Τρίτη, 22 Μαΐου 2012

What I Think About Stuff-Scud: The Disposable Assasin


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Scud the Disposable Assassin or Comic Books that must Survive the Apocalypse #1

With the nerdgasm that I called the Metabarons Retrospective behind us, I think I should tackle this awesome comic book series with a touch more dignity in an effort to present myself as a proper internet reviewer, instead of yet another slobbering fanboy. But before I put on my serious face





Because nothing communicates seriousness better than the man who ruined Ghost Rider and very nearly cockslapped the Superman movie franchise into oblivion

A little bit of backstory:
As I mentioned before, comic book nerddom in Greece used to be a bitch. Comic books were hard to find and the only comic book characters we could get our hands on were Iron Man, Superman and Slavegirl Ilsa.


I forgot to mention Spiderman, but then again I never gave two shits about him.

I found out about Scud (both the comic book and the character) while I was browsing through the pages of a translated GamePro magazine article. There, in glorious two-page spread, was the announcement for a game that would never come out in my country, on a console that no one that ever fucking mattered ever owned: 


This cover, to me, was as incomprehensible to a turtle outrunning a marathon runner who can’t even cross a goddamn room.

Yup. Scud the Disposable Assassin on the Sega Saturn. One of the most original, inspiring and best written comic book characters got his very first video game adaptation stuck inside a doomed console, found itself trapped within its fold of rotting flesh and was submerged in the mire that is the place where every failed game system goes to when it dies, its light very nearly lost to Man forever. 

So I comforted myself by reading its preview page over again and again, because it was the story’s premise that sank its chrome-tipped claws into my forebrain and dug terrible tunnels of imagination inside my grey matter. Imagine if you will, being 13 years old and reading the following paragraph:

“Scud (heartbreaker model series 1373) is a disposable assassin. He’s a robot you can buy off your corner vending machine, program it so it kills someone you hate, then self-destructs, destroying any evidence tying it to you! Sounds neat, huh? But what happens when one of them realizes this implication and opts to mutilate and then keep its primary target (a horrible monster named Jeff) in intensive care so it can survive?”

JESUS CHRIST. This is nothing like you’ve never encountered before, 13-year old me! You think to yourself: Wow, assassin, cool. And he’s also a robot but…what the hell is this? He’s trying to keep himself from blowing up? A superhero who’s a robot, has guns AND a very human goal? This is the most original and awesome thing you’ve ever read so far!


Even topping your first little orgasm upon realizing that this thing existed at the time.

Scud was stuck in my brain for a very, very long time and all I had to go with was this tiny little paragraph and a couple shitty screenshots. It was only much, much later that I found out that this series had been completed and was available in paperback format, albeit incomplete. I was about to lose hope, when by accident (or fate), I stumbled upon this little piece of excellent news while browsing the interwebs:


This cover was like being told my supermodel wife had just given birth to a superpowered infant on the eve of the day where mankind abolished death.

Scud was finally available in its entirety to the public, Rob Schrab’s most glorious work and the object of my decade-long obsession. Naturally, I immediately placed an order and received the comic book a few days later, all the while reminding myself that I shouldn’t keep my hopes up. I had been hurt by comic books before, you see.

It was during my university experimental phase, when I mistakenly considered every incomprehensible comic book to be artsy and cool.

But when I opened the pages, I realized that I wasn’t ready for this. Oh god, I wasn’t ready:


This is your brain on Rob Schrab.

The series is an action-packed, high-octane, funny-as-fuck trip through the emotional and spiritual development of a cold hearted serial killer into becoming much more than even he considered himself able to be. It’s part action movie, part artsy journey through a character’s psyche and reads like a comic book adaptation of playing Devil May Cry.


Hahahaha! No, not this one. NOTHING like this one.

