The foreword to The Lizard describes Martin Flink as the Scandinavian comics creator “most deserving of the ‘most deserving of wider recognition’ award”. It’s a bold claim about the writer and artist, who’s had two shorter comics previously published by UK-based publisher Accent, and this, his first longer form graphic novel, puts that claim to the test.
Set in an apartment block in Flink’s native Denmark, The Lizard follows three residents of three different generations. Nynne is a young punk nervous about bringing a guy over for a date. Is he right for her? Does he like her? Is she talking too much? Thomas is a middle-aged priest who believes that God speaks personally to him. But these delusions, which stem back to childhood, have gone too far, and he’s being removed from his duties. And Ana is an old lady reliving memories of her lost lover – time they spent together in Africa, and drifting apart when back in Europe.
All of these stories are connected by the motif of a lizard: Nynne keeps one as a pet; Thomas’s visits from God come in the form of a lizard; and Ana and her husband once encountered an African doctor who healed using the power of ‘lizard soul’. We flit between these stories like a lizard crawling around the building, and Nynne’s lizard becomes an essential part of the poignant resolution of all three.
To say any more about the stories would be to spoil the surprises, but what we can say is that Flink tells them masterfully. He flits between the three narratives to draw maximum effect out of them all, and his artwork, full of bold blacks and subtle emotional acting, is gorgeously evocative. The dialogue, though completely believable, is sparse, as Flink prefers to draw out actions over silent panels, getting deep into the subtleties of everything his characters do.
And that’s the real achievement of The Lizard; over its length of around ninety pages, and its setting of one night (plus flashbacks), it makes you feel like you deeply know and understand these three tenants; it’s a similar achievement to the TV masterpiece Dekalog, albeit with an added edge of optimism. It’s a carefully observed, tender insight into real humanity. The foreword was right – Flink does deserve more recognition, and hopefully this beautiful book will bring that to him.
THE LIZARD / AUTHOR & ARTIST: MARTIN FLINK / PUBLISHER: ACCENT UK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW