Lazarus Planet Alpha #1
CHANGE THE WORLD. Following the explosive (literally) events of Batman vs. Robin #4, the Lazarus Volcano has erupted, spewing dangerous and transformative chemicals into Earth’s atmosphere! As these Lazarus clouds rain down upon the planet, people across the globe begin to develop strange new abilities, watch their already-extraordinary abilities change, and witness a whole host of chaos unlike anything the DCU has experienced before! It’s up to Damian Wayne to put out the distress call for whoever can still hear it: come to the ruins of the Hall of Justice and help save the world! Poison Ivy, Power Girl, Cyborg, Batman, and more answer the call…but why could the fate of all life as we know it rest in the hands of…Monkey Prince?
Absent solicits announcing the issue well ahead of time, Lazarus Planet Alpha would come absolutely out of left field. It spins out of the recent Batman vs Robin series. Beyond that one title there has been no set-up for this issue and event that follows it.This forces Lazarus Planet Alpha to be a bridge, moving beyond Batman vs Robin to build up something much bigger. It has to expand a relatively small-scale, father/son story into something that will encompass all the major DC characters. And that’s a big ask.
Waid spends no time recapping Batman vs Robin for Lazarus Planet Alpha readers. The issue begins immediately after the Lazarus Volcano blows at the end of Batman vs Robin #4, and four pages in Robin, Batman, Talia, and Black Alice crash at the Hall of Justice where all the heroes not currently involved in other things have already gathered. Waid anoints Damian as the de facto leader, drops the bare minimum of background exposition, and divides the heroes into two teams with specific goals. The remaining two thirds of the issue are largely bombast. Along the way Waid drops nuggets about what the Lazarus eruption will do to this character’s powers and that character’s technology and hints toward potential character arcs. But the final page, when Lazarus Planet Alpha finally reveals the first transformed character, is what the entire issue is really about.
There is also a backup story where Monkey Prince learns about the history his father Monkey King had with Nezha. In tone and pacing it’s a bad accompaniment to the primary story, and as it continues into Monkey Prince #10 it’s unclear how much these events will impact the Lazarus Planet event.
Lazarus Planet Alpha is best described as uneven. This is immediately evident–the first pages have a distinct missing limb sensation. Curiously, the thing that feels like it’s missing will vary depending on whether or not the reader was following Batman vs Robin. For readers of the previous series, there is an immediate lack of resolution to those events. Batman being sidelined by injury and Damian being put in charge separates the two for the entire issue, making clear that whatever is still unsaid between them is not a priority of Lazarus Planet.
Conversely, readers who don’t know what happened in Batman vs Robin won’t know that there is something to be resolved between father and son because they will have no frame of reference for anything that’s happening. Waid’s in-dialogue recap is woefully inadequate, owing perhaps to an interest in telling what will hopefully be a fun story regardless of whether its setup makes sense or not.
Plotting in Lazarus Planet Alpha is also at times convenient. The Lazarus Volcano’s eruption means “magic has gone utterly haywire” and will “steadily replace the very laws of science.” As Damian then explains, this makes the abilities of all magic and science based people unreliable. This exchange gives every Lazarus Planet writer license to handicap any hero’s ability or amplify any villain’s.
Damian’s selection as the leader for the response to a global magical calamity is rushed and unexplained. Waid handwaves it away with Batman, who can’t stand and can barely talk, telling heroes with infinitely more experience both strategically and magically that they should listen to Damian (and as I have noted, Waid has left out all the details about what happened during Batman vs Robin when Damian was magically controlled by one of the issue’s antagonists).
Art is where Lazarus Planet Alpha succeeds. Visually the comic is very moody and most of that comes from Anderson’s coloring. Green permeates almost every panel. Thematically, with the Lazarus volcano and associated history, a reliance on green is the obvious choice. But Anderson infuses green into almost everything. When there’s a preponderance of blue, it’s blue-green. Yellow? Yellow-green. The issue never gets away from it, and it adds a borderline horror sensibility that elevates a lackluster narrative into something that manages to still feel compelling.
Federici and Anderson also combine to add a lot of visual depth. Lazarus Planet Alpha isn’t painted but there are elements in backgrounds and costume layers (among other places) that give the art that little extra weight.
Federici’s work is top notch most of the time, but there are a number of panels that are tight in on characters’ faces where facial structure gets a little less certain. A mouth that is almost comically large, a chin that is a third of a character’s head, an out of proportion gap between nose and mouth. These moments don’t really detract from the larger artistic whole, but each time they happen it’s a distraction.
Making a satisfying transition comic–that single issue that has to rip off the band-aid, turn the page from old to new, and end one story while simultaneously beginning another–is tough. And ultimately that’s what Lazarus Planet Alpha is trying to be. But as a result it has no real identity of its own. It tries to dispense with Batman vs Robin as fast as it can before rushing headlong toward the character transformations that look to be be Lazarus Planet’s bread and butter. Unfortunately, hurrying as it does between old and new, it fails to actually deliver anything interesting in between.
Lazarus Planet Alpha #1: A Shaky Transition
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Art - 8.5/108.5/10
- Color - 9.5/109.5/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
User Review( votes)