The narration in Clay McLeod Chapman’s Lazaretto is designed to lead the reader through the first day of university for the central characters of the story as they embark on a new adventure.
Jay Levang’s artwork assists this by effortlessly manoeuvring the reader through the panels and pages. Each page and each panel is designed to allow the story to grow organically and be as simple to read as possible.
A prime example of this is on page 4 of the first issue. Levang uses a number of techniques to manipulate the readers eye, drawing them where he wants them to look even when it goes against the usual flow of a comic page. All of this is successfully accomplished without the reader realising the amount of manipulation that is going on.
Firstly, Levang uses the shape of the panels to move the action from the top left of the page across to the right. The three panels are larger on their left than on their right so that the bottom of the panels create a diagonal line running across, and slightly up, the page.
Secondly is the use of a prop. In this case a loose leaflet blowing in the wind. It moves from panel three back across the page, from right to left in defiance of the usual reading order.
The final three panels of the page actually merge into one as the gutters are obscured by the crowds flocking around Tamara. The scene becomes chaotic, bleeding to the edge of the page. However, there is nothing chaotic in Levang’s artwork. A simple collection of well-placed arms and fluttering leaflets direct the reader smoothly down the left side of the page and finally across to the bottom right where the page ends with Tamara recoiling in disgust.
This is simple but extremely effective use of comic book design to subconsciously manipulate the readers experience and allow them to focus unhindered on the entertaining script.
Lazaretto is published monthly by Boom! Studios