Digital Witness Forever
There are a good amount of dystopian stories out there floating about in the world of literature and art. I’d like to believe that my personal favorite writer, Philip K. Dick, would have fully enjoyed this particular woman and the trials she faces. If my imaginary Mr. Philip would dig it, then that’s props to the tenth power!
Forever Carlyle is a member of the Carlyle family, one of the richest and therefore most powerful group of people in this world of the series Lazarus. Written by Greg Rucka with some slammin’ artwork by Michael Lark, they emerge us a world where wealth is everything, and people are divided into three main categories: Family, Serfs, and Waste. Families control and Big Brother their way in the world as both a government and a painful reminder of what happens when you don’t stay in line. They each have a member who protects them and their assets, a Lazarus. Forever serves as her family’s Lazarus, and is responsible for keeping things and people (the two words are pretty interchangeable here) in line and loyal to the Carlyles. Serfs are those who are provide something of value to the Families and aren’t as easily gotten rid of. Waste are ordinary people, seen as sheep to those in power who are completely expendable. The world is not kind to Waste, and they are under the constantly strict thumb of the Family that basically owns them.
Being a Lazarus doesn’t come without its perks and its curses, and Forever has been training her whole life to meet her father’s definition of worthy. She has never been shown much love, and was sent of to be trained from a very young age. Though she is called a daughter and a sister, Forever is something more, and she eventually finds herself getting mysterious messages from an unknown source telling her that the Carlyles are not her family.
All familia have their issues, and Forever’s situation isn’t exactly the ‘oh no, Uncle Larry got too drunk at the reunion again’ type of thing. She has trained her whole life to be a soldier to the Carlyles, and learned early on that if her father ordered someone to die, even herself, it would be done and to accept it. But Forever is also genetically enhanced, and is constantly monitored by her brother and sister. She is a weapon, and is installed with an ability to heal, fight with superhuman strength, and her keepers can see exactly what is going on with her body at every second of every day. They also track her movement, and report back to her father. Every order by him is an order she must obey, whether or not she wants to.
Forever is also limited on her emotions and the amount of feelie weelies she’s allowed to have. If her keeper thinks she’s too happy, sad, excited, basically being a human being, they can release chemicals into her brain to keep her at the exact level they want her to be.
Nonetheless, with control comes chaos, and that is exactly the theme within the Lazarus universe. Rucka and Lark have talked about how this world came to be, being inspired by the question of, “What if things really got this bad?” They researched the the wage gap between the rich and poor, and observed how it was, and continues to be, ever-growing. Science also played a big part in the inspiration, looking at stem cells and how scientists were researching how to basically grow a body part and how easy the whole thing was starting to become. Not only that, but the way science was evolving to basically edit out the bad DNA and replace it with the good ones; the ones that could fight cancer and render a human healthy and less susceptible to illnesses. Then of course, Rucka’s envisioning of a girl lying dead on the ground, eyes open, in a pool of blood with some notes that told what bullets had hit her and where.
The image and research became Forever, a woman who embodied these very thought-provoking questions with no answers. She finds herself fighting for her father, being both a good guy and a bad guy. Forever is strong, intelligent, and nearly impossible to kill. But she also represents what it means when you turn a living person into a thing. Though everything Forever possesses is controlled, she still thinks for herself. There, beneath all the custom wiring and chemical implants, is a part of the brain that these people of the future still haven’t cracked, as we ourselves today have not. She questions the difference between right and wrong, mostly in silence, as the glare of her father washes over her. Being a Lazarus means being a shield for her family, but being a person means possessing a soul, and that is something that no one has the power to control.