Okay, geeking out done. Time to look at this as objectively as possible. Before we begin, a synopsis on this story’s most important aspects:

·         Scud revolves around an original premise: Scud: The Disposable Assassin revolves around an amoral automaton that is designed to take lives. His sole purpose, at least in the beginning of the series, is survival and he tears pretty much everything in his way apart, only to ensure it. As a result, you find yourself constantly worrying about the character’s well-being and never take him for granted.

·         There’s not a single unoriginal character in its cast of hundreds: From Drywall to Voodoo Ben to the Cosa Nostroid mafia, there’s not one character who can be called generic, uninspired, or even forgettable. Each of them has their own personality, style and looks which works wonders toward following this epic adventure in its entirety.

·         The love story is a well-oiled character development machine: Rarely have I seen a love story in a comic book work both ways, that is toward helping both characters in the couple develop. Through the second half of the series, we get to see Sussudio and Scud evolve from selfish caterpillars


Self-centered, asshole caterpillars.

Into selfless, lovable (and very much in love) people.

·         Rob Schrab can draw one hell of a fight scene: I’ve yet to see an action/fight scene that’s better presented/handled than the ones in Scud. Best part is that there’s a ton of them, each one better than the last.

  And now, here’s some of its weak points:

·         The narrative pace can get a tad hectic and unfocused at times. This does not apply to me, but it is one of the most common complaints I’ve heard from people who did not find Scud to their liking and I get that. While Rob Schrab does an excellent work into weaving all necessary information into the narrative while avoiding infodumps, this lack of explanation hurts the story.

·          Certain characters lack a backstory, follow-up or explanation: Said characters are Oswald, Hank Gritt and the Cosa Nostroid. As far as I know, these characters do get their own miniseries/debuts in spin-off volumes (called Tales from the Vending Machine), but since they are extremely hard to find, I can’t propose a valid counter-argument.

·         The final story arc feels rushed: There. I said it. The final story arc for Scud was written after Rob Schrab took an extended hiatus from his series, after leaving it off during an unexpected, depressing cliffhanger. His work picks up right where he left off and leads us into an epic final confrontation, which unfortunately didn’t satisfy me. Make no mistake, I LOVED the ending to the series but I can tell that Rob wanted to get it out of the way.

Phew. Okay, intro’s done. Everybody take a deep breath, strap your helmets on and check your jetpack straps, cause we’re about to dive into the saga of Scud: The Disposable Assassin. 


About fucking time!

 The series is set in some strange, future version of Earth, where Rapture came but never quite went. It was supposed to be the herald of the End Times, God’s “Sit Down and Shut up” before the big event. 

Problem is, the Rapture was never really followed up by anything. It just happened, everybody shrugged and the world kept on trucking.

This raises the first question: what was Rob Schrab’s version of the Rapture? It can’t have been the biblical event, because it’s never mentioned, not even once and there’s no reference that verifies this.


Which could be a good thing, since most Google image searchs for “Rapture” look like schlocky desktop wallpapers.

Was it something else? Some different kind of event that somehow caused some inexplicable change in the human psyche or genetics? Was it the event that brought about the first instance of human-alien contact (as evidenced by the presence of Superior Alien Military)?


Whose attempt to soothe the Earth Monkeys by wearing humanoid visages isn’t making them any less creepy?

On one hand, I’d love to know what the Rapture was. On the other, I’m glad it’s not explained. I like how they leave me in the dark so I can fantasize how the Rapture turned out to be some rip in the space-time continuum that helped us establish contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, instead of it being the universal “screw you” proposed by the Bible.

An unspecified number of years after this, ScudCo releases its first series of disposable assassins (available in automated vendors near you), instantly dominating the market as a viable substitute to actually dealing with your problems like a civilized being.


That’s the ghost of an astronaut that’s wiser than Buddha.

The above lines of dialogue both enforce the series’ theme and prove its futility at the same time. Mankind has obviously forgotten how to be, well, human. And we see this in a number of instances throughout the series. Not only in the way humans have changed superficially…


They told me I could be anything. So I became a zebra, then changed my mind halfway and went with moose.

