Written by Joel T. Lewis
There have been a lot of Horror Comics. There have been a lot of independently published Horror Comics. But there hasn’t been a comic quite like Scratcher before. John Ward and Juan Romera deliver a story that manages to be unique, familiar, and fascinating all at once. Scratcher is what you’d get if you took Evil Dead, swapped Ash out for a badass, lesbian tattoo artist of color with a strong sense of pride, responsibility, and enough demons on the inside to match the ones she faces on the outside. The premise of Scratcher is exceptional in its simplicity; a tattoo artist tracks down her old clients that have become possessed by the tattoos she gave them. What a unique delivery system for mayhem!
And this is the critical element with Horror: innovation. How many zombie, vampire, possession, or slasher premises have we seen recycled and rebranded over the last 15 years across all mediums? What keeps us jumping in fright and fascinated by fear is surprise, and when a creator is able to breathe new life into a genre with something as surprising as demon tattoos that’s exciting! That’s what Scratcher brings to the table; it’s wildly refreshing.
Now I would like to say at this time that this is a Spoiler Free review of Part 2, but I will not refrain from spoiling elements from Part 1, so if you haven’t read the first issue (and you really should!) please do so before continuing. We catch up with Dee Wilson as she arrives in Los Angeles to track down Jerry Jones, one of her 3 remaining clients. She finds Jerry preaching in a derelict church to an usual audience of garbage. After having her offer of assistance violently rejected by the deteriorating priest, Dee teams up with a mysterious molecular virologist who has a theory that the people Dee tattooed are suffering from a nano-virus introduced into their systems by the tattoo ink. This unlikely duo proceeds to track Jerry down in order to obtain a tissue sample from him and stop him from committing further acts of horrific violence.
The Scratcher comics are brisk and you get your money’s worth. Reading over the issues I was impressed by the amount of ground Ward was able to cover in only 28 pages. Where I could easily see DC or Marvel milking the narrative beats of this issue out over 2 or 3 months, throwing multiple last panel cliffhangers, I found myself pleasantly surprised that each issue of Scratcher gave me more actual story than I anticipated. This issue was action-packed and the twist Ward leaves you with really opens up the world he’s created.
Juan Romera’s artwork leaps off the page, almost a combination of Francesco Francavilla and Jeff Lemire’s work but with an exceptional eye for shadow and facial expression. The comic is gorgeous and the way Romera directs the eye from panel to panel, page to page, is incredible, subtle, and compelling. The cover art for this issue in particular is spectacular. It’s juxtaposition of the cherry blossom tattoos with the gore dripping from the closed fist and the imagery of the crucifix is very evocative. I was also impressed with Romera’s rendition of the iconic Griffith Observatory. The detail, shading, and shadow work is really quite breathtaking, especially with such a unique and recognizable landmark. This is a series to add to the pull list dear readers. It’s brilliantly executed, refreshing, and layered and I cannot wait for Part 3! Until next time, Geek On!
Look out for Scratcher: Part 2 on Comixology in April!
Special Thanks goes out to John Ward for providing Nerds That Geek with an Advanced Copy of Scratcher: Part 2!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
Mister Miracle is a special book, but I can no longer find that surprising. Special books are what you get from Tom King. He took Dick Grayson in a new direction with his spy series Grayson, he reshaped how a lot of us think of Marvel’s Vision in his brilliant 2 volume series, he’s breathed new life into the post Rebirth Batman series, and finally there’s Miracle Man. Look, if you know anything about me from my effusive Moon Knight reviews, or the Movie Mumble Podcast, you are aware of my tendency to discover an author, actor, director, character, aesthetic, what have you, and subsequently devour every little thing that I can about it. It’s almost a compulsion I have, it’s as if by discovering this avenue of content I was unaware of I’ve opened a chasm of desire, a hole in myself that I didn’t know needed filling that I have to fix.
I discovered Tom King through the Batman/Flash Crossover Arc ‘The Button’ which was the first real thread of the Watchmen/DC crossover event that was introduced by the Rebirth reboot of the DC Universe. And while I had come to that arc in particular to see what DC were going to do with the daunting task of merging these two comic book universes, I was struck by King’s tenderness when it came to Bruce Wayne. For a little bit of context, in the ‘Button’ Arc Flash and Batman travel to a parallel timeline (created in the DC Flashpoint event) where Bruce Wayne was murdered in that alley instead of his parents, and as a result, Thomas Wayne becomes a twisted foil of Batman and Martha Wayne becomes the Joker. The way that King handled the meeting between father and son across the chasm of time and chance was heartbreaking, generous, and tender, and it was this treatment of a character I love so dearly that brought me back to that series for the following 15 issues.
I then picked up King’s outstanding and eerie Vision series. The bizarre charm of King’s domestic drama starring the animatronic Avenger is something you simply must read to believe. From the opening panels depicting the Vision family’s jet-propelled mailbox to the escalating violence and mystery that develops throughout the 12 issue series, King strikes a balance between the uncanny and the innocent. I was mesmerized as Vision and the android family he built for himself, failed to live up to the domestic expectations of middle class suburbia. Reading that series was like eating a Twilight Zone cake: ominous and delicious.
