After reading a comic, it either passes on to my “to review” pile or straight onto a shelf. Looking at the size of my “to review” pile, it’s clear to me that I have to start burning through some of these things quicker if I want to get this thing down to a manageable level. On that note, I see that the next four titles in the pile are all creator-owned Image series. So I’m lumping “Lazarus vol. 3: Conclave,” “Prophet vol. 4: Joining,” “Roche Limit vol. 1: Anomalous,” and “Sex vol. 3: Broken Toys” all together under the break.
If you think I’m doing this because I didn’t care much for these titles, then you’re only, kinda, sorta about three-quarters right.
It was recently announced that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s “Lazarus” was picked up for development as a TV series. Three volumes in and I think that their series is very deserving of that kind of treatment. They’ve created an interesting world with memorable characters and I welcome the development of both with each new volume. Here, we finally find out what happened to Jonah Carlyle after he went on the run from his family at the end of the first volume. Fleeing to the territory of one Jakob Hock, Jonah finds out that he may have been better off staying to face the justice his family would’ve meted out for his offenses. With the Carlyle genetic code in his hand, Hock now has the means to destroy his longtime nemesis and calls a conclave of the families to set it up.
It’s our first real look at the many families which control the world, and it helps to broaden the title’s scope and give the reader a firm idea what’s at stake here. Key to this volume are the cat-and-mouse games played between Carlyle and Hock for supremacy, with the Lazarus of the former family, our protagonist Forever, playing a key role in them. Rucka does an excellent job of scaling up the tension over the course of the volume and balancing the development of the many new characters we’re introduced to here. Lark, with the assistance of Tyler Boss, makes the slow burn of the script very appealing to take in, with a highlight being the sword duel in the final issue. Things may end on a very bad note for the Carlyle family, but this also clears the way for its most ambitious member to finally take center stage. It warms my heart to think that Hock may have just made things worse for himself with his actions here.
I’ve been onboard Brandon Graham’s utterly weird take on Rob Liefeld’s “Prophet” from the start, but I think he may finally be losing me with this latest volume. While it started out as a kind of “Space Conan” has morphed into an intergalactic struggle between Old John Prophet and his band against the myriad Johns in the thrall of the Great Earth Empire. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that Graham and his collaborators seem more interested in weird artistic detours like the Diehard jam issue and cramming more strangeness into the narrative than telling a coherent story. It’s clear by the end of the collected issues from the main series that the Great Earth Empire getting their hands on the glowing crystal MacGuffin is a bad thing, but it’s the only meaningful plot development I was able to glean from here.
At least the “Strikefile” issues which follow do a better job of adding substance to this world. We get a history of the Great Earth Empire and the various Johns in its service as well as the origin of that crystal MacGuffin and some info on the other alien races which the series has mentioned at one point or another. It’s solid worldbuilding stuff and it bothers me that Graham and co. decided to save it all for a two-issue supplement rather than try to work it into the series proper. This would be the point where I talk about whether I’m going to keep reading “Prophet” or not, except that there’s only one volume left. I might as well finish it off. After re-reading the previous volumes to see if this makes any more sense.
“Roche Limit” comes from a couple creators, writer Michael Moreci and artist Vic Malhotra, that I wasn’t familiar with before reading it. I picked up this volume because it had an intriguing sci-fi concept: Langford Skaargard, a visionary billionaire, uses his fortune to push mankind to the stars by funding the establishment of a colony on a planetoid near an interstellar anomaly. However, his vision isn’t enough to hold back the greed and opportunism of his backers and the Roche Limit eventually stands as evidence of his folly as it becomes a hive of scum and villainy. It’s into this place that Sonya Hudson has come to find her lost sister. Helping her out is one Alex Ford, creator of the drug known as Recall, and Becca Hudson’s ex-boyfriend.
Things start off quite promising with the sci-fi noir vibe the series exudes. The cast has character, and the setting is quite fascinating. Moreci also proves quite adept at worldbuilding with Skaargard’s speeches at the beginning of each issue and the way the supplemental information is presented between them. Then the mysteries behind Becca’s fate, Recall, and the creepy zombie-type creatures pulling the strings behind the scenes are revealed and things start going off the rails. Does the idea of rainbow drugs that literally rot your soul (which can actually be extracted from your body by getting close enough to an anomalous black hole) sound like the basis for a great story to you? Then you’re going to love this! As for me, the fact that this is advertised as the first part of a planned trilogy sounds more like a threat than anything else.
Even though the series is called “Sex,” Joe Casey loves to have his characters talk about other stuff more than anything else. He’s also fond of the phrase “...cast aspersions on…” as it turns up a few times here. This makes for a relatively dry read as most of the cast spends their time chewing the fat rather than advancing the plot in any meaningful manner. Yet by the end of the volume, the gears start to turn as it’s clear that the various criminal factions in Saturn City are headed towards war and the screws continue to be put to billionaire “Not-Bruce Wayne” Simon Cooke after his date with “Not-Selina Kyle” Annabelle doesn’t go the way either of them expected it to. It’s been clear throughout his career that Casey is fond of doing stuff differently just for the sake of it. His efforts here don’t click as well as they have in the past, yet I’m still intrigued about this title’s overall direction.