last time a comic made you angry, and not about how stupid it was? When was the last time a comic dared to talk about the present? Has any comic in recent memory been about about something actual, rather than conceptual? And I mean that functionally. You don’t have to make realistic fiction to discuss something that’s going on RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

    Shit blockbusters have convinced us that there’s such things as “immortal themes” so the Batman can be Jack Bauer because Campbell, I guess? Comics followed suit, without the visual flair. Relevance is consequently reduced to a marketing gimmick. But it musn’t be that way, because true relevance was the bread and butter of Marvel when it emerged. Nobody succeeded at filling that void. Now the zeitgeist is to diffuse for the fogeys to wrap their heads around, and the young upstarts are too busy copying the fogeys to understand the stuff right in front of their faces is more important. Even indie and art comics stick too close to old comic book paradigms. They likewise feel drained of reality, regardless of the technical skill on display.

    “it seems like they always want to do Metropolis as this great art deco future city and Gotham as the hell-hole”

    The utopian art deco aspect of futuristic-style Metropolis is particularly ironic, given its dystopian art deco namesake. But when did Superman’s version become futuristic, I wonder? It merely seemed to embody modern urban design through the late sixties. The more unrealistic Metropolis is, the less relatable the Superman fantasy is. Stupid shit resulting from a profound lack of imagination. Have any of these artists actually walked around a city? Do they think that Superman flies so that you don’t have to draw the ground?

    Eh… They draw the ground, but it’s like based on photographs of restaurants near the financial district.

  25. Oh man. This ‘review’ leads me to paraphrase Yaira. “Critics don’t hate your work. They hate themselves; because the work that you’ve produced is a reflection of what they wish they could be.”

    It’s funny how I’ve never even heard of Abhay Khosla. And I’ve been collecting comics for more than 25 years. That shows how seriously this angry clown should be taken.

  26. Okay, you’ve quoted someone else’s critical remark to disparage the idea of criticism in general, and then you dismissed the criticism in this piece entirely because you personally have never heard of this critic- which you would have done obviously because you already established you don’t like critics and criticism except when they criticize critics? Okay.

    Now, what about the actual content of the piece? Anything to say? Anything at all?

  27. Lazarus is a great comic and Greg Rucka is an awesome writer. Sorry, but you are wrong wrong wrong on this one. I was just searching for some other things that I can read of Rucka’s because of this comic and happened to see this and couldn’t resist trying to give it a read. Then, I realized that it was nothing more than a long diatribe and decided I would just comment and leave. Lazarus has one of the best story lines that is currently ongoing. This review seems to be clouded from some source other than what Lazarus is as a comic. I especially like how you feel there is a form to comics that must be followed; rather than just allowing them to be works of art. I mean most other reputable reviews think this comic is “AWAZING” -IGN, “absolutely riveting” -ComicBookResource.com, even 2511 people that reviewed it on goodreads.com gave it an average of 4/5. Next time you write a review you probably want to try and be a little more open minded. It seemed pretty clouded in a veil of contempt for Rucka rather than based on the actual book. But hey, suum cuique.

  28. I am astonished as to how seriously everyone takes all of this. I am sixty years old and when I watch a movie or read a comic book the term “great art” never crosses my mind. When I was 12 years old back in 1967 I would read my comic books as comic books period. All this hyper analysis and hyperbole about comic books- had I been exposed to it back then- would have ruined everything! Adults have high jacked comic books away from kids.

    I got here because I just finished reading Lazarus no. 6. I like the artwork and the story enough that I wanted to get a little more info. However this review is overkill. Imagine if one were to analyze every comic book in this way. I plan to read the entire series and ignore a good part of what I read here.

  29. Abhay, I think you’re a pretty decent writer but the higher than thou, more intellectual than everyone shit is a bit disconcerting. I’m not saying you’re not intelligent and don’t have good opinions, because you certainly due, however when you make a vague statement about how most comics are dumb these days I wish you would at least give a couple examples.

    I don’t know too much about this comic specifically, I was going to give the latest issue a read, when I decided to Google it and try to figure out when its set (they don’t make it clear in the intro, they have ash-trays everywhere so its probably 60s-70s?), and came across this blog, and your article was convincing enough to turn me off from the comic.

    However, how the fuck do you hate Spiderman? Do you look really deeply into the politics and social ramifications and meanings behind comics, or do you just try to enjoy the story on its own merit? I mean dude, on the Spiderman thing, yes if you look at it deeply J Jonah is putting out propaganda, but really its mostly meant as a harmless continuous joke as Jonah’s very over the top, but not usually dangerous in any capacity, and isn’t doing anything necessarily evil. I don’t think he’s just going after lower class criminals either, as he goes after the King Pin and big mobsters and shit all the time, especially in the 60s comics. However, there is a hint of truth to what you’re saying, but Spiderman isn’t going to sit around looking at finnical records so he can eventually get enough proof to lock up Enron.

  30. Consistent dark atmosphere, slow building plot and world, growing characterization. Lazarus rules.

  31. “There’s a guy on the web who thinks I suck, he should know, he’s got a blog.”

    I guess at the end of the day, Greg Rucka is still Greg Rucka, and you’re just a spoiled brat who feels a Little better about himself by spending entire days pointing out other people’s shortcomings.

  32. I was going to stop reading after the criticism of a changing perspective during a fight. I personally enjoyed a tactic that showed not only full impact of blows, but allowed the reader the kinetic feeling of a superhuman fighter battling two opponents on either side of her.

    But I struggled onward through the criticism of a character’s
    dialogue where the use of *English* words seemed somehow crazy. I mean, no one with a genius intellect, (evident by said person helping to build a superhuman), could possibly be angry enough to “kill” while also having an “accurate” polysyllable word be the first thing to pop into their head and out of their mouth. FYI: it’s no “I’ll flay you, I will.” It’s “I’ll flay you, I will…”

    I finally gave up after the inference that Lazarus is an autobiographical take. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But to hate it on the “belief” that it is? That’s silly, juvenile, and dare I say it, obnoxious.

  33. Lazarus is a great comic because it deals with contemporary issues so the comic is relevant. the female characters are well designed and their dialogue is believable without wondering into cliché and the plots are well paced and intelligent. If it wasn’t for Rucka and his talented crew, my interest in comic would’ve stalled. He is one of the reasons why my interests in comic have gone up.

    Comics have matured to a point now where everyone is no reading it as a legitimate medium, and I thank the blue sky and the green grass that his been taken out of the domain of silly little teenage boys with silly plots and female porn star characters which actually though about don’t actually make any sense and is disrespectful and down right misogynistic, I gave up comic because of it.

    Artists like Rucka has taken the medium seriously and brought comics into the adult world and very interesting things have happened, the worlds he creates are real and believable if dystopian. Lazarus does not deserve the narcissist teenage criticism, especially when the majority of comics today are still formulaic, cliché and not very interesting and say bugger all about our world we live in.

  34. “Artists like Rucka has taken the medium seriously and brought comics into the adult world”

    Yes, because this is a thing adults usually say.

  35. The criticism regarding the internet-like dialogue I fully agree with. I have a big problem with characters in many Image comics (I only read Image, not sure about the others) talking like know-it-all kids arguing on internet forums. I also don’t like characters talking like the same irony loving geeks who read comics (Saga, Rat Queens etc.). And I can’t understand why every other word is BOLD in Lazarus. Very distracting!

  36. You can make a comic(or cartoon) of this review(if thats what this is).

    I love the art, the story of Lazarus.

    Comics today are much better to the eye as that 4-color stuff back in the day.

    I fancied B&W more then

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