Year of the Artist, Day 158: Michael Lark, Part 5 - <i>Lazarus</i> #1

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today's artist is Michael Lark, and the issue is Lazarus #1, which was published by Image and is cover dated June 2013. Enjoy!

Lark's latest comic is his collaboration with Greg Rucka, which I really wanted to like but found just wasn't for me. But I own some of it, so I can check out Lark's art on it!

When the first issue of Lazarus came out, a lot of people were raving about the fight scene at the very beginning of the book, so I thought I'd take a look at two of the pages from the scene. Lark doesn't do anything too crazy with the layout, preferring to stack horizontal panels, which wouldn't be a bad thing if he didn't do it so often. One thing that bugs me about Lazarus is that it feels very "cinematic," as if Lark is doing storyboards for the inevitable television show/movie. I know I shouldn't be so cynical about comics, but I am (to be fair to Lazarus, I get that feeling from a LOT of comics, because a four-panel horizontal stack is so very common). Anyway, while the layout isn't great, Lark does a nice job with the movement of the fight. The woman is named Forever (yes, really), and Lark does a nice job with her as she moves around the room. She grabs the guy's wrist in Panel 1, twists his arm and snaps his elbow in Panel 2, then breaks his neck in Panel 3. As she drops him, she confronts the other two dudes, and Lark shows that the dude with the machete is already sweeping it toward her, so in Panel 1 on the second page, she moves out of the way to avoid it. As the dude behind her raises a hammer, she moves aside so that the dude with the machete stabs him, and then she grabs that dude's arm to push the machete further in. It's a very nicely designed page, as we can see everything very clearly and we understand how quickly it's happening, which is why the two other dudes were so slow to react while she was dispatching the first dude.

Lark, as we've seen, has become rougher with his pencils, and that's evident here. We see again the thick blacks on the clothing of the men, and the one dude's flannel shirt is inked somewhat haphazardly, in contrast to what Lark would have done 20 years earlier. The line work is still fairly crisp, but Lark's heavy inks tend to work against the pencil work. Santi Arcas colors this, and while he's not as overwhelming as we saw with D'Armata yesterday, he still uses the same tricks. The use of a lot of blues has become a cliché in modern coloring, probably carried over from television and/or movies, where it has become overwhelming, although I'm not sure if it became popular in comics due to that or independently. It does allow Arcas to create contrast on the two panels where Forever kills the dude and where she forces the machete into the dude, as he switches to pink - a somewhat odd choice - to make them stand out. The blood splatters in the final two panels on the second page are nicely done - I imagine it's not drawn in at all, just colored in by Arcas. This is an interesting contrast to the way Lark used to draw in every drop of blood, as I suppose it's just easier for the colorist to do it.

In two panels, we get some interesting things that Lark has done as his art has evolved. In Panel 1, Forever still resembles an old-school Larkian character, with the sharp line along her cheekbone and chin, which Arcas uses to shade her face in different tones. It's not as stark as Lark was in the 1990s, but it's still something he does with faces. Meanwhile, in Panel 2, he inks in the thick smoke rising from the compound, and the helicopter rotors are raggedly inked, showing that they're still moving, but also matching the grittiness of the scene. It's interesting seeing Lark's work now if you've seen him over the course of his career, because you can still notice places where the old Lark comes through. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but it's just interesting.

Lark shows that he can do emotions well, using his new, rougher style to good effect. In Panel 2, Jonah speaks angrily, and Lark opens his mouth a bit wider and shows his teeth, while turning down his eyebrows to create a shadow around his eyes. The heavy inks on the side of his face add to his rage, as they creep toward his face. This is contrasted with the way Forever is drawn in Panel 3, as she listens to Jonah with a heavy heart (because she's going to have to kill someone). Lark uses the light to halve her face, the shadows swallowing her left side, while Lark leaves a tiny dot where her eye reflects the dim light. He also shadows her right eye, but it makes her look sad, not angry, because her mouth is closed and set grimly. In Panel 4, we see that even though both Jonah and Forever aren't really emoting too much, Lark makes Jonah look angry - his mouth is turned down and his eyes are a bit thin - while Forever simply looks resigned. This carries over to Panel 5, where Forever turns away. The space between her eyebrows and eyes is just wide enough to show the sadness in her face, while Jonah's cocked brows still radiate anger. It's very good visual storytelling. As we saw above, Arcas uses far too many blues, but it's just something we have to live with.

Lark has evolved quite a bit over the course of his career, and it's been interesting to see the changes. I don't know if he's reached a "final destination," art-wise, or if we'll see him continuing to tweak what he does. This new style seems well suited for a book like Lazarus, so I'm glad it's successful for him and Rucka (I guess it is - they keep publishing it!). I have a few ideas for artists to start tomorrow, but I haven't made up my mind yet. Oh well. Remember that the archives exist, or they might disappear!

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