Lazarus, Supreme Blue Rose, Women in Comics
October 1st, 2014

On my last trip to the comic shop I picked up the last few issues of Hawkeye and Lazarus and the first couple issues of a new Image title, Supreme: Blue Rose.

Hawkeye continues to underperform its magical first 12 issues. I suspect that writer Matt Fraction is a victim of his own success here. Hawkeye was so good that its success allowed him to start up three other books, so he’s now writing four series, simultaneously, and it shows.

Lazarus is, easily, my favorite ongoing title at the moment. Writer Greg Rucka has built what is, for my money, the novel and fully-realized post-apocalyptic world in decades. Lazarus takes place in a future where sovereign nation states have replaced by family dynasties. These dynasties are the outgrowth of corporations, which harnessed advanced technologies (in, for instance, genetics and pharmaceuticals) to displace traditional governments.

Anyhoo, these families became entangled in a world war, the end of which resulted in a partitioning of the globe under new borders–as well as a new, feudalistic social order. The title–“Lazarus”–refers to a kind of soldier that most of the families seem to have just one of: a Lazarus is a nearly-unkillable super soldier. And Rucka’s series centers on one of these creatures, a Lazarus named Forever, who begins the series by realizing that she might villain.

The level of detail Rucka has imagined here is awe-inspiring: He’s created a hundred years of history, detailed maps, and back stories for more than a score of the family dynasties. And these backstories are exhaustive. Each issue concludes with an encyclopedia entry’s worth of history on one of the families. The back cover then carries an advertisement for the fictional corporation that was the forerunner of the family dynasty. He’s even designed family crests for them all.

It all kind of boggles the mind and Lazarus is, I think, destined to be a land-mark HBO series at some point. I really can’t recommend it enough.

The final title I picked up was Supreme: Blue Rose, written by Warren Ellis. There’s good Ellis and there’s bad Ellis; after two issues I’m inclined to place this in the latter category. (Psychadelic tech daydreams tend not to work for me.) Yet it’s hard to put the books down because the art is so strikingly beautiful. It’s drawn by Tula Lotay and everything about it–from the pencils to the page compositions–is beautiful and fresh. I hadn’t heard of Lotay before (that’s just her pen name) and after looking around for her I came across a story about her in USA Today. In it was the following passage: “One of the appeals of the project for Lotay is that the women shine through in Blue Rose — a rarity in sci-fi.”

Which brings us to the final panel of the triptych: Can we please retire the idea that there are so few interesting female characters in comics? (Yes, I realize the USA Today story says “sci-fi,” but I think he’s being imprecise here and conflating a genre and a medium.)

All three of the books I just mentioned have female protagonists. (Hawkeye alternates issues centering on Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, the two titular Hawkeyes.) Most of the best comics of the last several years have had female protagonists: Queen and Country, Whiteout, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men (which centers on Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde). Comic books are stuffed full of interesting female characters. Which is great! So how about we retire the idea of the “rare interesting female character”? It’s not descriptive in any meaningful way. It’s just a false trope that people reflexively reach for in order to underline how much they like something.

  1. SkinsFanPG October 3, 2014 at 7:44 am

    wow, no comments? I really thought this post would spark a big conversation like the Romney 2016 post. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, just kidding, everyone knows JVL is the only person who cares about chick comics.