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Gender Issues: Lazarus

Think about your traditional female comic book character. More likely than not, she is graceful, light on the power scale, trending towards magic/telekinetic abilities, and drop-dead gorgeous.

Not the case for Forever Carlyle.

Forever is the main character of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus. She is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family, a person who is engineered to be completely loyal and practically immortal. She is integral to the dominance of the Carlyle family in a world where resources are divided and controlled along family lines.

Forever is first introduced to readers as a victim of a bloody, brutal murder. Tables are turned quickly as revives and kills the men who shot her down. From there, Forever is established as a Grade A Badass.

Lazarus interior issue 1 murder
Don’t let the first few pages deceive you. Forever is a woman you don’t want to mess with.

But Rucka and Lark are not satisfied. As a creator-owned story, Rucka and Lark are able to break free of the expectations from what comic book readers have come to expect from their badass female characters. Some writers have a hard time gripping the fact that a female character can only either be 100% feminine or 100% masculine. Forever is neither; instead, she is presented in this series as an asset for a family that begins to question her role in the world around her.

No chainmail bikinis for Forever.
No chainmail bikinis for Forever.

She’s a killer with a conscious, a woman made to be comfortable with killing those who pose a threat to her family’s position. From the first issue, Rucka establishes that Forever may not be satisfied with being the family assassin. Her doubt is not a manifestation of how writers believe women should act; rather, her doubt is rooted in wanting more for her life and the world around her. When reading this character, you could replace her with a male version without changing the story.

Forever and Joacquim, an interesting friendship.
Forever and Joacquim, an interesting friendship.

While it’s is important not to ignore femininity or masculinity in characters, Forever and her lack of reliance on her gender to complete her mission is refreshing. Even when briefly flirted with by Joacquim, the Lazarus for the Morray family, she quickly changes the subject to the reason she is visiting him (or they get attacked). For the story Rucka and Lark are creating at this time, the emphasis is on Forever as the Lazarus rather than as a woman. In time, however, it is likely that Forever will become even more suspicious of her role in the family and her place. With that will come an acceptance of being more than a loyal assassin.

Mara Wood holds a Ph. D. in School Psychology. Currently, she works for a public school system assessing students for educational placement. Her research focus is comic books and how they can be used in therapy and educational settings. She tends to spend…

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