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The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Paperback – September 21, 2011
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If you are looking for a great read take a look at this and all of his fantastic works !
Lazarus Gray is also set in the same 'universe' as Barry's Rook character, and we get an updated chronology of his "universe" in the back of the book that places both the Lazarus Gray stories (included the next 2 volumes) plus the Rook stories and a few others by Reese.
This volume is a collection of 7 Lazarus Gray stories. Three of them previously saw print in Pro Se's now defunct "Peculiar Adventures Magazine". And the last story has a team up with the Rook that originally appeared in the Rook v6.
Who is Lazarus Gray? Well, he'd like to know as well. We find out in the first story that he woke up on the shores of Sovereign City with no memory of who he is, and with a strange medallion with the name "Lazarus Gray". He started to work to help people, formed "Assistance Unlimited" with 3 associates he helped out. As noted, this is similar to the origin of The Avenger and his Justice, Inc, but also different. He will learn more about himself in the stories in this collection.
All the stories have a supernatural element to them, and this also ties into Gray's mysterious past. In a couple of stories, Reese adds in the golden age comic book villain The Claw to his "universe". Maybe this character will return. Overall, all these stories are great.
Am enjoying the series, and will look forward to the future volumes.
There are few negatives to point out. I would have liked the cover to better reflect the description of Gray, who is noted to have gray hair with some brown, not blonde hair. In the first story, he is described as wearing an outfit similar to the Warner Brother's Avenger covers, but in the later stories this is not mentioned. I would like to see a more consistent description of his outfit given. One of the characters is revealed to be gay. I don't have an issue with that, but the reaction of the other characters isn't what I would have expected for the time of the story (1930s). I also have to point out I saw a few typos and such in this work. Need better proofreading.
We're introduced to the titular hero as an amnesiac who washes up on the shores of Sovereign City. The only key he has to his identity is a medallion around his neck which bares the name Lazarus Gray on the back. Taking this as his name, Gray establishes himself as a force for good in the corrupt Sovereign City, opening up the offices of Assistance Unlimited. His aides include Morgan Watts, a former figure in Sovereign's underworld; Eun Jiwon, a Korean martial artist with a fiery temper; and Samantha Grace, a socialite with no shortage of fighting skills and intelligence. Together they take on a number of cases in Sovereign City, ranging from simple acts of crime but seeming more often than not to lean towards the supernatural and running afoul of figures from Gray's previous life as a member of the occult organization known as the Illuminati.
If you've read any number of Reese's work over the past several years, you already know what to expect of him--great characterization, tense action sequences, and entertaining stories. And as usual, Reese delivers. The threats Reese comes up with for Assistance Unlimited and the backstory behind Gray are easily the two most interesting aspects of this collection. My personal favorite choices of villains are Gray's recurring nemesis, Walther Lunt and the Claw. Some may know that the Claw is actually a public domain character that first appeared in Lev Gleason Publications back in the 30s. If you find some images of him online, he looks somewhat goofy and is pretty much the epitome of everything that was wrong with the "Yellow Peril" craze. But Reese is able to tone that down and instead crafts a Claw who is incredibly threatening and terrifying while avoiding the racial problems that dogged the original incarnation.
The backstory behind the Illuminati is also great. I'm a sucker for stories involving secret societies (or at least I am when they're well-told), and Reese does a great job of giving us just the barest hints of his version of the Illuminati while still keeping them shrouded in mystery. Particularly interesting is Miya Shimada, Gray's former lover whom he brought into the society and who seems to have more ambiguity than her fellow Illuminatus, Lunt. The dynamic between them leaves the possibility for future stories really fascinating.
The members of Assistance Unlimited are similarly great, with Eun and Samantha being the standouts in my mind. Both these characters are well-written and extremely capable. Morgan doesn't make as much of an impact in the early stories, but towards the end of the collection in "The God of Hate," he starts to take more of a central role and becomes much more interesting.
Surprisingly enough, the character who held the least appeal for me was Gray himself. It's not because Reese writes a bad character, but it feels at times that Gray is a bit too stoic and a bit too good at his job. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed "The God of Hate" more than any other story in this collection, because it's the one where we really get the feeling that the odds are stacked against the hero.
But that aside, the collection is very good and even when things seem like they're too easy for the hero, the stories never fail to entertain. If you're a fan of The Rook series, you should definitely check out this collection. Especially since the Rook makes an appearance in one of the tales.