Review: Lazaretto #1

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
September 21st, 2017

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

Review: Lazaretto #1


Continuing their move into more adult, horror based comics, Boom! Studios has another new release this week. A deadly virus based horror story, entitled Lazaretto, starts to spread and our contributor, Darryll Robson, peeks inside the dorms to see what it is all about.

Starting University can be difficult at the best of times but when a violent virus starts taking down students and the building goes on lock down, the new students are pushed beyond their limits. This new comic series from Boom! Studios is described as Lord of the Flies on a College campus and promises to be violent, bloody and disturbingly horrific.

Be as prepared as you can be.

Credit: Boom! Studios


It’s a new year at Yersin University and two new students are worried about how they will fit in.

Charles is from Chicago. His mother is over protective and his father is almost military in his discipline. Charles, on the other hand, just wants to fit into university life without standing out too much, something that’s made harder by his drug dealing room mate.  But it’s only the first day so there’s plenty of time to find himself.

Tamara, Indiana, is from a single parent family. Her mother passed away and she still prays to her. She tries to down play her religious vocation which is hard when faced with the out spoken hippy she is rooming with. She feels she is cut off and all she want’s is too return home.

The two of them meet on a rooftop and a new friendship sparks.

But is it too late? The Canine Flu is sweeping through the outside world and students are starting to get sick. Very, very sick.


With a premise that sounds like the start of most zombie movies, Lazaretto takes a lesser worn path in this opening issue. The virus is visually a heavy focus of the storytelling throughout, so much so that the reader might feel as though just touching the comic might lead to infection. Microscopic germs are drawn large, crossing gutters and framing transitions from page to page. The intention of this comic is to allow the reader to follow the spread of the virus as it enters the University and illustrate how it affects the lives of the two central characters.

The tone of the story has more in common with The Survivors, a 1970’s British TV show, than it does Image ComicsThe Walking Dead or Spread. It has relatable characters in a relatable situation. The awkwardness of starting University is played out over the first half of the comic but then the irrational fears Charles and Tamara have are swept away by the horror of a reality neither of them could have ever predicted.

The pacing of the narration by Clay McLeod Chapman builds momentum page after page; it allows the readers to get to know the two main characters while showing the outbreak in the background and on the fringes. And then, sooner than expected, the fringes come crashing centre stage instantly creating dramatic tension. So little is revealed about the virus and its symptoms that from the beginning it is unclear who has become infected; even Charles and Tamara are not clear and free and clear at this point.

Charles and Tamara are both fully rounded characters with backgrounds and varied personality traits. This may seem like an obvious thing to say but in todays’ comic book world, establishing good characters in a first issue is difficult, especially when Chapman is setting up so much more. There is something identifiable in each of the main cast and most can relate to those nervous first days of starting somewhere new, whether it’s University, School or just a new job.

Credit: Boom! Studios

Thanks to the artwork by Jey Levang, this is not a comic for the faint hearted. It’s creepy, unnerving and bloody. However, the setting is so normal that the whole thing seems devious: Levang has lulled us into a false sense of security.

Levang favours a thin pencil line and relies on only a few marks to create definition; a lot of the substance of the panels comes from the use of color, which is bountiful. The chaos of being somewhere new is illustrated perfectly on a number of pages as the panels bleed together, losing the gutters and therefore expressing that timelessness that accompanies being out of your depth. Each one of these moments is punctuated by a virus related panel to hammer home this issues point; the virus is everywhere.

And the first and last contrasting splash pages are a wonderful way to express how much has happened in such a short time. The relaxation of the first page compared to the chaotic fear of the last sums the reading experience of this first issue up perfectly.

The lack of explanation about the virus may be frustrating for some readers but, in a medium where people can accept The Walking Dead after nearly 15 years without needing to know where the zombies came from, I’m sure it won’t put many off.  Plus, like The Mist by Stephen King, this comic doesn’t appear to be a story about the virus itself but about the people who become trapped in the University dorms, the ‘lazaretto’* of the title. Some of those people need more fleshing out but there’s time for that later: the reader is given two, strong characters to help them through issue one.

This is a surprisingly satisfactorily crafted comic. I wasn’t sure the medium needed yet another end of the world, zombie-esq story, after all it has been done many times over recent years. But Lazaretto is a fresh take on the theme and the set up gives me the impression that the rest of the story is also going to be different to previous ‘outbreak’ comics. The isolation that the young students find themselves in is more akin to the small indie film Right at your Door (2006). The building tension and mounting fear that swamped that movie is also present here in the final few pages of this comic.

Both writer and artist have made me fall in love with Charles and Tamara but I also fear for them. This is captivating creativity at work.

I recommend you come visit Lazaretto, just try not to get trapped inside.

 Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he remembers his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson


*A lazaretto is an isolation hospital for people with infectious diseases just in case you didn’t know.

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