Review: Lazaretto #5

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
January 30th, 2018

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 #5
Comics
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The new year may have only just started but this week sees the end of Boom! Studio's infectious horror Lazaretto, and as usual our contributor, Darryll Robson, take a look inside to see if the ending is as good as the beginning.

It’s here, the final issue of the outstanding Lazaretto. From a humble start Clay McLeod Chapman and Jey Levang have dragged central characters, Tamara and Charles, through some of the most disturbing and traumatic situations you can imagine. With nods to various subsections of the End of The World genre, Lazaretto has used recognizable clichés to shine a light on modern sensibilities. And at no point have they pulled any punches, from issue 1 onwards the artwork has expressed the grotesque and made the reader increasingly more uncomfortable with every page turn.

But how can such a tale of woe end?

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Credit: Boom! Studios

Synopsis

Captured and brought before the self-acclaimed Messenger of the Virus, Tamara and Charles face their worst nightmares. With no way to escape, Charles must fight for his life while Tamara is forced to ‘the Kings’ side like Leia chained to Jabba.

But things are going to get worse before they get better. If indeed they are going to get better…..

Analysis

A lot of what happens in this issue is exciting, plot twists which would be considered spoilers if discussed; and nobody wants to give anything anyway. This is one of the most engaging aspects of this comic; its ability to take paths that the reader is not expecting.

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Adopting horror genre tropes throughout even make the central characters at risk; anyone who has read Tales from the Crypt or watched the original Night of the Living Dead will know that being the hero does not mean that you survive. Therefore, the tension is high when Charles and Tamara are under threat.  And to make the reader identify with these characters just that little bit more, a number of the scenes where they are in danger are drawn with the extra’s almost feature-less; oval faces with no discerning characteristics. The heroes are fully formed characters in a sea of nobodies, and the reader is focused directly on their plight.

Credit: Boom! Studios

Chapman has crafted a tale of traumatic trials which push the characters, and the readers, to the very limits of their endurance. He has then littered these experiences with cultural references; for example, that throne looks mightily familiar. Levang, in turn, has endeavored to make the journey as uncomfortable as possible, keeping the overall look of the comic sickly in tone. All of the characters have a pasty complexion which helps to highlight the blood stains that cover them.  The backgrounds are barely visible as the setting has, for the most part, become irrelevant. This issue is about the people, the remaining cast members and how they face the end. It’s all about who they are, where they have come from and where they are going. Most importantly, the choice to set this issue mostly in two locations, a dorm room and the roof, gives the narrative and the artist chance to focus the reader’s attention on Charles and Tamara and their journey from issue 1.

Lazaretto has been from the very beginning a surprising and exceptional read. Everything from the concept and design to the layout and narrative punches have been executed with shameless aplomb. Chapman and Levang’s confidence in the story they are telling has allowed them to take risks and pull no punches. This final issue is no different. The pace builds from page to page with a quickening beat as the situation escalates from the ridiculous to the sublime. The whole problem is like a big, bloody exclamation mark at the end of story. But it isn’t a full stop; there is potential for more and that is exciting.

The reader is given a satisfactory conclusion to the story and is left with the urge to scrub themselves down before venturing out into the world. Luckily the story moves at such a pace that the nauseating scenes don’t have time to sink in, but the constant grotesqueness will wear you down eventually. By the end, you’re glad it’s over even though the final scenes don’t leave too much room for ‘happy ever after.’

Lazaretto has been as emotional as it has been gross; as thought-provoking as it has been violent; and as visually stunning as it has been narratively structured.  This is an excellent example of a mini-serial working as a whole as well as individual chapters. It has been a joy to read month after month, despite making my skin crawl on some occasions.

If you’ve missed this series, watch out for the inevitable trade collection, this is a comic worth picking up.

Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he remembers his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson, but he does remember to write more about comics on his website comiccutdown.com

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