"Lazaretto #5" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Clay McLeod Chapman
Illustrated by Jey Levang
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on January 31st, 2018
A virus has ravaged the students in a dorm on a small American college campus. It has entered a new stage, which has driven those suffering to insanity as their skin begins to peel off their body. Louis rules over a mob with a deranged fist, acting as a mad dictator and treating the building like a tribal kingdom. He forces Charles to fight to the death with his roommate. This is a very different freshmen orientation than what I went through at college.
Lazaretto has topped itself with every subsequent chapter. It's only gotten more and more unsettling and insane. This finale is riveting and unbelievable. Louis is a horrifying villain, and not just because he's mad with power. You can see it in his eyes. There's no humanity there anymore. The cape made of human flesh is also a dead giveaway. I wonder if the other residents are using their discarded skin for similar crafts. Maybe they can open an Etsy store.
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Artist Jey Levang makes Lazaretto feel like it's covered in germs. I mean that in the best possible way because that's what this comic is about. It's not like every copy of this comic has been soaked in bacteria. There are moments in this book that will make you cringe. The image of a man pulling the skin off his arm is one that will stay with you for some time. Just writing that sentence sent a shiver up my spine.
Levang's colors on Lazaretto reinforce the unclean feeling. You can practically see the plague swirling about in the air. Although a chunk of the issue takes place outside, it is not a bright, sunny day. It's like there's a fire in the sky. There are two groups of people in the mob. On one side you have those that have already lost their skin. They're just red muscle now. On the other are those that will be losing it soon, looking pale and discolored. Both sides are creepy.
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Charles and Tamara are the last voices of reason in this dorm. As a result, they're treated like pariahs and hunted like witches. You can see the fear on their faces as they realize how far gone everyone else is and how close they are to death. Think of it from their perspective for a moment. Just a few days ago, they arrived on campus excited and a little scared to start a new chapter in their lives as college students. Now they're fighting off skinless freaks as a disease ravages their immune system.
Lazaretto would give any clean freak nightmares for months. It's a disturbing journey that will make you want to bathe yourself in hand sanitizer after reading it. It ends in a perfect shot, as we see the aftermath of this disease and what it's done to the dorm while welcome messages for the freshmen are played overhead. It's a haunting juxtaposition that serves as a nice bookend to how the series began. This is some awesome stuff.