Built on the back of the narrative started in Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and Batman Vs. Robin, Mark Waid infects the entire DC magical Universe with a massive story about the conflict between fathers and sons.
Can We Save The Planet?
Lazarus Planet begins with Batman’s failure and the destruction of Lazarus Island by King Fire Bull. This causes a worldwide tropical storm of Lazarus resin causing various magical disturbances (and spin-offs). Unfortunately, The Devil Nezha’s schemes compromises all magic on earth, so the heroes unite to revive whatever forces they can. Consequently, without Batman or the Justice League in full capacity, Damian Wayne assumes the lead with his father’s blessing. I am expecting Lazarus Planet to serve as another redemption story for Damian after serving Nezha against his will. The story also parallels the parental relationship between Batman and Robin with The Devil Nezha and King Fire Bull.
The Devil Nezha is Mark Waid’s breakout antagonist in World’s Finest based on the popular Chinese deity of the same name. Nezha’s key traits are turning magic on itself and possession. Furthermore, Nezha is the literal demon responsible for The Demon Head and Lazarus pits. Due to his connections with the pits, Damian’s plan naturally involves recruiting Nezha to help them by any means necessary. While the rest of the supporting cast are a gang of parallels like Blue Beetle and Cyborg, Supergirl and Power Girl, or Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy.
Inside The Storm
Riccardo Federici’s (Action Comics’ Warworld Saga) art sets an immediate atmosphere for the event. The first thing I noticed right away was his distinct line texture. His detailed gesture work and realistic settings are easy highlights for me. Moreover, his attention to space and volume makes every panel feel precise and cinematic. Every so often the realism makes for jarring panels of Robin looking over rendered or something, but otherwise the art is marvelous. Especially paired with Brad Anderson’s atmospheric color.
I like Federici’s interpretation of the Horned Kings of Silver and Gold. The henchmen’s character designs take on muscular orc-like forms with huge glowing talisman on their necks. They both enhance their individual action sequences with drama and intimidation. Conversely, it is worth noting that we also get to see Supergirl and Power Girl team up. Since both women are sort of the same person with different backstories, we hardly ever get to see what kind of dynamic they share. Some of the most interesting stand out imagery includes the gnarly depictions of the Lazarus Storm and other environments. It really sold how dire the stakes really are for everyone else on earth.
The DC Magical Revolution
DC’s magical characters have enjoyed a lot more prominent spotlight in the last ten years. Lately, the magical community tends to lose off panel consistently. It is irritating to see the minimal difficulty it takes to deal with characters like Black Alice or Dr. Fate, just to prop up villains such as Nezha, Hecate, or the Upside Down Man. The hope is that Lazarus Planet gives these characters the win they deserve. Although, Mark Waid is doing a good job tending to Black Alice’s PTSD, and could be using this event to showcase more of the magical side of the DCU.
The story makes a point to indicate Batman is operating far below his normal capabilities, but still sends him on the hunt for Nezha. It would make more sense to bench Batman until he makes a recovery, but anyone checking the solicits would tell you that’s not happening by a long shot. I do enjoy seeing Blue Devil and Mary (now called Shazam!) make themselves useful in something, though I worry some characters are only here by editorial mandate.
Nezha And The Monkey King
No one will admit it, but this event mildly centers on DC’s Monkey Prince. I’m not sure how successful Marcus Sun has been with readers, but there is no denying his importance to the storyline. Both Nezha and his predecessor both star in the backup story inspired by Journey To The West. Integrating characters like The Monkey King or Nezha with cultural importance can be extremely challenging. Admittedly, I am still nervous about another heavenly pantheon joining the other literary gods of the DC Universe. Sometimes characters like Wonder Woman have trouble adapting their mythology to the flexibility of comics. Luckily, actual Chinese Americans like Gen Luen Yang and Billy Tan of Tan Comics get to handle things personally.
Initially, the backup features Nezha during the era where a mystic sash keeps his power in check. Sun Wu Kong needs his rival Nezha to help him retrieve sacred sutra from the cannibal King Bull Demon. The whole story plays out like a classic folk tale, except with a Darkseid cameo. The story is simple, but the art is plain like the illuminated manuscript of a storybook. The point of this story helps illustrate Nezha’s true connection to King Fire Bull (called Red Boy) and Monkey Prince. It didn’t feel entirely necessary to include outside of its long winded exposition.
- You enjoyed Mark Waid’s Batman Vs. Robin or Batman/Superman: World’s Finest.
- Riccardo Federici’s artwork gives you goosebumps.
- You’re a fan of Monkey Prince and want to experience his big debut event!
Overall, Alpha reads like an audition for a line wide event that goes just okay. Not quite earning my faith in the literal storm tracker map of promised spin-offs, but not scaring me away either. Nezha is essentially Robin’s Trigon. I want to buy into the event, but “King Fire Bull” isn’t intimidating, nor do I think Nezha was dealt with properly in the last series. Events have often begun to overstay their welcome with their spin-offs, tie-ins, Alphas, and Omegas. If Lazarus Planet has any hope of survival, they should keep up the quality artwork and focus on the stories that mean the most.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.