Now out of that Batman series nearly every issue was a gem, particularly King’s Batman: Elmer Fudd issue, the whole of the ‘War of Jokes and Riddles’ arc, and the ‘Proposal’ issue, but the story that really stood out for me happened to be issue 23 ‘The Brave and the Mold.’ Now I did write a review of that issue for Nerds That Geek back in July of 2017 so I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s probably in my top five issues of Batman ever. Spectacular title, great cover, a Swamp Thing team-up: it has everything. But it also happened to be a one-time collaboration between Tom King and Mitch Gerads, whose work just compliments each other brilliantly. That’s not to say that King hadn’t collaborated with wildly talented artists before this; with talents like Clay Mann, David Finch, Jason Fabok, and Mikel Janin on Batman and Mike Del Mundo on Vision, King is no stranger to seeing his work brought to dazzling life by a brilliant artist. But something was different about the team-up between Bats and Swampy, King and Gerads, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, if they gave these guys their own series together I’d be in on day one.’
Turns out DC decided to give them their own series: Mister Miracle. And it was so popular that the first issue sold out so fast that I had to wait for the second printing before I could read it. The reason I haven’t been reviewing this series issue by issue is that I’ve had difficulty putting my admiration into words. One of the invigorating habits of the comic books in my life has been their ability to make me passionately invested in characters I knew nothing about, or couldn’t have cared less about, within the first few panels of a single issue. Christian Ward and Saladin Ahmed did it for me with Black Bolt, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman did it with the Mighty Thor, and King and Gerads have done it for me with Mister Miracle. Their startling fresh take on one of Jack Kirby’s New God’s characters, the master escape artist Scott Free has been the comic I’ve been most eager to crack open every month, and the recent sabbatical that the creators took between the two arcs of their 12 issue series was almost unbearable. It’s stunning, it’s tragic, it’s important. There are a number of ways to navigate your way through the wide world of comics. You can follow a character, a storyline, an artist, or if you choose to follow an author, you won’t be disappointed if you start with Tom King. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by John Edward Betancourt
So, it came to pass, the Last Son of Krypton, the world's greatest protector, a man made of steel had fallen in the streets of Metropolis, defending it with his life. The world was stunned, and all would mourn the passing of Superman, but his death...was only temporary. Yes, the Return of Superman was the only logical plot line to follow his death and DC Comics pulled out all the stops in telling such a tale.
Following his demise at the hands of Doomsday, the Man of Steel is entombed within a shrine and the world seems to be a worse place without him. But in his absence, there seems to be a flicker of hope as four men, each bearing the seal of the house of El upon their chest step in to save the day, and their arrival will make the world a vastly different place.
I have to admit, the entire story of how Superman returned, was to me, as compelling as the story that came before it. We had no clue who might have been the real Kal-El when it came to this ‘Reign of the Supermen’, minus of course Steel since John Henry Irons was born on earth. But the other three...well, they all looked like the Man of Steel, and flat out had his genetic makeup and it made for some incredible storytelling.
After all, the storyline did a fine job of slowly revealing the true origins of these Supermen and I loved that the Cyborg, who appeared to be the true reanimation of Superman at first, turned out to be one of the nastiest villains out there. After all, destroying Coast City and murdering seven million people in order to build an engine is pretty damn cold blooded. Oddly enough, my brother and I were split on who was the real Superman. My money was on the Eradicator since he seemed like a man who had dealt with death and my bro was all about the Cyborg and well...we were both wrong. Since it turned out the real Kal-El was healing inside the Fortress of Solitude all this time.
Either way, this was a story arc that completely pulled me in. I not only wanted to see Superman return badly, but I could not wait to see how he came back to life after being devastated by Doomsday. Of course, the story between Doomsday and Superman wasn’t quite wrapped up just yet, but we will visit that another day, down the road.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I remember growing up, when DC dropped a massive bombshell on all of us; the fact that Superman was going to die. It was something unheard of at the time, and such a big deal that it managed to make the six o’clock news back in the day and for me, it was a huge deal through and through, and The Death of Superman is still big and sweeping enough for me to go back and revisit whenever I have the time.
For those unfamiliar with the story line, buried on earth was a massive and monstrous creature. Covered in thick skin and jutting bone, a being known as Doomsday emerged from the depths of our world to go on a rampage. A monster of incredible power, Doomsday managed to beat down the ranks of the Justice League before finally meeting its match in Superman. But their battle left Metropolis in ruins and worst of all, the world without its greatest hero. When I first heard that the end was near for Superman, I made it a point to know the entire story, after all, this is the first superhero I had ever known thanks to my dad and it only seemed right to know exactly what force in his world could stop a man of steel.
Needless to say, I made sure to do extra chores, to earn extra allowance so I had enough cash to grab as many issues of this story as possible, and I was able to get my hands on a back issue of the Doomsday storyline every time my family went to the grocery store since a comic book store was right around the corner. But little could prepare my young mind for the horrors that awaited me in Issue #75, since that was the one that featured the Death of Superman.
As a young boy, this is a story that I look back upon with great fondness simply because of the fact that it completely and utterly captivated me. Doomsday was chilling to see on the pages as the writers and artists slowly revealed the creature's hideous form and the fact that it was simply a force of nature in many ways made the story even more incredible. But of course, the big stunner was that Superman was indeed dead. It really didn't seem possible but there he was, lying still atop the ruins of Metropolis as Lois wept.
It was a powerful image, a powerful comic series and in many ways, it truly ignited my love for comics with its incredible story arc. I know some people are not fans of this particular moment in DC Comics' history, but for me...it was a bold and powerful story that stunned me to no end and I wasn't kidding when I said that there are times I pull out the trade paperback of the entire saga and find myself in awe once again as I relive the moment when Superman died…