Just like Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1, Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods #1 contains four 10 page vignettes featuring different superheroes. The spin on this installment is that the focus is on heroes in the DC universe with godlike abilities. We have tales featuring Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and Mary, the New Champion of Shazam.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods #1!
In the first vignette, “Hunger Pains”, the story begins with a group of humans coming across bodies that have washed up on the shore. Only one is still alive, and they bring him back to their cabin. It isn’t clear who this individual is. The blond hair and physique immediately make us think it could perhaps be a depowered Aquaman. The Lazarus Storms have had varying effects on superpowered individuals throughout this event. When the person awakes, they act like a wild animal, breaking their restraints and attacking the cabin dwellers. He communicates in grunts and escapes through a window, taking the family dog with him. When the humans catch up to the stranger, they are surprised by Aquaman, rising from the waters and protecting the creature along with others of the same general look. He explains that this creature is some kind of Atlantean ancestor, brought up from the deep trenches of the oceans to the surface by the eruption of Lazarus Island.
Francis Manapul pulls double duty on this story as writer and artist. The colors are beautiful – from the green aura of the Lazarus storms outdoors and the soft glow of the fireplace in the cabin, the colors create a gloomy atmosphere akin to a horror movie. The facial expressions are also fantastic, the juxtaposition of the wild creature seeing his reflection in a glass window and looking shocked and scared quickly transitions to a fierce, animalistic expression when he is biting one of the humans. There’s some great movement as well, the rifle butt whizzing through the air and connecting with the face of the creature as well as him lunging to bite the arm of his assailant.
The second vignette, “Songs of Pain”, begins with Martian Manhunter observing the flows of human emotion, which he can see with his Martian vision from outer space . One individual in particular catches his eye and we meet Raphael Arce. The Lazarus storms have give him amazing empathic powers that allow him to take people’s pain. At the foot of the Daily Planet building, however, the exact location Superman and Doomsday fought to the “death”, Raphael taps into something that he can’t handle: the living memory of Doomsday. Doomsday starts to reconstitute himself, taking over the body of Raphael, and his signature calcified spikes begin to protrude from his face.
Manhunter takes Doomsday from Raphael, but this was a terrible mistake as Doomsday begins to transform Martian Manhunter into a monstrous amalgamation while searching psychic pathways to find a way to return. The art here is some of the most impressive in the book. The excellent character design of the Martian Manhunter/Doomsday combination as well as the different zones Doomsday searches through to try and come back culminating in Manhunter’s skull splitting open and little tendrils of Doomsday forming out of it. Raphael has seen enough; he makes the ultimate sacrifice and takes Doomsday back from Manhunter. The intense psychic heat and pressure from Doomsday transforms Raphael into a psychic gem, able to absorb the living memory of Doomsday for good.
The story ends where it started, in outer space overlooking Earth. This time, Manhunter is joined by Superman. He’s just recounted the deeds of Raphael and asks Superman if he can also see the emotions rippling on the surface of Earth, but he cannot. The parallels to Superman’s ultimate sacrifice when he fought Doomsday and Raphael’s sacrifice are poignant. It shows how large the event looms in Superman’s life and just how much of a threat Doomsday still is to the world.
The third vignette, “Song of the Dead”, features Wonder Woman. She is training Bia on the beaches of Themyscira when they notice a green film in the water. The Lazarus resin has reached even these far shores. Soon after, Bia is pulled down to the depths and Wonder Woman swims after her. There’s an entire army of undead soldiers on the ocean floor. Wonder Woman manages to free Bia, but the army is close behind. There’s a fierce battle on the beaches with Queen Nubia and a retinue of Amazonian cavalry that is able to defeat the army of undead. It turns out fallen foes of Themyscira are appearing all over the island. Will the Amazonians be able to repel the waves of undead crashing upon their shores? Diana is confident, but we’ll have to wait until Lazarus Planet: Revenge of the Gods to find out.
The art by Jack Herbert and colors by Alex Guimarães really makes this story pop, from the bright beaches of Themyscira to the dark depths of the ocean. The character design for the undead soldiers is also great, from armored skeletons to the more fleshed out rotting corpses of Theseus and the Minotaur. The green tinge added to many of the backgrounds is a nice reminder of the Lazarus Resin creating all this bedlam.
The final vignette, “The Price of Eternity”, begins with Mary, the New Champion of Shazam trying to reach Black Adam at the Kahndaq embassy in Washington DC. Instead she finds Malik, Black Adam’s heir who was also in her vision. Her plan is to break into the Rock of Eternity to save Billy. Realizing the Lazarus Storms are causing all kinds of issues with magic spells, this is their one chance. When they arrive in the desert, they are greeted by multiple Billy Batsons all trying to keep them from reaching the Rock. With some quick thinking, Mary makes it to the Rock and finds the real Billy, chained up. He was trying to keep Mary from entering because the Lazarus Resin has warped the Rock of Eternity and all who enter it will be bound there. Malik gives Billy the idea to absorb the Rock of Eternity into himself, and it works: he is now free.
In the final page of the comic, we see the Wizard of Shazam, but it looks like he has been corrupted by the Lazarus Resin and he is angry at the actions of Billy and Mary. Colors by Jordie Bellaire are a highlight for this story. The eerie green aura of the Lazarus storms permeates the streets of DC. The contrast between Billy and Mary’s bright red costumes and the drab backgrounds of the Rock of Eternity were also snazzy.
This is a fantastic anthology comic from DC that really lets its stars shine. You get a real sense that the eruption of Lazarus Island will have a lasting impact on every corner of the DC universe. Some of the most powerful beings are coming to the realization that things are changing, perhaps forever.
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