New To You Comics: ‘Lazaretto’ By Clay McLeod Chapman And Oliver Levang

by Brendan M. Allen

With new comics on hold for the foreseeable future, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature we’re calling New To You Comics. Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. He tends to drift toward the Superhero and Sci-Fi genres, and I pretty much stick to Horror, Noir, and Thrillers. Sometimes our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.

The challenge here is for me to introduce Tony to some titles he probably missed on first pass, and for Tony to hit me with some of the stuff he really likes that I haven’t read. All of the titles we will discuss will be brand new to one of us, and all are available on digital platforms. You should be able to access them even if your local shop is temporarily closed or out of stock.

This installment, Tony and I will be diving into BOOM! Studios’ Lazaretto, by Clay McLeod Chapman and Oliver Levang (fka Jey Levang). 

Here’s what BOOM! Studios tells us about Lazaretto:

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. It’s Lord of the Flies on a college campus! From writer Clay McLeod Chapman, and introducing artist Jey Levang.

Brendan Allen: Lazaretto is one of those stories that really creeps up on you. It starts out all innocent, kids showing up for their very first day of college, getting dropped off at their dorms, saying those awkward goodbyes in the parking lot before orientation, peppered with a few casual mentions of some virus that has been creeping into the US. Some folks are a little scared. Most don’t take it very seriously. Then, the first cases start popping up and all hell breaks loose. 

I picked this book for a couple reasons. First, it scared the hell out of me when I read it the first time. My eldest kid was about to pop off on his own and my youngest has complex medical issues. Clay McLeod Chapman and Oliver Levang (fka Jey Levang) took our worst fears as a family and put them to paper. The other reason is that a lot of the themes in the book echo current events in the US and the rest of the world, making it extremely difficult to force emotional separation from the content.

What did you think, Tone?

Tony Thornley: Oh good grief man, you warned me this was a bit on the topical side, but it really hit home.  This was some really gut wrenching horror and up until the last issue it was fairly realistic. I don’t know if I can say I enjoyed it, but it was definitely very good.

One thing I really enjoyed is how it played up the traditional college experience. The annoying roommate. Discovering yourself. Upperclassmen getting one last gasp of adolescent power before the real world. It’s all something that anyone who had the classic college experience lived through. But then when it all goes South, all of those things are heightened to create the horror of it all.

As bad as COVID-19 is, thank goodness it doesn’t turn carriers into blood-spitting monsters. Good grief, that image by Levang is going to haunt me!

Brendan: Yeah, Levang’s art is something else. Those delicate, fine lines and washed out palette are disarming. They lure you into a false sense of security, before tightening the screws with visual cues that subtly escalate as the tension builds, until we get torqued layouts, skewed panels and gutters, and bright red splashes of blood. When the thing starts REALLY hitting the fan, those delicate lines and washed out watercolors completely give way to blood, sputum and grime. It’s creepy as hell and it fits the evolution of McLeod’s script perfectly.

Tony: I’m going to be honest, I didn’t love the art at first. Their linework was a little too scratchy for what I was expecting, but then the way they built the story over the first issue really drew me in. Then we got the scene in the lecture hall, where the first virus carrier lost it… Horrifying. From there, each issue builds and builds until we get this horrifying surreal crescendo in the final issue… They really did a great job and I want to see more of their work.

Brendan: Sounds like this thing hit you exactly the way it was intended to. 

Tony: Like I said, I don’t know that I can say I LIKED it, but it was worth reading and I definitely want to revisit it. It was extremely effective horror and written and drawn really well. It also makes me want to read more from both creators! So, major plus!

Brendan: Fair. What’s up next?

Tony: You’ve introduced me to three indies in a row that you really love, I’m going to introduce you to one of mine! We’re going to check out Image’s Manifest Destiny Volume 1. It’s a weird western with a great elevator pitch. What if the first “western”- the Lewis and Clark Expedition- was a lot weirder and scarier than we ever realized?

Lazaretto TPB, BOOM! Studios, 2018. Written and created by Clay McLeod Chapman, illustrated by Oliver Levang (fka Jey Levang), letters by Aditya Bidikar, cover by Ignacio Valicenti.

We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible, and safe.

If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, Comixology has digital copies available for $13.99 right here. Midtown Comics has physical copies available for $14.44 plus shipping here, and Amazon has it for $13.99 right here.

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 tweets about comic books and cystic fibrosis awareness.

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