3 out of 5
In part because we just came off of a mini-series of side stories, the return to Lazarus proper (giving artist Michael Lark a break) is somewhat disappointing, given that it’s also a side story, albeit in the form of a ‘prelude’ that will lead into the next arc. But also: Greg occasionally does this thing where he writes the trope; he writes maudlin, and then it’s used as a sort of level set for whatever heart-wrecking, pulse-pounding event he’s going to effect. Fracture Prelude is mostly a cut and dry redemption story, of Jonah’s recovery with a Bittner family when he’s picked up by one of their boats, although it’s sprinkled with Lazarus lore throughout so that we don’t forget what world we’re in. Still, it’s the trope of the changed man finding happiness in the simple things, as the life of a close-knit family and manual labor is possible within this Bittner corner of our world.
Of course, that heart-wrecking and pulse-pounding is bound to occur, and it does in issue 28, and it whets our appetite for what’s next as well as reminding us why Greg rules at the slowburn approach. But I can’t deny my restlessness with the timing of this story, even if it’s a logical lead-in.
And… there’s endless praise lumped on Michael Lark, but I’m not dang sure. I used to love Lark, but while on Lazarus, his work has become more digitally-affected looking and stiff, and it really hits a peak here. There are these group shots that look like hokey cut-outs – and I realize part of that is the writing of likely purposefully generic scenes, but still – lacking the fluidity I once felt in all of his panels. Santi Arcas’ colorwork, in terms of mood-setting and subtlety, is gorgeous, but it butts up against this weird mish-mash of Lark’s pencils to further highlight the oddly inhuman look to his characters’ body language. Lastly, new letterer Simon Bowland does something interesting with the subtitles, putting the English translation next to the foreign text in a connected, but visually distinct, bubble. I’m sure this was a debated addition in the Lazarus house, and I think it’s a super cool idea, but I’m not fully sold on the execution yet. I don’t know if it’s the sizing difference between the two texts, but it becomes unwieldy and distracting in longer conversations.
Required reading, story-wise, but maybe I should’ve waited for the next arc so as not to be left with a somewhat “that’s it?” feeling.