Heroes and Villains: Lazarus X+66 delivers, but there’s no defense for The Defenders

Welcome back true believers! It’s your boy in the ‘bourg with another edition of Heroes and Villains!

This week I selected some reading material from our friends at Image and from Mickey Mouse’s favourite comic publisher, Marvel!

IMAGE COMICS

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Lazarus X+66 Volume 1

Writers: Greg Rucka with Eric Trautman, Aaron Duran and Neal Baily

Artists: Steve Lieber, Mack Chater, Justin Greenwood, Alitha Martinez, Bilquis Evely and Tristian Jones.

If anyone out there hasn’t taken a time to read the absolutely amazing Lazarus series by Greg Rucka, let me be the first to tell you that you are seriously missing out.

Lazarus is to dystopian, science fiction as Game of Thrones is to fantasy – a deep, fully realized world with complex characters, long term, well-plotted stories, and just enough action to keep the story moving.

Set in a not to distant future, the world of Lazarus is one where powerful families have carved up the world and its populations. With massive armies at their beck and call, the families each have one extra special weapon: a Lazarus.

The Lazeri are a group of genetically modified, highly trained, cyborg super-soldiers. Each one is worth a hundred normal soldiers, bred to have nothing but undying loyalty to their family and its interests.

The story focuses on Forever Carlyle, a deadly female Lazarus that has begun to question her ties to her family and her role in an escalating conflict between families, but it spans a cast of characters so large that each volume of the series includes a detailed “who’s who” at the beginning to help the reader keep score.

This spin-off, Lazarus X+66, is anthology series with 6 chapters, highlighting characters from a different subplot of the main story. Each story is deep, contained, and helps to flesh out the already massive world of Lazarus.

Greg Rucka has created a truly cinematic experience with this series and I sincerely hope that someone over at Netflix or HBO has their eyes on it, because it would make for some epic television.

As a huge Lazarus fan I found this series to be a perfect companion to the core title that more than delivered everything I have come to love about the series.

MARVEL

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The Defenders Volume 1: Diamonds are Forever

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: David Marquez and Justin Ponsor

With the huge success that has come from Marvel adapting their properties to the big and small screen has come the curious problem of the company having to re-adapt their own characters back to the medium they were born in.

Case in point – this relaunch of The Defenders featuring the Netflix version of the team: Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist.

What makes it even stranger is that Brian Bendis, the man that created Jessica Jones and is largely responsible for the modern take on Luke Cage, is the one writing the series.

Now, look, Bendis is the man. I wouldn’t say everything he has touched at Marvel turned to gold, but his finger prints are all over every event that has led to the modern day Marvel universe. So, for him to be on this book seems like a slam dunk from the outside looking in. However, once the pages start flipping… I gotta say I was disappointed.

Bendis’ trademark banter and crisp dialogue are in full effect in this book, but you can almost feel the ghostly hand of a Disney exec insisting that the comic stick closer to the Netflix series, right down to a completely shoehorned Punisher cameo, Elektra reference, and Diamondback as the central villain. Not that creating ties to the series are necessarily a bad thing, but when it feels as forced as it does in this case it’s hard not to look at the book with a cynical eye. Especially when I really wanted to like it.

One area where this title is rock solid is the art. David Marquez is a phenomenal penciler, bringing all the characters to life with fluid movement and clean story telling. Even if he has to draw that ridiculous Iron Fist Costume.

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Lets talk about that costume for a second actually, cause I hate it. In the “Last Iron Fist Story” TPB, artist David Aja shares his sketchbook and explains that he has drawn a “Bruce Lee” homage costume for Iron Fist, just to show how terrible it would look. And now here we are. I guess it could be worse, and they could have him lose every fight like he does on TV, but its a real shame that the went this direction with the character.

The story of the series is a fairly typical “Kingpin is out so other guys are filling the void” deal. The Defenders are out there doing good guy stuff when they find themselves uniting after Diamondback, Cage’s presumed deceased brother, returns to sprinkle diamonds on dead people. It’s nothing new and with all due respect to him, it kinda feels like Bendis phoned this one in before making the jump to DC.

I wouldn’t call the book unreadable; in fact if I hadn’t seen (and disliked) the Netflix series the comic is based on, I might even like it. As it is, The Defenders is just not something that I can defend. Go back and read the Matt Fraction run if you need a fix of this team, it was a lot more fun.

So there it is comic fans, another day, another review. From my corner of the multiverse to yours, this has been Heroes and Villains!

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