But also mentally and psychologically. They’re buying automated assassins in street corners so they can kill people they don’t get along with, for fuck’s sake!

Our story begins when some unimportant little pencil-pusher working for a mysterious magnate named Mr. Spidergod (owner of Marvin’s Mannikans)

This doesn’t look like a super villain’s lair AT ALL.

Who buys the services of Scud from his nearest vending machine. He does this so he can be rid of a mysterious creature that has been killing the staff and causing untold damage inside the factory. Every attempt made so far to eliminate or restrain it has failed, which forces them to go for the cheapest, bloodiest solution.

Scud immediately sets off to destroy the creature and let me tell you, for a first issue, it hooks you. I’m not just talking about the choreography and its transitions scenes of course. No sir, I’m talking with the very first thing that SLAMS you the minute you see Jeff (Scud’s bane and nightmare for the rest of the series.


Besides the fact that her design was obviously the result of a horrible peyote trip involving faulty electrical wiring.

She’s a creature with arms for legs, mousetraps for hands, a squid strapped to its chest and a plug for a head. She’s also ten feet tall and speaks in sound bites. Furthermore, she’s able to graft all kinds of random weapons, items and living beings onto her stumps in a pinch. What I’m saying is, she’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before in a monster. She’s both funny and original but at the same time she looks like a monster from the Lovecraft Mythos, if HPL had a sense of humor.


"A brilliant man, Howard was, though mirthless. Only once did I hear him laugh a short, hysterical bark, let out upon hearing of a dead baby joke."-Actual Clark Ashton Smith quote.

Scud, realizing by accident that he will self-destruct upon killing his target, instead decides to disable Jeff for good and make his survival his life’s goal, by doing hits so he can pay for her hospital bills.

Scud begins his career by working for the Italian Cyborg Mafia, who sends him off to perform a hit on a convict in the Mark Goodson state Penitentiary, which of course goes wrong in every possible way. 

This story reads like a tabletop rpg session gone haywire, where the GM just tosses his screen behind his back, goes ‘screw it’ and makes shit up as he goes with glorious consequences.


Or sometimes he messes up and the players are immediately on to him, in which case he must take his cyanide pill (included in every Dungeon Master’s Guide).

The best part is, of course, the point where Scud’s contempt unit goes haywire, gets cranked up to the OH DEAR GOD WHY setting and this happens:


There’s no way you can’t see this in real life and both laugh and shit your pants at the same time.

After the bloodbath (and blasphemy) following his very first job as a freelancer, Scud goes to another rampage and leaves a swath of destruction behind him, before he returns to his employers.

It’s there that we get a first glimpse into what will become the Cosa Nostroid famiglia and are treated to the (possibly first in recorded history) cyborg Mafiosi vs dinosaur zombies fight.


Which makes the whole “Pirates Vs Ninjas” thing seem dull as shit in comparison.

Scud saves the day of course and moves on to his next job, while at the same time providing the fuel that will allow the beginning of what I am told is an excellent comic book series, the Cosa Nostroid, which as of yet has eluded publication as a collected work. And that’s a goddamn shame.

Having foiled Voodoo Ben’s revenge scheme, Scud has his first encounter with the old magician, which…you know what? Here’s a pic:


Is that an Atari symbol on VooDoo Ben’s belly? 

Oh wow. Just…wow. I’ve read this comic book a hundred times and I just now realized that typing: “Ben Franklin in a Houngan suit and Scud shoot the shit out of each other on miniature jets as they rush cross an avenue, moments before they crash into a mini-mart” can’t even come close to describing the levels of awesome into this comic.

Returning to my favorite comic book-as-a-meal metaphor, Scud is more like a Happy Meal prepared by Gordon Ramsey. It’s made out of the freshest meat with buns made my bakers brought to tears while under constant verbal abuse, garnished with condiments made by ingredients picked by the outmost care and served with a side of fries fried by Buddhist monks solely trained for this purpose.

