Review: Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods

“Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods”
Writers: Francis Manapul, Dan Watters, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Josie Campbell
Artists: Francis Manapul, Max Dunbar, Jack Herbert, Kaitlin Yarsky
Color Artists: Francis Manapul, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Alex Guimarães, Jordie Bellaire
Letterers: AndWorld Design, Troy Peteri, Pat Brosseau, Clayton Cowles
Review by Davydh Tidey

Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods is the third one-shot offering in the series… and the story’s not slowing down. Focusing this time on the God-adjacent characters of the DCU, we get a preview of what’s to come for these powerful beings. We may even see a few miracles along the way, who knows?

Transformation

Talk to me for longer than five minutes about comics and I’ll be bound to mention Francis Manapul’s run on The Flash. This was the first run I collected as graphic novels, and the reason I still love The Flash to this day. Manapul’s beautiful art is the reason I was attracted to the book in the first place, and anything illustrated by him is an instant buy for me. Bearing all of that in mind, imagine my absolute joy at the first story in We Once Were Gods being written, illustrated and colored by him.

This story, in true post-apocalyptic fashion, focuses on a family who watch too many Bear Grylls TV specials trying to survive after the eruption of the Lazarus volcano. Rather than wait it out for the heroes to solve the problem, they decide to hide out near the shoreline. While journeying back to their hide-out, they encounter something (or someone) stranded on the shore that they can’t explain, and have no frame of reference to understand. Someone does, though, and he’s coming for the family…

Manapul stays true to fashion in this book. His art is, as always, wonderful to behold, blending a smooth line style with bright colors and heavy inks. Doing this gives the book the same brooding atmosphere that I covered in my Lazarus Planet Alpha review, but lets the hope shine through in the bold coloring choices. His writing has also come leaps and bounds since the early days, and shows exactly why he’s one of my favourite creators working; he can literally do it all! 

Sacrifice

Can we all agree right now that Martian Manhunter doesn’t get enough of his own stories these days?

Outside of the maxi-series Martian Manhunter Identity by Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo, J’onn J’onzz hasn’t been getting much love in recent years. He’s been relegated to just being a side character, working with the Justice League and others to help make the world a better place. Stories like this, and issues like We Once Were Gods prove that he can offer so much more as his own character. 

While observing the currents of emotions across the planet (something he refers to as “songs”), he notices a wave of positive emotion in the middle of Metropolis, one of the hardest hit cities by the Lazarus volcano. He decides to investigate, and runs into someone just trying to do the right thing with his Lazarus-given gifts, along with an old enemy that was assumed long dead. 

Dan Watters is a wonderful writer. Following in the footsteps of Gerard Way and Young Animal, he is proving that the weird stories matter. Between Sword of Azrael and Arkham City Order of the World, Dan is definitely a writer to watch out for. With Batman Beyond: Neo-Year artist Max Dunbar and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr., he’s bringing an under-used character back into the spotlight, and doing it in a beautifully illustrated fashion.

Consequences

The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it, until the time comes.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Well, the time has come for the Amazons.

While training on Themyscira’s shoreline, Diana and Bia are attacked by the army of Herakles, led by none other than Theseus himself… but, they’re dead, aren’t they? Oh yes, yes they very much are. 

Phillip Kennedy Johnson has more than proven himself an adept writer on the Action Comics title, and is now bringing his talent for fantasy to Wonder Woman. Joined by artist Jack Herbert and colorist Alex Guimarães, this story will have severe consequences for the whole of Themyscira, and beyond to the other Amazon tribes. I, for one, can’t wait to find out what they are. 

Hope

Picking up from New Champion of Shazam!, Mary Marvel’s on a mission; find Black Adam. She falls a bit short, finding instead his new protégé Malik, but he’ll do for what she and her talking bunny have in mind. 

Aha! I knew the talking bunny would get you interested. 

Mary’s been getting a lot of airplay at the moment. Her appearance in DC Vs. Vampires All-Out War (that twist… oh my LORD!) is one of my favourite parts of the book, and this character definitely deserves more time in front. I love Billy Batson, but Mary’s become her own hero, and needs her own space to grow. 

I absolutely loved New Champion of Shazam!, Josie Campbell’s definitely another writer to watch. Between her making someone with the powers of the Gods relatable in all the right ways in New Champion, and her extensive filmmaking work, I’m seriously impressed with what I’ve seen from her. Kaitlin Yarsky and Jordie Bellaire do a wonderful job on the art for this story as well. Coming off of New Champion, Doc Shaner’s shoes are big ones to fill, but they more than meet the challenge. I truly hope Mary gets her own ongoing title moving forward, although I have a feeling that those hopes are in vain.

Conclusion

Reading this book, I kept returning to four words; transformation, sacrifice, consequences and hope. That’s why the sections bare those names. They’re the themes that run through We Once Were Gods, not just the individual stories. These stories set all that up, while there’s hope for a better tomorrow, there’s also still more to come. Consequences of their actions are coming home to roost, and our heroes will need to be prepared for the coming battles.

It doesn’t just end with Lazarus Planet, it’s not just Damian’s actions that have consequences. They’ll all bear the weight of their pasts in the coming months. 

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment


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