Sunday, September 13, 2009

Razorjack: That doesn't sound like a girl's name

This is a strange one:

By John Higgins

Now this is a comic that I don't understand. Well, maybe I do, but it's pretty hard to follow nonetheless. An obvious labor of love (or some equal emotion) by John Higgins, who is probably best knows as the "third man" on Watchmen, where he provided the color, but has been working on the British comics scene for years , this strange comic is all about demonic forces trying to break into our reality, although that only becomes clear after a good portion of the book is over. It's also about cops and college students and various conspiratorial forces, and who knows what else. I suspect that the only person who fully understands it is John Higgins himself.

The story, as I can make it out, sees a conflict in some sort of demonic realm between the villainous demon woman of the title and a less-evil (perhaps angelic?) creature named Helen. After Razorjack captures and apparently kills Helen, she has enough power to try to open a door into our reality. Meanwhile, two cops (one male, one female, and both the buck-the-system type) inadvertently stumble into the supernatural action while investigating some sort of upper-crust cult, and they end up in the same old building as some theater students who are in the process of making that old horror-movie mistake of reciting some ancient text and opening a gateway to another world. After lots of shooting and weird demon energy swirling about, one cop is dead and the other wounded, and one of the kids might or might not be possessed. Jump forward in time a few weeks (which presumably happened between issues of the original miniseries, although there are no indications of chapter breaks or anything), and the city is a shambles, a serial killer is on the loose, and the dead detective's body has disappeared. Will everyone reunite for an explosive finale that answers all the questions about what the hell has been going on? Well, not really, but there's an ending at least, with hints that there's more to the story and an epilogue that all but confirms that Higgins would like to continue telling tales of humans fighting demonic incursions into reality.

If that description makes any sense at all, it's because much flipping back and forth while reading resulted in a vague understanding of what is supposed to be going on; while reading, it's a barrage of weird imagery and events that don't always make sense; Higgins' fractured storytelling style probably makes sense to him, but some coherence was lost in getting it onto paper. The first half/two-thirds of the book jumps back and forth between scenes (and planes of reality) willy-nilly and without warning (aside from impenetrable captions like "Core Loop - Nexus Minus 24") that it seems like a jumble of barely-related imagery, and characters and plots appear and disappear without ever being explained. The most egregious of these is the strange, murderous cult and its two hulking-yet-well-mannered assassins, who might or might not be involved in all the demonic mayhem, but there's also some stuff about a corrupt police captain that doesn't make much sense either.

But maybe all that is a feature, rather than a bug. As previously stated, this all seems to make perfect sense to Higgins, and he seems to be striving to get his fevered vision down onto paper as best he can. Sure, the dialogue is kind of choppy, but if you read it right, it's got a sort of consistent rhythm to it. And the art usually makes sense, with action staged dynamically and excitingly, and plenty of gore spicing up the proceedings. And there's plenty of memorable imagery here too, like the disturbing site of the evil police captain being discovered "giving mouth-to-mouth" to the injured policewoman:

And the sights of the demonic realm are suitably disturbing, combining exaggerated sexuality with grotesque anatomy and horrific facial features, with the queen bitch of the title being an especially nasty sight:

Your mileage may vary, of course, since this isn't a perfect comic by any means, but Higgins does demonstrate some skill with putting together a comic; in other hands, this might be totally incomprehensible. As it is, it's only mostly so, but the feeling that it all makes sense in another dimension adds to the creepy atmosphere; if you want to be really weirded out by a comic, this might be right up your alley.