The Scorpion: swashing and buckling through Renaissance Rome
Written by Stephen Desberg, Art by Enrico Marini
Another one of those “never see this sort of things in US comics” type of books. A swashbuckling tale of Renaissance Rome; Brigands, mysterious exotic women, evil Catholic Cardinals attempting to take over the Papacy. Not quite the plot of the latest X-books crossover is it? Which is probably why I really rather enjoyed the Scorpion for at least one whole volume.
The book itself starts with an intriguing premise: What if the entire foundation of the Catholic church is merely a result of 9 powerful Roman families at the end of the Roman Empire deciding that Christianity is the best chance they have of remaining all-powerful? The descendants of the 9 families play an important role in the background to the Scorpion’s tale of power, lust and betrayal in Renaissance Rome.
(The Scorpion doing one of the things he does best. From The Scorpion Volume 1: The Devil’s Mark.)
This backdrop of political and religious intrigue is overwhelmed somewhat by the all action swashbuckling going on throughout the books with The Scorpion of the title fighting his way across the pages, pausing only for regular stops with what seems like every woman in Rome. And he’s not picky either; from lowest prostitute to society maiden he’ll bed them all and move on.
(The Scorpion doing the other thing he does so well. Aristocrat or common prostitute, all fall under his spell.)
So perhaps we’re looking at some sort of Italian 15th Century James Bond here? It shouldn’t be seen necessarily as a criticism because across the entire first volume (which, as with most Cinebook titles, actually contains two Scorpion volumes: The Scorpion and The Pope’s Secret) I had a tremendous time. The Scorpion gets drawn into a plot by the dastardly Cardinal Trebaldi (boo, hiss) to establish himself as the new Pope. There are lusty maidens and fearsome armoured monks, there are swordfights and plenty of them, there is religious hypocrisy and betrayal, daring escapes across rooftops and on horseback and plenty more.
(Cardinal Trebaldi: Not a nice man of God at all. From The Scorpion.)
It’s a really enjoyable escapist tale. Or at least the first volume was.
By the second volume, especially towards the end of it, I found myself getting just a little bored by it all. It really felt like the writer was just rehashing plot elements and spinning the whole thing out a little too much. What’s that? Another precarious situation for the Scorpion, surrounded again by those evil warrior monks and having to fight his way out to find himself holed up with just a busty wench for company? Sure, there were fun moments, but nothing like the enjoyment of the first volume. A real shame, especially as the series looks set for at least another volume or two. One would have been enough, maybe two if we’d have had a nice resolution to the story.
Richard Bruton is worried that his swash may not be buckling correctly.