Friday, 21 August 2015

Deep Sequencing: Head Of The Family

Or a look at how narration and captioning empower a character in Lazarus Volume 3
by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santi Arcas, and Jodi Wynne; Image Comics

In the comic Lazarus, the world is ruled by plutocrat families which function essentially as corporate royalty. Forever, the protagonist of the comic, is a genetically engineered supersoldier who exists both as an enforcer and a junior member of the Carlyle plutocrat family which rules much of western North America. An important aspect of Forever's life are the complicated family dynamics of the Carlyle family, particularly her relationship to her father, the head of the family and business, and de facto ruler of the Carlyle domain. It is a strange relationship and Malcolm, her father is an interesting and intimidating character.

Malcolm Carlyle is portrayed as an authoritative character. He is white, apparently middle-aged, and has a generally stern baring. He dresses in a grown up, all business way usually wearing suits or dress shirts. He is always seen in command of the room he is in with his family members, and even members of other plutocrat families deferring to him. Malcolm Carlyle is obviously a big deal in a very consistent, systemic way.

The thing is, Malcolm Carlyle is also portrayed as a big deal using a really cool comic trick in Lazarus Vol. 3.

Which of course, involves some *SPOILERS*

The story of this page is that Forever, acting in her capacity of Family Lazarus is sent to deliver a message to her counterpart from a rival family. The goal of her trip is to negotiate a Conclave, a gathering of the plutocrat families, to settle a dispute. What is so remarkable about this sequence is that the actual negotiations depicted occur silently, and are instead narrated in the instructions Malcolm Carlyle gives Forever. This choice depicts Malcolm as being a deeply cunning and prescient strategist that can accurately predict the shape of the negotiations ahead of time. It is also a choice that lends Malcolm an authorial voice: this page reads less like conventional narration than as a literal script dictating how the scene and artwork should look. This script-iness is built into the structure of the narration captions as they, unlike normal narration in Lazarus, blend into the gutters of the page and appear to somewhat outside the bounds of the panels and comic world. Collectively this lends suggests Malcolm exerts a great deal of power and control to the point that it can seem that he is writing the comic world he inhabits. Which is really, really smart and interesting comics.

And why I totally accept Malcolm Carlyle as a truly intelligent and formidable leader. 

Lazarus Vol. 1
Lazarus Vol. 2
Lazarus Vol. 3

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