Lazarus Planet: Alpha #1 review

A magical soup is spewing into Earth’s weather systems, threatening disasters while changing the powers of superheroes.

That’s the elevator pitch for the first issue of DC’s latest event, the launchpad for several new series and directions.

Behind the enchanted storm is the Devil Nezha, and while he’s almost a spent force this issue, his eternal rival King Fire Bull aims to stop a hotchpotch of heroes from setting things right.

Leading the good guys is Robin Damian Wayne, recently manipulated by Nezha and out for rehabilitation and revenge.

He splits his heroes into two groups: Zatanna, Power Girl, Mary Marvel, Blue Devil and Cyborg will storm the Tower of Fate and grab magical artefacts stolen by Nezha, so Black Alice can reverse the mystical polarity. Batman, Blue Devil, Talia Al-Ghul and Supergirl will find the weakened Nezha and, hopefully, recruit him to help against King Fire Bull.

One hero, though, isn’t assigned to either group by Damian.

Charming. I suspect Monkey Prince Marcus will prove vital down the line due to his being connected to the Chinese pantheon from which Nezha and co spring. Already this issue the empathetic new hero has a useful chat with magical wild card Black Alice.

This bookend to the event does a decent job of laying out the threat to the world – heroes of science and sorcery are equally at risk. The only note I’d give Mark Waid is to remember to show, don’t tell – I’m thinking of this panel

A dramatic moment showing Supergirl’s powers on the fritz would’ve been useful to illustrate the problems caused by the ‘worldwide megastorm of pure magical energy’.

Otherwise, it’s applause all round for Waid’s presentation of Supergirl, as he continues the excellent work from her recent role in World’s Finest, showing her as an experienced, smart, sassy heroine.

It’s great to see the long-neglected Blue Devil in here, even if he is a tad grumpier than classic Dan Cassidy, and I look forward to seeing how Cyborg fits into the ad hoc team, Waid is bound to do better by him than the recent hideousness that was Teen Titans Academy. I wonder if Power Girl’s presence will lead to her upcoming spot in Action Comics… and I really want her to have significant interaction with otherworldly twin Supergirl. Also, Waid having artist Riccardo Federici – who drew a nice chunk of the recent Superman: Warworld Saga – depict Zatanna in her classic suit has me optimistic we’ll get a good depiction.

Powers going awry and/or changing is something we’ve seen previously courtesy of the fantastic Invasion crossover, but that was decades ago, it could be fun seeing how this latest shot at the idea lands. I am looking forward to moving on from battles with the likes of King Fire Bull, who seems like a pretty generic demon.

Mind, he does look a scary soul as presented by Federici and colourist Brad Anderson. While I’m generally into sharper, cleaner superhero art, the murky, muted tones work for this story. The big moments – such as a new look for one of our stars – are very effective, while most of the emotional beats work.

Steve Wands is one of my favourite letterers and he does great work throughout, the only exception being a confusing few balloons from Poison Ivy…

In the West we read left to right, but this speech starts at top right – move that pointer to the right-most bubble and we’re fine.

I bought Lazarus Planet: Alpha digitally and have a question for physical folk – where does the (underwhelming) two-page map appear? In my version it’s between story page 23 and 24.

Surely it should be at the end of the story, before the back-up? And a wee ‘tut’ for s typo in there.

Back-up? Yep, writer Gene Luen Yang and illustrator Billy Tan provide a lead-in to Monkey Prince #10. It’s a tale of his father, the Monkey King, and the Devil Nezha when he was less devilish.

It’s a decent read, and great-looking- probably the best work I’ve seen from Tan, here coloured by the talented Sebastian Cheng – but I’d rather the ten pages had gone to the lead story. I’m not a big fan of the twee tone of the Monkey myths.

I’m not mad keen on the cover by David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez – Power Girl is too skinny, Cyborg looks grey-faced, Batman is apparently riding Monkey Prince, Poison Ivy is unrecognisable and Robin looks even worse in his current grey jester outfit than he does inside. I do like the logo colour, though I’m a tad tired of the flatness of most of DC’s new mastheads. Ah well, you can’t win them all.

The Lazarus Planet story continues in various one-shots and series until April, which is surprising as this was sold as a two-month mini-event – heck, Lazarus Planet: Omega #1 shows up in February. Best not to worry about it and hope for an explosion of good comics.

15 thoughts on “Lazarus Planet: Alpha #1 review

    1. also, Damian’s ‘Your powers suck and I need cannon fodder’ bit…even in a redemption arc and being the hero his father knows he can be, he is..still Damian. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Looking forward to reading this one! The logo color you like so much (and I do, too!) seems like a throwback to the special “fifth color” used for Waid’s last DC crossover, Underworld Unleashed. And even more than Invasion!, the powers-going-haywire bit sounds like a remix of the long-forgotten 90s crossover Genesis…which, from what I recall, was the reason why the Zero Hour Legion’s Spark eventually became Gossamer.

    Anyway, I’ll interact with this review more in a month. I’m gonna be strong and hold off on this series till it arrives on DCUI! Expect more sluggish, after-the-fact comments from me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Lazarus Planet Storm Tracker double-page map is indeed printed at the same point in the printed comic, and I was also surprised to see it there.

