Review – Lazaretto #3 (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Jey Levang
Release Date: 1st November 2017

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Pascal South just keeps getting worse in the latest instalment of Lazaretto, on sale this week from BOOM! Studios.  But for all of the twisted, disgusting things writer Clay McLeod Chapman and Jey Levang subject us to during the course of this issue, perhaps the most troubling moment is delivered in just two words on the very first page.

“Day three.”

Yes folks, we’re only three days into the H3N8 virus outbreak, and to say that things have gone to hell would be a massive understatement.  The dorm room has been turned into a mixture of a maximum security prison and a tribal wasteland, with packs of predatory teens prowling the halls, and the sicker students being forced into near-death subculture on the lower floors.

Amidst all this carnage and horror we have Tamara and Charlie, each battling their own issues as they cling to one other for survival.  They make for fairly relatable leads, garnering some much-needed emotional investment from the reader as things rapidly fall apart all around them, and giving us a reason to care about what happens to the students rather than it all feeling like a somewhat obscene sociological experiment.

Levang’s manga-tinged artwork fits perfectly for a book like this, with a striking style and a gift for understated (and sometimes not so understated) horror.  There’s an ever-so-slightly cartoony vibe to his work that theoretically shouldn’t work on a book like this, but somehow actually helps to emphasise the horror of the situations.   His colours are also absolutely top-notch, with putrid greens and sickening yellows dotted with troubling flecks of red. Everything looks like a rancid, disease-ridden petri dish, an approach which really helps to underscore just how bad of a situation the students have found themselves in.

Levang also helps to deliver three incredibly memorable moments in this latest issue.  I’m not going to dig too deeply into them for fear of diminishing their impact, but suffice to say that the first involves an escape attempt, the second involves our first look at ‘phase three’ of the disease, and the third involves our very own “patient zero”, Mary.  All are shocking, harrowing and utterly captivating in their own unique way, and it’s great to see Chapman and Levang working together so seamlessly here to deliver their deeply uncomfortable vision.

Perhaps the most horrific thing about this series is the fact that, if we’re honest, it doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch to see society break down like this in such an enclosed and tense environment.  Obviously the symptoms and the spread of the “Canine Flu” is a terrifying plot point, but the real horror here comes from the people – the other students who seize the opportunity to snatch power and punch down against their weaker compatriots.

As I said in my review of the first issue, Lazaretto is a comic that makes you want to go and wash your hands as soon as you’ve put it down.  Tense, shocking and utterly gripping, it’s like Lord of the Flies with actual flies buzzing over actual diseased and dying college students.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

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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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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