Scrimshaw #1 Review: A Genre Shotgun Blast To The Face
In a future where the world has been all but wiped out by the melted polar ice caps, followed by constant wars between the remaining nations, everything has been bought up by scattered corporate entities and sparse national alliances. Enter Scrimshaw.
Some live in the sparse cities surrounded by great walls; others sail the high seas in giant vessels.
It is in this world where we find Hans Tanaka and Saigo searching for a hallucinogen of great value. Their search leads them through corporate assaults and great danger before they can return to their ship, the Runaway Horse.
To say that this is a genre-blending comic would be a vast understatement. It's more of a genre buffet or a genre smorgasbord. It's a sci-fi dystopian future with corporate espionage, Western sensibilities, a samurai warrior/pirate captain protagonist, a freaking superpowered crewman, and an overwhelming sense of Waterworld by way of Akira hovering over the proceedings. They even hint at the idea of monsters in the oceans, which could bring some kaiju fiction into the mix.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with this. I frequently read superhero comics by Marvel and DC, and they practically skip rope with genre. Batman and Daredevil's main motifs are noir detective stories, true crime, courtroom dramas, martial arts action, and the occasional horror episodes.
Heck, even the widely renowned Samurai Jack mixes its mystic samurai narrative with western motifs and a good bit of retro-futurism.
However, these elements were developed over time; they weren't thrown at the reader from issue one. This need to establish everything at once makes Scrimshaw #1 an ungainly mess.
It wants to throw so much at you at once. And the fact that it does heavily borrow from other fiction like Akira, Waterworld, Pacific Rim, Mad Max, Pirates of the Carribean, The Trees, and many other things in its jigsaw puzzle of different stories doesn't help it maintain an air of originality or freshness.
Consequently, the reader doesn't get to know the protagonists very well in this issue. Without any context or background information, their smug one-liners about how high Hans wants to get on this hallucinogenic octopus doesn't make them seem particularly likable.
This comic really needed to pace itself better. Trying to throw all of its ideas in a single issue was unwise at best and disastrous at worst.
The art isn't particularly bad, but it didn't wow me, either. It has a '90s aesthetic that comes off as a blend of Jae Lee and Jon Malin without really elevating to the level of either artist. The coloring is muted and pallid, not really drawing the eye. In a wonky world like this with samurai, pirates, corporate armies, and radiation-emitting Japanese people, a bit of life in the color would be fitting.
Scrimshaw #1 does have some neat ideas. The flooded world and carved-up nations are a decent setting for an apocalypse. Throwing in pirates and samurai is pretty neat. The fact that it wears its inspirations on its sleeve isn't even a bad thing; it just really needed to ease the reader in to its crazy world instead of throwing them into the deep end with nary a hint at how to navigate the waters. I can't recommend this one; give it a pass.
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