Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Jey Levang
Release Date: 6th September 2017
Heading off to college can be a challenging time. For many young students, this is their first time away from home, their first time trying to discover who they really are as part of the big, wide world. And that’s something that’s doubly true for the students of Pascal South, who not only have to deal with these deeply personal challenges, but also the rapid spreading of an aggressive, virulent strain of the H3N8 virus, a.k.a. the “canine flu”, throughout their dorm.
The first issue of new BOOM! Studios series Lazaretto feels like a prologue of sorts, with writer Clay McLeod Chapman and artist Jay Levang gradually introducing us to the student body and some of the faces who are likely to take centre stage as the series progresses. The spread of the virus is handled subtly at first, with a quiet cough as a student shuffles across the quad, before gradually escalating over the course of the issue.
What perhaps resonates most about this series is just how damn believable it all feels. Chapman and Levang take great pleasure in showing all the different ways the virus can spread throughout a college dorm, from water fountains to canteen food to kissing and other assorted debauchery, and there’s a creeping sense of horror and unease that builds throughout the course of issue before all hell breaks loose in the final pages.
That said, while Chapman’s pacing and story structure are great, it’s Jay Levang’s artwork that really helps to sell this first issue. There’s a grounded, sketch-like quality to the early artwork that lulls us into a false sense of security, making us thing that this could be any other young adult college-based comic series. Then the changes start. The creeping colour shift as an innocent cough is given a sinister edge courtesy a few flecks of crimson. The unnatural pallor of the bleary-eyed, shuffling students. It’s masterfully done, and Levang gradually ramps up the unnatural colours and frantic page layouts as frenzied panic takes over throughout the student, before bringing us full circle with a fantastic final page.
My only slight criticism would be that the primary characters are introduced well, but are more than a little unremarkable for the time being. That almost feels intentional at this point, though – after all, these are just meant to be a bunch of regular kids thrust into a decidedly irregular situation, and I’m sure they’ll all start to become a little more three-dimensional once the outbreak/quarantine kicks into high gear and we enter full “Lord of the Flies” mode.
Ultimately, this serves as a gripping and horrifying opening chapter of what promises to be one hell of a new series. Lazaretto makes you want to break out the hand sanitizer as soon as you put the book down, and is guaranteed to make you look a little differently at the next person you see coughing in a public place. Highly, highly recommended.
If you want to find out more about Lazaretto, make sure to check out our interview with Clay McLeod Chapman and Jey Levang by CLICKING HERE.
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