    Federici composed a number of panels, and pages, where lettering had to do some heavy lifting to convey the proper reading order. I’m not sure where Steve Wands should have put that tail – there must be some standards to follow. Basically, Federici didn’t really leave the right amount of space or in the right area. When I see that kind of thing, I rely on punctuation to be sure I’m reading in the right order. In this case, my tip-off was where “falling from the sky –” leads to “– we came here” on the next page. They always follow “trailing dashes” with “leading dashes” and “trailing ellipses” with “leading ellipses”, so that helps a great deal. Wands’s balloons also had to guide the eye where Robin is telling Supergirl to be extra cautious.

    But overall, I like what Federici has drawn. As always, his work looks dimly lit to me, and maybe that has to do with the way it had to be colored. Brad Anderson answered someone on Instagram or Twitter that he colored directly on top of Federici’s pencils, and that it was more difficult. Maybe it’s the lack of inks that makes the work look so different.

    This series is starting off feeling like it has higher stakes than Dark Crisis, though one must remember that Dark Crisis did start out well too. Can this maintain quality? It’s about to turn into a suite of anthology stories by a variety of writers and artists.

    I do think it’s always been and still is a 2-month event, ending in Omega. The Wonder Woman 6-part “Revenge of the Gods” got added later, and some of the early promotional material which introduced the Revenge series still referred to this as a 2-month series. That promo needed to be edited.

    I think maybe it’s just going to try to coast on the name, hoping again – twice in the course of a year – to drum up interest in Wonder Woman. Having been seriously burned by what I thought was a very poor quality Trial of the Amazons (after which I dropped Wonder Woman, which I’d been buying regularly since near the end of the James Robinson), I wasn’t planning to pick up this addendum. But then I noticed that the number of titles I’ll be buying weekly in March will be falling so low (to the lowest in 4 or 5 years) that I might as well pick that up and give my comic shop some business.

    Four of the six – the main title – will be written by G. Willow Wilson, who I generally enjoy, but even those four will be, in my mind, and it’s a harsh way to put it, contaminated by including backups by Cloonan and Conrad, who are also writing the other two parts of the story which will appear in Wonder Woman.

    I think the premise will be that some gods will just be so pissed off with humanity after Lazarus Planet that they have had enough and want to wipe us out. That would be a tenuous connection – any story set after Lazarus Planet could be said to have a connection to it, as long as continuity isn’t reset. It’s unclear which gods these will be, since Shazam is involved. Maybe it’s the Quintessence folks, who cross over between mythologies – Hera and the Wizard are colleagues. (When, that is, they aren’t busy being dead, having been killed at the end of Infinite Frontiers Secret Files #0 by Darkseid. But I think they aren’t dead anymore. Who can keep track.)

    So in this particular issue, Mary’s “Shazam!” unleashes lightning but that also turns her back to Mary Batson. Shouldn’t that always happen? I liked that it did. Sometimes, they get to yell “Shazam!” just to let loose some lightning, but without changing back. I don’t know, maybe they yell it quickly twice in a row so they turn back almost immediately.

    I have to admit I’m having trouble with the names of the Monkey family of villains.

    King Fire Bull
    Silver Horn King
    Gold Horn King
    King Bull Demon – when this name was introduced, my mind started checking out
    Red Boy – son of King Bull Demon, grows up to be King Fire Bull

    Moreover, now I can’t remember who killed their father and/or son and who was adopted and who was resurrected.

    I wonder why the word “King” is so heavily used, but I’m pretty sure it’s the repeating word in every name, and everyone drawn as a simian or a reddish bull, that are throwing me off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh heck, I think I missed a Horn King!

      Cheers for the comments, explanations and theories. I’m not looking forward to the WW crossover at all, no modern creative team seems to be able to do more than one decent story… oh hang on, is this GWW’s first? There may be Hope!

      I’m heartily sick of the lightning being used as a weapon or tool – surely it should always strike the caller? You never see collateral damage unless they want it to hit something other than themselves.

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      1. GWW was on WW for a while. Somewhere in the space between Orlando and Tamaki. I liked her run better than most writers, but it wasn’t well loved.

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  3. Great review!

    I really like the characters that Waid is using. This isn’t a JLA story. These characters are well-established and deserve some spotlight.

    I agree that Monkey Prince is going to have a big part in this. And while Damian is indeed snarky to him, my guess is he was held back in the Hall in a calculated way.

    Thanks for point out the word balloon issues. I thought it was just me! I had to reread a couple of panels to sort it out!

    And love Supergirl in this. Proactive and fierce. Definitely the mission leader on a team with Blue Devil and Batman!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Supergirl power thing happened in Monkey Prince so thechnically it was shown. It even had a scene where going inside restored her powers but it wasn’t spelled out.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. But it was delayed 2 weeks vs. original solicitation date. It’s true, though, that they could have and should have footnoted it here whether Monkey Prince came out first, simultaneously, or delayed. It’s stupid – why not promote a new character and (mini/maxi)-series? (I think it’s 12 issues, though it doesn’t seem to say that in solicits or on the cover.)

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