Review: Lazarus Planet hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

June 2, 2024


Lazarus Planet

In the annals of DC Comics history, I doubt we’ll be talking much about Lazarus Planet. The event’s “Alpha” and “Omega” issues turn on a considerable amount of esoteric mythology, letting alone that these issues are really issues #4.1 and #4.2 of the separate Batman vs. Robin series. I appreciate DC doing something different with painterly Riccardo Federici as the story’s main artist, but dusty backgrounds and similar-looking demonic foes across multiple locations only make the story that much harder to follow.

But as a paradigm for a new(-ish) way to do a crossover, what a fascinating experiment Lazarus Planet is. The five tie-in specials are all anthology books, featuring a who’s who of DC characters esoteric, supporting, or who’ve otherwise struggled to find a place — Firestorm, Power Girl, Flatline, Huntress, Question Renee Montoya, Mercy Graves, and more. None of these have direct bearing on the Lazarus Planet story proper, and most are written by creators with few or no existing DC Comics credits. It is as if, at this point, DC has abandoned their recent resurrection of New Talent Showcase and instead their proving ground is what stories creators can tell against a generic event background.

We saw this a bit with Dark Nights: Death Metal tie-ins and again with Tales From Dark Crisis, but here the combination of “pick any character” and “it doesn’t need to take place around the main events” make this seem the culmination of a different way of doing things. If I might hazard a guess, this too both does not interrupt DC’s prominent ongoing series — avoiding backlash from those books' readers and creators — and I imagine the pay rate on these shorts is also cheaper. And though the stories vary in quality, even the ones that aren’t great either use an interesting character or allude to some future story, such that there were few of these I’d dismiss entirely.

About the only thing I’d change here is to reorganize some of how this is put together. The collection treats Lazarus Planet like a typical DC event when it’s not, and there’s ways I think this could have read better for recognizing that.

[Review contains spoilers]

As mentioned, the Lazarus Planet “Alpha” and “Omega” issues take place directly between issues #4 and #5 of writer Mark Waid’s Batman vs. Robin, to the extent even than Batman vs. Robin #4 ends on a cliffhanger picked up in “Alpha”, and “Omega” ends on a cliffhanger picked up in Batman vs. Robin #5. Put another way, Lazarus Planet is really just a mini-event that launches from the larger frame of Batman vs. Robin, like World War III out of 52. Those exciting Dawn of DC charts have made it seem like Lazarus Planet is the event du jour like Knight Terrors and Beast World, but there’s not so much a Lazarus Planet without Batman vs. Robin.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

It affects the reading experience in a couple of ways. First, if like I did you read the “Alpha” chapter, then over the next couple of nights you read the various Lazarus Planet specials, and then finally you read “Omega,” at that point you may have forgotten what happened in “Alpha” since it’s hardly been mentioned since. Second, DC shunts two crucial Monkey King backup stories, which first appeared in “Alpha” and “Omega,” to the back of the book, when reading them in place would add some needed depth to the rather impenetrable conflict between the Devil Nehza and King Fire Bull. Were it the two backups, then “Alpha” and “Omega,” then the specials as “more tales of the Lazarus Planet,” oh, what a better read this would be.

Under Mark Waid’s pen, Lazarus Planet starts out seeming to be Robin Damian Wayne’s story; as he starts ordering the other heroes around, they all look to Batman, and he gives his backing to his son, a significant moment for Damian’s standing. But Waid’s Damian largely leads from behind, sidelining him for much of the story; far more emotional beats go to both Monkey Prince and Black Alice, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Waid write either of them again. It’s great to see so many magic characters, but I wish Waid had brought more to the foreground or at least given us a better sense who they all were. The tide turns against the villain very suddenly in the final pages, lacking some of the suspenseful pacing that I associate with Waid, and my sense again is that the story gets away from artists Federici and Mike Perkins in the end.

The Lazarus Planet specials offer about 20 stories; aside from Assault on Krypton involving Super-characters (but not, as it turns out, any semblance of Krypton), I didn’t see a lot of rhyme or reason to what went where. Not that every story has to “matter,” but quite a bit rests on to what extent these stories get follow-ups. For instance, I’ve enjoyed Nicole Maines shepherding Dreamer through various guest appearances, but the end of that story seems too obviously vague for the purposes of not pinning down where Dreamer appears next. Fortunately, of all of these, we know Maines will write Dreamer again; I do hope, there, she’ll be able to explain this story’s ending satisfactorily.

Among the better ones, I liked Alyssa Wong’s unexpected teaming of Batgirl Cassandra Cain and John Constantine, and I’m interested to follow that into the Spirit World title. Francis Manapul writes and beautifully draws a story that benefits in the beginning from being just about normal people dealing with the Lazarus rain, before the larger implications crystalize in the end. I liked seeing Shazam and Bolt together as written by Josie Campbell, following from Christopher Priest’s Black Adam; Delilah Dawson’s Red Canary story is a bit light for my tastes, but I did enjoy her teaming the character with Sideways again. Dennis Culver positing Crazy Jane as the Doom Patrol’s new “Chief” is inspired.

On the other hand, I wasn’t quite sure the point of Culver parting Firestorm Ronnie Raymond from one adult scientist just to proceed to pair him with another. Neither could I figure what earned Mercy Graves a spot here over nearly anyone else. It’s not writer Alex Segura’s fault, but I found the Question Renee Montoya story off-putting in that it there’s no acknowledgment of Renee’s significant GCPD: The Blue Wall troubles, and I didn’t understand the conflict in Greg Pak’s City Boy story — did a woman spend her life in jail because her tiara blew off her head?

At the point Tim Seeley has Huntress busting heads in Arkham Tower and comes across a newly powered-up Killer Moth Drury Walker, I realized why some of this felt familiar — another time, another McGuffin powering up heroes and villains alike, and another event miniseries written by Mark Waid: Underworld Unleashed. But that was in comics events' high bloat days, with something like 40 tie-in issues. Lazarus Planet’s tie-ins are less consequential — it might even be argued DC’s “skimping” on this particular event — but certainly easier on the longbox.

[Includes original and variant covers, text pages]

Rating 2.5

Comments ( 2 )

  1. I am a little bit disappointed that they didn't include Alpha/Omega in the BvR trade, then collecting the whole event with tie-ins in a separate collection. But that might upset the double-dippers and indirectly cannibalize sales of Lazarus Planet, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised.

    I do hope someone is keeping track of all the Nicole Maines Dreamer stories. I would absolutely buy a collection of all the back-ups and Pride shorts! (Now when do we get a Fourth World crossover with Beautiful Dreamer?)

    1. Feels like a few different ways to have collected this; I can see how a Monkey Prince issue that gets Marcus and Supergirl to the Hall of Justice could have been included at the beginning of the Lazarus Planet collection, too. (Such to make the start of the Lazarus rain to have not been so out of nowhere.)

      A collection of all the various Dreamer shorts and one-off issues does seem like a good idea. Hard to believe DC won't do that eventually.


To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.