What I’m trying to say is that it looks like a run of the mill sci-fi comic book but it’s made out of mind-blowing ingredients that you need to experience firsthand so you can understand.


Preferably with a glass of Chardonnay set on your nightstand.

To go on trying to compress the following event on Scud: The Disposable Assassin would not do them justice, which is why I invite you to do the following exercise.

  • Get off your ass or at least open a new browser tab
  • Google or pick your favorite, most kick-ass music cd (or track)
  • Play it while reading the following:
·   

In a pinch, try Prodigy’s VooDoo People.

After fighting off VooDoo Ben and the new Scud Sol and realizing his series has been discontinued, Scud immediately goes to search for a replacement arm. The mechanic, stuck in a pich gives him a replacement arm, which turn out to be a werewolf arm belonging to some Shakespearean actor while he’s stuck in Bobsled, killing off a gang of criminal influenced by old timey celebrities and pop culture references.


Thank god for the internet or you’d never get the joke.

Thanks to his werewolf arm and the help of Drywall (an intelligent, lovable extra-dimensional entity whose voice I picture as zippers opening and closing in unison) sent in by ComKillServ, Scud kills the gang and pulls one over the crappy townsfolk of Bobsled, while at the same time fighting off Jeff and having a religious experience.

With Drywall in tow, Scud then rides a teleportation beam set up by the British Space Force (kinda like NASA, but with more Shakespeare) and attempts to find the man whose arm he took. Adter a couple of interesting puns and a lot of red herrings, the culprit is discovered to be the original werewolf, the Wolf of Ragnarok, Fenris. The beast, planning to turn himself into primordial power, lands on the moon and feeds of its power, giving us the best transition I’ve ever seen:


For added effect, imagine this scene played out by a different voice actor with a totally different pitch per speech bubble.

And turns himself into a black hole. Attempting to devour Earth and pretty much everything after that, Scud stops him dead in his tracks and gets teleported back to earth, to fight in the Mr. Tough Guy competition on behalf of Scud Co. After a teensy bit of cheating, it turns out Sussudio was the winner of the match, breaking every rule in the competition, who makes a voodoo doll to restrain and kidnap Scud. She then gets betrayed by VooDoo Ben (who initially hired her for this) and everything ends in an epic, climactic battle between Spidergod’s private military force and VooDoo Ben’s zombie army.


There’s no way I can do this page justice.

*huff huff huff* And then-

Time stops, Scud and Sussudio ride a horse that crosses time and space and end up in Heaven somehow, where the angels blackmail cud into killing the Earth, torturing Sussudio in the process, then trap Scud in an egg so he’ll show up in Earth so he can kill Jeff once and for all, thus bringing about the End Times!

Oh dear Jesus, this recap was harder than you think. Especially since I had to take out most of the spoilers. But if you read it, you’ve probably realized exactly the kind of break-neck awesome you deal with the minute you start reading this series. 

This has already turned into a huge review, so I guess I’ll just have to end it here, before I start spoiling things for everyone. The gist of the review is this: 

This comic book must be preserved inside an air-tight container and left for future generations. I’m not just saying this because I love it, but because it’s a series that parodies human nature (and our materialistic tendencies)


Specifically our fixation with building bigger, faster, better, stronger shit we don’t actually need

Emphasizes on spirituality and presents a viable, interesting love story as well as a sleuth of characters unlike anything else I’ve seen (and a kick-ass Final Boss).

In short, Scud: The Disposable Assassin is what other comic books should strive to be: fresh, original, fast and hard as hell but with a clearly defined purpose. Mr. Schrab, You’ve probably heard this A LOT, but from a nerd who loved your comic book since he only had a preview, thank you.


God bless you, Mr. Schrab
Addendum:
Am I the only one who think Scud should get another chance at this whole videogame scene? Perhaps with a proper director like let’s say the man who gave us Bayonetta


You know, the just-barely-pornographic action game where you turn your hair into Lovecraftian horrors?

On a modern gaming system, without any dumb-ass QTEs?







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