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Trading Up: Razorjack

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Combined for the first time into one complete package the Razorjack graphic novel collects John Higgins’ self-published material and the Com.x issues of the title together. Broken Frontier takes a look at the book that John Higgins himself describes as "Hard Boiled SF Noir". The back cover blurb gives the lowdown on Razorjack thusly...

A sequence of bizarre events create an unstable nexus that enables the death-bitch, Razorjack, and her twisted handmaidens the opportunity to finally break into our world – the most important dimension of them all – The Core Dimension. Three college kids inadvertently create the opening from the alternate universe of the Twist Dimension and become a focus for the evil that is Razorjack. Maverick cops, Frame and Ross, are assigned a disturbingly horrific multiple-murder case which draws them into what is potentially the final battle between good and evil.

To many, John Higgins will best be known as the man who brought color to the world of the Watchmen but that's only one isolated piece of work in a significant body of work spanning three-plus decades. Razorjack represents this writer/artist's major excursion into creator-owned work. You can read more about John's Razorjack journey in our recent interview with him: click here for Part 1 and Part 2

The above summary of the title’s premise underlines one of Razorjack’s peculiar charms – it is absolutely crammed to the rafters with characters, concepts and ideas. The story begins on our titular villainess’s home world and immediately jumps from scene to scene at dizzying speed introducing the reader to corrupt cops, teenager-murdering cults, hard-bitten detectives, dimensional rifts, sadistic oddball hitmen and much, much more ...

From the outset of this graphic novel Higgins immediately establishes the Twist Dimension’s Razorjack, and her lackeys the Twist Bitches, as a truly hideous alien evil. The imposition of their will on the feudal populace in the opening pages is truly horrific, particularly their "tax" of young children from the locals, setting the tempo from the outset for one of the most memorable comic book villains you are ever likely to meet. Razorjack’s direct opposite in this realm is the supernatural healing force known as Lady Helen whose children she has kidnapped and is using as a tool against her.

Meanwhile on Earth there are similarities to the Twist world with a cult sacrificing young adults and a minority of honest cops like Detectives Frame and Ross standing up to their corrupt superiors. The juxtaposition of scenes here allows Higgins to draw parallels between Razorjack’s alien hell and the more urban one that the detectives operate within. It’s at this point that a group of Macbeth-reciting students accidentally open a link between the two planes and Razorjack seizes her opportunity to gain a foothold in our reality, shifting her conflict with Lady Helen to a whole new arena.

And that’s where an already frantically paced storyline really kicks into high gear. As events begin to converge, the links between our world and Razorjack’s dimension become more pronounced; the human cast finding themselves avatars in an ancient otherworldly war that, ultimately, will decide the fates of two worlds.

With so many disparate plot elements fighting for page space you could be forgiven for assuming this would be to the detriment of the reading experience but it isn’t. Indeed, Razorjack positively thrives on its staccato pacing and constantly changing scenarios and perspectives. It moves the story along at a rapidfire rhythm, never letting the reader stop for breath and creating a book that is the absolute embodiment of the term "page turner".

If I was going to force any overt criticism of Razorjack it would be that sometimes it leaves the reader with only the most tantalising taster of the vast panoply of concepts spawned from John Higgins’ dark imagination. We could spend an entire graphic novel, for example, on the cruel world of the Twist Dimension, so well-realised is this locale in just a handful of pages. Similarly, I suspect there are many tales to be told about the pasts of detectives Frame, Ross and Black, such are the hints about their pasts given here. And as for that bonus four-page story at the end of the book - it’s almost a tease too far for the readership! Yet more intriguing questions and possibilities are opened up there that just scream for a follow-up foray into Razorjack’s world.

In terms of the greater trade reading experience this volume does not skimp on the extras which is fast becoming a signature motif of the reborn Com.x. While perhaps not quite as extensive as the material in their Clas$$war hardback there is still a plethora of bonus "behind-the-scenes" goodies including covers, sketches and character development commentary.

It’s no secret that Razorjack has been some years in the making, taking an arduous trail to completion that began in the trenches of self-publishing. That investment of time, however, is readily apparent on each and every page. The stunning double-paged spreads shown here illustrate just how much detail and inventiveness Higgins imbues his universe with. The visuals, like the story itself, are packed with a level of detail that generously rewards re-reading and the central character exudes an air of menace that is just chilling in the extreme.

In Razorjack John Higgins has given us the perfect antidote to the seemingly all-encompassing plague of the decompressed comic. In 80-plus pages he provides us with more story than some comics series are currently giving us in a year. If you have ever bemoaned the lack of originality or experimentation in mainstream comics then it is your absolute duty to pick up this magnificent rule-breaking, convention-defying and genre-crashing book.

The Razorjack trade paperback is out now from Com.x priced $12.99 and is available on both Amazon US and Amazon UK.  A special deluxe collector's edition is also available from Foruli.

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Jul 30, 2009 at 3:16am

    Piqued my interest here, looks cool. Bit of 2000 AD in there it seems ...

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jul 30, 2009 at 7:53am

    This is how much I enjoyed RAZORJACK: I took it down the pub to read for the first time. Got my beer, sat down, started reading, looked up after getting through 70 of the 80-plus pages of the book and realised that my pint of London Pride was still sitting in front of me COMPLETELY UNTOUCHED. Now that's the mark of a bloody good read as far as I'm concerned...

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