Posted by Don MacPherson on August 31st, 2009
Razorjack: Collection Edition softcover trade paperback
Writer/Artist: John Higgins
Colors: John Higgins, Sam Hart, Rod Reis & Sally Hurst
Letters: Eddie Deighton
Editors: Craig Johnson, Eddie Deighton & Benjamin Shahrabani
Price: $12.99 US/8.99 UK
I’d never heard tell of Razorjack when this review copy turned up in my mailbox, but I am familiar with the work of writer/artist John Higgins. His name has been popping up a lot in the industry as of late, as this year’s release of the Watchmen film have sparked many to recall that Higgins was the original colorist on the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic-book series. But no one should make the mistake of thinking of him only in that context. While I’m not familiar with much of his UK work, Higgins was one of the cornerstone creators involved in various Vertigo titles from DC earlier in the imprint’s history. With that in mind, I approached this work with some anticipation. While I admired the mad intensity of the story and art, Razorjack is a confusing mish-mash of genres and plotlines jammed into too-few chapters.
In a universe on the outer edge of reality, a murderous, all-powerful dark goddess named Razorjack and her demented, bloodthirsty underlings reign supreme over a nightmarish landscape, but what they really want to dominate is the Core Dimension. Bad news, folks, because that’s our dimension. As a group of friends goof around with rituals that could open the door to these superhuman killing machines, two homicide detectives — Frame and Ross — work tirelessly to bring a cult of killers to justice while fighting corruption on the police force. Little do they know that they’ll soon be fighting an unimaginable kind of corruption.
There are a number of influences at play in Higgins’s art, not the least of which is that of Frank (Sin City) Miller. I’m also reminded of the styles of such artists as John (Herogasm) McCrea, Tom (The Spectre) Mandrake and Richard (Hellboy: The Crooked Man) Corben. He and his assistant colorists make excellent use of weird hues to convey the supernatural and unnatural elements of the story. The action — notably Frame’s confrontation with Kahn and Jones — is well choreographed. I like some of his character designs; he certainly conveys the inhuman qualities of Razorjack and her gruesome “handmaidens.” However, some of the characters are rendered inconsistently. For example, in a key scene featuring a character named O’Malley, it’s surprisingly difficult to discern which character is, in fact, O’Malley at times. Conversely, Higgins’s designs for Ross and Nat, one of the youths who helped to summon the monsters, are far too alike. It makes for some dizzying reading during the pivotal, climactic scene. Furthermore, Higgins often abandons panel borders, and while the fluid approach can be attractive, it can also be confusing.
Higgins’s dialogue is dense, which is understandable given the multiple plotlines that converge here. It goes a long way to clear up what’s going on. Mind you, the dialogue from Razorjack and company is designed to be alien in tone, which serves as something of a barrier. Still, one can piece it together for the most part. The dialogue is a bit clunky, though, notably when Higgins tries to immerse the reader in the hard-boiled cop-genre elements. “You’re a loose cannon, we don’t need that in this department.” Ouch. It’d work if this was meant to be a cop-genre satire in part, but that’s not the case.
Ultimately, this property’s biggest problem is its creator’s desire to tell multiple stories and to combine multiple genres. The book opens on a violent, weird otherdimensional plane. It sends the signal that this is the primary setting and these are the primary characters. In reality, it’s Frame and Ross, introduced a few pages later, who are really at the center of the plot. The cult/organized crime angle is a tangential element that really has nothing to do with the main story. Furthermore, the whole book is a drawn-out origin story that offers little or no resolution. The storytelling lacks focus, and that scattered approach keeps the strengths in Higgins’s work from fully emerging. 4/10
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