Lazarus, the Forever Man (#0 – 1) – Julian Darius

3 out of 5

As with Martian Comics, in which this strip started off, ‘Lazarus’ has a great core idea, but gets way bogged down in writer Julian Darius’ distracting fascination with repeating historical facts to us. In the context of MC, this at least had somewhat of a place in the narrative, as we take a long-winded ‘bad guy explains it all’ ride through events that were indirectly manipulated by a Martian, but with Lazarus – Jesus was an alien, y’all, and he kinda effed up Lazarus mentally when he brought him back to life – the slow walk through ancient Rome and its ongoing internal religious squabbles are just ‘observed’ by its deathless narrator; there’s no real need for us to sit through it for 80 pages.

What makes moments of it rewarding – what makes all of the collected bits from Martian Comics, in Lazarus 0 especially rewarding – is when Darius uses Lazarus’ particular point of view (unaging, but afflicted with and unhealing from the leprous wounds with which he died, and thus forever bandaged) to contemplate and consider the relative shallowness, and cyclical nature, of what he witnesses around him. It’s some pretty thought provoking stuff, and is allowed to get appreciably dark without the cynical edge that most writers would include. Going in to issue 1, we get much less of this, though; in order to advance Lazarus to a place where his story can continue, Darius felt the need to give us the full rundown on what would convince him that his deathless life was worth living, and to him, that meant the aforementioned historical review. But these are just pages of rattling off facts and events; artist Sergio Tarquini, giving the book a rather stiff and sober look, while fitting, has nothing much to do in these scenes exact for give us static shots that match the voiceover. Every now and then, though, Darius will pause to do some deep thinking again, and it’s there that the book gets very, very good; frustratingly so, as it makes you wish more of the pages were as focused.