John Higgins is best known for his work as a colourist on books like Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, and numerous Judge Dredd titles, and most recently pencilled the Before Watchmen series, Crimson Corsair. Understandably for an artist who’s spent many years working on other peoples’ properties, Higgins wanted to create something that was distinctly his and, in 1999, he created the mini-series Razorjack, scripted by Mike Carroll. This year Titan have reissued the series in hardback with 2 additional new Razorjack short stories by Higgins along with some covers.
Higgins’ years spent working on comics of various genres is evident in Razorjack which combines elements of fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and crime, and while Higgins’ story is ambitious, the multiple genres, overly complex story, furious pace and limited page count make Razorjack a confused and confusing book.
Looking at the title and the cover – which features a naked human-ish female with a demonic, Predator-like head – you’d be forgiven for thinking this bizarre creation would be the focus of the story. Instead, besides the introductory few pages and some cameos dotted throughout, Razorjack barely appears in her own book! She’s relegated instead to an off-screen presence who waits in the wings rather than features prominently in centre stage. The story is instead mostly about a trio of high school kids rehearsing MacBeth who inadvertently summon a demon that possesses one of them turning him into a serial killer and the police who have to capture him. And a demon-worshipping cult is hot on their trail, as Razorjack prepares to enter our realm and enslave humanity (or some generically pointless bad guy goal).
Besides the incoherent plot, I kept wondering what we were supposed to feel about Razorjack herself: is she the heroine of this book or the villain? Do we want her to come to Earth or not? If she barely figures in a comic supposedly about her, why draw attention to her? The problem with the 80 pages the story has is how little space Higgins gives himself to introduce the characters, establish motivations and tone but still maintains a fast pace to the story and insists on a large cast to the effect that the reader doesn’t care about anyone or anything that happens to them, let alone follow or understand the story.
Higgins’ art is patchy throughout, portraying Razorjack and her world in a fantastically barbaric and imaginative way but sadly this sequence is brief as the bulk of the story takes place in dingy tenement buildings and drab office blocks on Earth. And while Razorjack and her comrades are dressed raunchily and crazily, the human cast – the high school kids, the cops – are all bizarrely dressed in late 80s/early 90s clothes, ie. non-gender specific baggy tops and bottoms. Never mind that it’s weird seeing a story published in 1999 featuring characters that look at least 10 years out of date, but once more it comes down to how we’re supposed to feel about the characters. Razorjack and her world seem so much more exciting, containing high energy and featuring characters who seem more alive, while our world is dreary in comparison – does Higgins want us to root for Razorjack to succeed, come to Earth and make all of our lives a bit more colourful?
Razorjack features so many different genre styles but none are executed memorably enough to make the mix effective. The crime/fantasy/horror sides to the story feels flat and uninspired, and have been done elsewhere in better comics, while the characters could barely be described as two-dimensional. Razorjack is simply too unfocused and its scattershot approach to everything in the book leaves absolutely no impression on the reader.
Razorjack by John Higgins and Mike Carroll is out now
This article was first posted on September 17, 2013