By Daniel Vlasaty
This is the second new #1 issue I am reviewing this week. And this is also the second new series I am jumping into without knowing anything at all about it. I had never even heard of Lazaretto until I saw it pop up on our review list for the week. And I chose to review it based on the cover art alone. Something I have done many times before. And not just with comics, but with movies and books and music. They say never judge a book by its cover. And that’s true in this case too. But the exact opposite of what the saying actually means. Because in the case of Lazaretto, the cover is the best, and possibly only, good thing about this book.
Lazaretto is about going away to college. It’s about being out on your own for the first time and all the responsibility that comes with that. We’ve all been there before. If you’ve gone to college, you’ll be able to relate to all the emotion and feelings and awkwardness that comes with it. Even if, like me, you never went away to school you’ll still be able to relate. Because this is nothing new or exciting. If you’ve seen any movie or TV show or read any book, etc., about college life or going away to school, or characters moving out in your own for the first time, then you’ve seen this before. I think Clay McLeod Chapman gets a lot of this right. But it’s just… so what? The characters here feel cliched and flat. Our two main characters, Charles and Tamara, are also cliches. Charles is from Chicago. He’s black, and he’s got a hard-ass father and a loving/nurturing mom. He’s tough and street-smart, but also there’s a sensitive side to him too, and he’s introspective. Tamara is white and pretty, and she is very religious. She prays with her dad when he drops her off at her dorm room. She prays a lot. Also, I’ll bet her mom’s dead. Because, again, it’s easy to make assumptions when the characters are characters you’ve seen hundreds of times before.
Aside from all that, Lazaretto is also about a flu pandemic. This one is the canine flu. It’s sweeping across the campus – and the world, it appears. At first just in a bunch of people coughing in the background. And then it almost immediately gets ramped the fuck up to apocalyptic levels. The issue is a lot of
Also, I have a very real fear that this flu is going to cause those infected to develop zombie-like symptoms. We get a small taste of something similar to this already in issue #1. And there’s nothing out-right wrong with zombies or stories about viruses that make people zombie-like. It’s just that it’s kind of lazy. It’s the easy way out.
The way the issue ended is kind of confusing to me. I’ll admit, though, that I did look the book up after finishing this issue and I saw somewhere that Lazaretto is being compared to books like Lord of the Flies. Which I can see. I just don’t know if I care to follow these two boring characters through that type of story for multiple issues. The two of them made such a stupid and weird and bad decision at the end of issue #1 that I can already see myself getting angry-annoyed at the way the rest of this book unfolds.
While I was reading, I was trying to figure out what the art reminded me of. I couldn’t figure it out. And then it hit me. It reminds me of – I’m going to call it – middle school art. Like the kind of art people draw when they’re in middle school. But I will admit that it did get slightly better as the issue went on. At first, though, it was sloppy and kind of unfinished looking. Like I said, though, it did get slightly better. But then it kind of got inconsistent. Some panels were good, some were bad. Some pages were good, some weren’t. I did notice that the art was better when the panel was a “close-up.” If it was pulled back to show more of the scenery and space, then it again went sloppy and unfinished looking. Jey Levang’s art is just not the kind of comic book art that I gravitate toward. But I can see, in places, how some people might enjoy it more than me.
I don’t know. I know this is a first issue and it takes some time to build the story up. It takes some time for these things to get their legs, or whatever the saying is. But, for me at least, I’ve noticed lately that I have less and less time to read (comics, books, whatever) for entertainment and enjoyment only – having an eight-month-old at home will do that to you and your time. So, (again this is just me here, other people may feel differently about this, I guess) with such a limited amount of time to read FOR FUN why should I waste my time on something I’m not into all the way? If I’m not with it to 100, then what’s the point? That’s just how I feel about it.