“A Pustule Needing To Be Lanced” – Lazaretto #4

by Brendan M. Allen

Tamara and Charles are on the run when the virus reaches Phase III: Hallucinations.

Lazaretto #3 was intense. Clay McLeod Chapman is really starting to tighten the screws. Between the progression of the H3N8 virus, the increasingly unsanitary conditions, the power-hungry, rapey RA who has declared himself king of the whole mess, and the new information about horrific symptoms yet to come, there’s nowhere to hide. The best Charles and Tamara can hope to do is hole up and ride it out, but they’re running out of safe places to do so.

By the time Lazaretto #4 opens, Tamara is in the hallucination stage of infection. Charles at least still has a clear enough head, but things are rapidly headed into the toilet. Henry sees his power over the dorm slipping and orders an all out hunt for Charles and Tamara. The juniors have started an open rebellion against Henry’s tyrannical reign.

That Lord of the Flies stuff that was promised in the solicit? Get ready. Here it comes.

Things are clipping right along. While this story could have easily drawn out a few more issues, the limited series format and breakneck pacing adds tension and a sense of urgency. Less than a week has passed, and societal structure within Pascal South has all but completely broken down. If anyone survives this creep show, guaranteed they won’t come out the other side even closely resembling the kids that arrived on campus just four days ago.

As we get deeper into the story, Jey Levang gradually dials up the decay. Students are visibly getting sicker. The deep lines and graying skin has given way to flesh barely hanging on in some cases, and shearing clean away in others. The style that started so light and airy in the first chapter has morphed into something you can almost feel oozing off the pages. The imagery makes you want to reach for the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer, then strip naked and bathe in it.

When I asked Clay where we’re headed in the finale, he replied,

Where we heading? Straight to hell! If anything, we’re letting the outside world seep into the dorm, just as everything within Pascal South reaches its boiling point. I wanted to think of the building as a big blister, a pustule that needed to be lanced… and just let all the ooey-gooey-ness spill on out. But also let the real-life horrors of campus life, such as the campus sexual assault crisis, dove-tail into the story’s more metaphorical horrors…

Lazaretto is an especially unnerving piece of survival horror that unapologetically pokes holes in our false sense of security. The reality is that people are disgusting animals, and it doesn’t take much to start peeling away the constructs that make us feel safe. Stay tuned for the finale. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m willing to bet there’ll be loads of snot and blood, and some people are gonna die.

Lazaretto #4, published by Boom! Studios, released on the 20th of December 2017. Written by Clay McLeod Chapman, art by Jey Levang, letters by Aditya Bidikar, cover by Ignacio Valicenti.

Brendan M. Allen

Brendan Allen has probably had more jobs than you would reasonably believe. Dog trainer? He’s done it. Flooring contractor? You bet! EMT? Army NBC specialist? Road dog for a Celtic rock band? Yes, yes, and och aye! Now he reads comics and writes about them. It’s a rough gig. You can follow Brendan on Twitter @SaintAmish where he mostly tweets about comic books and cystic fibrosis awareness.