Publisher: Image Comics
Writers: Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Art: Tristan Jones
Colours: Santi Arcas
Letters: Jodi Wynne
Cover: Michael Lark
Release Date: 14th February 2018
I’m late to the Lazarus party, having only started it this year, and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. I should have words with the folks who usually recommend my reading for not getting me into this much earlier…
Anyway, I’m going to guess that the majority of people interested in this last issue of X+66 will be folks who are already clued up on the series, but for those who aren’t, here’s a speedy, spoiler-free low down:
Imagine a dystopian near future where there are no countries, and instead families rule over land in a feudal-esque way. Within these families exist individuals known as Lazari – genetically or mechanically engineered super soldier types who act as protectors, secret agents or hitmen. This mini-series, X+66 (66 years after Year X), takes place within the greater setting but focuses on separate stories to flesh out supporting characters or give greater context as a whole. This particular issue reveals the history of possibly the most dangerous Lazarus, Family Vassalovka’s Zmey, also known as The Dragon.
I loved this issue. It has a very different feel from what has come before though so I can see that it may divide opinion. Rather than exposition through dialogue, we get to experience the story through the narration of a dark fairy-tale or fable. Analogous to the events unfolding in the panels, we are given the tale of the hunter and the dragon.
I don’t know what it is with Eastern European legend that brings such an appeal but it rears its head time and again and I never tire of it; probably says something about my dark humour. Rucka and Trautmann treat us to downright eerie writing whilst the talents of Jones and Arcas bring us an almost melancholic feast for the eyes.
Upon rereading this issue, I kept finding little touches that continue to highlight the grime and bleak nature both of the Dragon’s lair and the surrounding locale; the muted colours and brutal action excellently juxtaposed with the cautionary children’s story.
The story concept, overall, is not one that most will be unfamiliar with. The lone hunter or warrior, armed with a legendary weapon, facing off against the great threat to the land only to be outmanoeuvred by a far more capable foe. The tone of these stories let us know that it’s not likely to go well for our intrepid would-be hero, but we are led to a conclusion of greater understanding; or maybe just more fear. What the team achieve here is not some rehash though, it’s a real treat and a fantastic standalone tale. Sure it treads some recognisable water but it does so with a real dedication to detail and a liberal sprinkling of flair.
As with all of the previous Lazarus issues, we are given an insight into the creative process by means of a letters page which, in the comic book industry, can often be overlooked. We can gleam more of the reasons behind certain choices or pick up on the fact that there’s maybe more to what we are seeing than currently obvious. It’s a great way to see a creative team interact with their readers as a bit of a grognard in this digital age of Tweeter and Facepage.
Fans of Lazarus will definitely not be disappointed with this issue and whilst not a great starting point for new readers, it does serve as a perfectly good contained story in and of itself (albeit one where some of the references will be lost). It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.
[Click to Enlarge]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster