Friday graphic novel round-up
Lazarus, Vol. 2: Lift by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image Comics, 14.99).
Letter 44, Vol. 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque (Oni Press, $19.99).
Rocket Girl, Vol. 1: Times Squared by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder (Image Comics, $9.99).
The Wraith by by Joe Hill and Charles Paul Wilson III (IDW Publishing, $29.99).
In the post-apocalyptic U.S. that is the setting for the Lazarus series, extremely wealthy families—the one percent of the one percent—hold all the property, goods and necessities. The rest of the population? They’re either serfs, working for the members of the corporate families, or they’re waste, in which case, they’re on their own.
Forever Carlyle—who goes by Eve—is the Carlyle family Lazarus; their modified, almost indestructible family guardian. And she’s on the trail of her turncoat “brother,” Jonah, as well as looking for an explanation for who—and what—she really is.
In this second volume, we continue to learn through flashback how Eve was trained, but the big narrative arc concerns her mission to find—and stop—a terrorist who plans to detonate a bomb at the Carlyle family “lift” in Denver.
A “lift” is an opportunity for people to rise from “waste” to “serf” through careful testing for skills and potential, and the one in Denver is crowded. Among the attendees are the Barret family, “waste” who have struggled to farm independently, only to fail. Now, they’re en route from their washed-out farm in Montana over 500 miles of dangerous terrain to make the lift with their son and daughter and a neighbor’s grand-daughter.
Once again, we have enough really intriguing conflict—combined with some action and fairly realistic art—to make for a compelling read. The further in to Eve Carlyle’s story we go, the more intriguing it becomes.
(Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family review.)
In the first volume of Letter 44, we have the beginning of a potentially great science fiction series. Immediately before the inauguration of President Stephen Blades, he discovers that his predecessor—#43—has left a letter for him, #44, and bailed out of the White House without attending the inaguration.
That letter tells the new president that years before, activity was detected in the asteroid belt. A ship has already been sent to investigate, and in the meantime, they know next to nothing about who is doing what in our solar system backyard.
The art is close enough to realism that we recognize these guys are not “our” #43 and #44, but there are a great many similarities. And the science fiction element is really, really well done. The story line that involves the president is much less interesting, though it appears to be picking up action near the end of this volume.
Letter 44 is definitely worth following now, at least until we can see if the political thriller aspect of the story measures up to the quality of the science fiction element.
The first volume of Rocket Girl introduces Dayoung Johansson, a 15-year-old cop from the future, and she’s come back in time to save the world.
Back in time means 1986, which is our past, but, hey, what’s a detail like that when you’ve got a teenage girl superhero? Oh, and the future she’s come from? 2013.
Turns out, tech start-up Quintum Mechanics has created a time engine and created a future high-tech 2013 that never should have existed. Now, Dayoung’s on a quest to put things right, and if she’s successful, her “present”—the wrong future—will cease to exist.
It’s the sort of weird feedback time-travel loop that can easily give you a headache (if you’re Captain Kathryn Janeway), but in this case, an action-packed and hilarious story, coupled with big, bright art, makes for a fun origin story. It’ll be interesting to see where Rocket Girl goes from here.
And finally, The Wraith provides backstory on Charlie Manx, the bad guy from NOS4A2. We know, from the Locke & Key series, that Joe Hill is more than capable of writing a great graphic novel.
In this case, we have a couple of stories that fill in the blanks in Charlie Manx’s background. ”Portis & McMurtry’s Inn and Mortuary,” we meet young Charlie Manx, working for the owners of a combined saloon and funeral home in Cripple Creek, Colo. We later see how Charlie meets his wife, and what a bad end she comes to once Charlie gets his paws on that cursed Rolls Royce Wraith, that beautiful, terrible, magical vehicle from Hell.
These tales have the quality of the best of the old EC horror comics, meaning that they are essentially morality plays, and they add texture to a novel that was already well-done, but simply didn’t have room for every story.
The verdict on all: these are buys, especially if you’re a reader who appreciates good story-telling and powerful female protagonists.