The first half of the title arc is an incredibly tense and nerve-wracking read as we pick up well into the inter-family war that kicked off at the end of vol. 3. With family head Malcolm still in a coma and his condition declining steadily, things aren’t going well for Family Carlyle against the Hock forces. It has gotten to the point where the Family Lazarus, Forever, is being sent into Duluth with a small squad of soldiers to take out some anti-air batteries and hopefully turn the tide of the war. Even if you really can’t call Family Carlyle “the good guys,” they’re still considerably less evil than the pill-popping cult of personality that Hock is running these days. So to see them so far on the back foot at the start of the story; well, it’s very unnerving.
Yet they have Forever on their side, and she’s pretty badass, so the fight back should be great fun to watch, right? Well, writer Greg Rucka is well aware of that particular sentiment and does a great job of pulling the rug out from under you halfway through the story. Yeah, things start off badly enough for Carlyle that you figure things are going to have to get better for them by the end. What’s clear from the start is that they’re going to have to pay for that in both Forever’s blood and Johanna Carlyle’s treachery. Rucka and artist Michael Lark are also primed to extract maximum drama from their struggle.
That said, maybe “treachery” is too strong a word here as the most devious of the Carlyle siblings proves herself to be the most capable among them (that are still conscious). It’s actually kind of fun seeing the woman strong-arm her way to the top over the course of this volume. Even better is seeing several familiar faces from vol. 2 show up again here, with the two kids who were “lifted” actually winding up in better positions (for having an impact on the main story). Yes, I was very entertained by this fourth volume with my only real gripe being that a last-minute surprise regarding Forever really begged to have another issue around to explain it. Mind you, I’m not talking about the scene where we find out exactly why she has that name, even if it manages to close things out on a perfectly creepy note.