Review: Lazaretto #2

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
October 10th, 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 #2
Comics
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Review of: Lazaretto #2
Price:
Exceptional

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On October 10, 2017
Last modified:October 13, 2017

Summary:

Disturbing and stomach churning; Lazaretto is an amazing read with many layers to peel away. The unnerving art style and uncomfortable narrative combine to produce something not for the faint of heart but powerful and thought provoking.

Review of: Lazaretto #2
Price:
Exceptional

Reviewed by:
Rating:

4
On October 10, 2017
Last modified:October 13, 2017

Summary:

Disturbing and stomach churning; Lazaretto is an amazing read with many layers to peel away. The unnerving art style and uncomfortable narrative combine to produce something not for the faint of heart but powerful and thought provoking.

MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB

Issue 2 of Boom’s miniseries Lazaretto, is out this week. And as the characters become isolated in their college dorm rooms our contributor, Darryll Robson, dares to take a peek inside to see if it’s safe to enter.

Spoiler alert: it’s not safe to enter.

After the introduction of the characters and the setting in issue 1, Clay McLeod Chapman takes the reader into a dark, unpleasant place as he picks away at modern society. Not for the faint of heart, Lazaretto is unapologetic about its disturbing content and refuses to shy away for the degradation of the human spirit.

“Welcome to the Leper Colony.”

Credit: Boom Studios!

Synopsis

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A letter is sent to the parents of the Yersin University students, informing them of the outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Canine Influenza on campus. Following the instruction of the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) the Pascal South dormitory is turned into an isolation ward, the Lazaretto of the title.

Inside, a new hierarchy emerges as those who should be in charge take every measure to stay away from the disease. The usual pecking order of student life is amplified and some rise to the top while others are, literally, forced downward.

And then it’s party time; because that’s what teenagers do. But in this locked up community, separated from society, melting pot of egos, only bad things can come from such unruly behaviour.

Chris and Tamara, who became quick friends in the first issue, now find themselves negotiating a difficult, life threatening situation and must find each other to survive the ordeal intact.

Credit: Boom Studios!

Analysis

There are two genres at play in Lazaretto: the first is the teenage college comedy and the second is an apocalyptical, mankind turns on itself dystopia. These two may appear at odds with each other and it is true that there isn’t much comedy in these pages but the underlying themes are there and that is what makes this an interesting read.

What Chapman has managed to do is portray the ‘teenage college comedy’ without the humour to highlight just how disturbing it can be. The treatment of one group of people by another based on their college year group is explored in depth as the RAs abuse their given position. The RAs purpose is to protect the fresher’s in their care but as soon as the connection to the University is cut off they seize power and put themselves on top. By forcing the younger students onto the lower floors a visual hierarchy is produced with those in charge, with the space and the safety, at the top of the tower and the sick, underclass, crowded together on the lower floors. There is even a full page spread at the end of the comic which represents this division perfectly. One simple image of the building tells you everything you need to know about the people inside.

This idea of separating the different classes of people in this way is nothing new, see Si Spurrier’s The Spire for a fantasy based version of this, but what Chapman does is use this to illustrate the College system in a simple way. There are the Jocks and the popular kids, those with money and the illusion of power, all partying at the top of the building as if nothing is wrong, oblivious to the dangers and the struggles of the others. In the middle of the final image, highlighted by a well-lit room, surrounded by dorms in darkness, is one of the popular kids who is too sick to attend the party. She has been abandoned and forgotten with no-one to care for her. At least those at the bottom have each other but Mary has no-one. She has been cast out by the high society for being ill and has ostracised herself from the others by her previous actions. Chapman draws your attention to her because he wants you to see how fickle those at the top can be; they only think of themselves and what you can do for them. In this instance the girls need to be attractive and healthy or their place in the group is lost.

A disturbing undercurrent runs throughout the entire issue and this is best seen through Tamara’s story. It starts when the girls room is raided by a group of lads who force their way in and assault them with spray foam. To the boys it’s just a game, some light hearted fun but what it represents is the awful, disrespectful treatment of female students. When given the opportunity to run free, do what they want, these male students terrorise the women; they disrespect the woman’s personal space by invading it and damaging the walls. They then physically assault the women in their dorm room, a place that should be safe for them. But laugh it off, that’s what the boys do. This represents an attitude that exists not only in isolated fantasy situations like Lazaretto, but is an attitude that so many still have around the world. Especially when it comes to teenage boys just having a laugh.

Story continues below

Chapman uses his forced pocket of society to highlight such real world issues. The most disturbing of which is the scene with Tamara at the party. One of the RAs has set himself up as some kind of Philosophical leader, spouting well-rehearsed (but poorly researched) quotes to make himself seem very clever. A bunch of girls all paw at him in awe, wanting desperately to be accepted by him. Tamara however points out the error in what he is saying; she dares to question his superiority. In the panel where she does this she is hunched into one corner, arms wrapped around her knees in a defensive position while the rest of the room turn to glare at her. The RA has an expression of shock while the girls all stare at Tamara with hate filled eyes. No-body questions the hierarchy.

As punishment the RA dismisses everyone except Tamara. He then proceeds to force himself upon her while trying to convince her that she wants the same thing as her. It is attempted rape, pure and simple. A man in a position of power forcing himself upon someone who is deemed to be insignificant in the social group. This is not a pleasant read but it speaks volumes about how the world treats people of privilege.

Credit: Boom Studios!

While the narrative is packed with psychological horrors the Art work is a visual onslaught. Jey Levang has a rough style that doesn’t allow for the safety of firm, straight lines. The backgrounds have a watercolor effect which gives the interior scenes a sense of dampness. The colors themselves are sickly on every page not allowing for the reader to get comfortable in the surroundings.

The characters are practically all drawn with visual signs of the illness. A technique employed to continually remind the reader that all is not well in the dorm rooms. At no point are you allowed to escape the fact that these characters are trapped inside the college building. The reader, just like the cast, have to face the sickness head on at every turn.

Even the seemingly most innocent of page’s harbours worrying undertones. Take for example the character introduction pages: they are laid out like pages from a high school year book. An image for each character with the name printed in capitals below. Over the top is a typed, sneaky insight into their character. It’s quirky and fun. It once again relates to the college comedies that so much of the narrative draws on. However, it is also reminiscent on the roll call pages from Battle Royale, or the Uncanny X-Men cover for the Days of Future Past story line. How long before the reader sees those same pages again with large red crosses through some of the characters?

At every turn Chapman and Levang remind the reader that the comic is not a safe environment. Very quickly the hyper-social group begins to degrade and each page takes you deeper into this decaying situation. Like all good horror stories, the body mutilation is an initial disgust that will make you reel but it I the psychological horrors that stick with you. After being repulsed by a character tearing the skin from his arm, it’s the manipulation and attempted rape that haunts you after you have closed the comic.

Lazaretto will make you queasy in more ways than one but it is an exceptional example of horror as social commentary.

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

Lazaretto #2

  • 4

Exceptional

Disturbing and stomach churning; Lazaretto is an amazing read with many layers to peel away. The unnerving art style and uncomfortable narrative combine to produce something not for the faint of heart but powerful and thought provoking.

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