After a pandemic strikes, a dorm complex at a small American college is quarantined with all of the students trapped within. What first starts out as youthful freedom from authority soon devolves into a violent new society.
Written by Clay Chapman, Lazaretto #1 is that ominous build in the horror story where you know all hell is about to break loose but just don’t know when it’s all going to drop. Taking an outbreak storyline and placing it on a college campus isn’t something I think I’ve ever seen and confining it even more so by eventually placing it in one dorm creates a story that’s defined by it’s lack of contact with the greater outside world and also the claustrophobia that’ll eventually set it. Like other stories, Die Hard being an example, the limited setting does the story good in multiple ways.
Chapman’s focus on an ever tightening world helps focus the reader in for an intimate horror story and gives us the impression of a noose tightening as a disease rampages and illness spreads. It’d be easy to go the other way and show the greater damage but by focusing in, Chapman not only provides us a better focal point but also helps amp up the atmosphere of dread in what’s about to go down. By also focusing the story on a college campus, Lazaretto twists headlines where we regularly see outbreaks of disease during the school year, it’s an experience we can all relate to in some way.
The story set up is solid and engaging, though the characters Chapman uses isn’t too groundbreaking. There’s the innocent White religious girl and the African-American city kid, both are our main protagonists and who bond well into the story. While there’s nothing bad about the characters, there’s just nothing that really draws me to them other than the situation they’re thrusted in to.
The art by Jey Levang is interesting. It’s not that I dislike the art, it just doesn’t quite jive with the story being told. A slice of life story about college, it’d work perfectly, but something with the horror theme thrown in, the art doesn’t quite match up. It takes some of the scariness away though Levang does do an excellent job of adding in splashes of the disease spreading both giving hints and reminding us it’s a microscopic battle being waged. It’s an aethstetic choice I enjoyed and a nice touch that keeps the story focused on the virality of what’s being passed around (as opposed to the “it’s in the blood” we get from zombie stories).
Lazaretto #1 is a solid beginning and I found myself getting past the mismatch of art to really enjoy the story that’s being presented and be so happy I’m long removed from college. The series has a lot of potential and the first issue sets up a thriller which feels like it’ll be an excellent mix of horror, suspense, and a bit of the college melting pot.
Story: Clay Chapman Art: Jey Levang Cover Art: Ignacio Valicenti
Story: 7.6 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review