The Scorpion returns – swashing, buckling, generally galavanting….
Written by Stephen Desberg, Art by Enrico Marini
After reading the first two, double sized Scorpion volumes together I felt I was rather tired of the whole idea (reviewed here).
But since this is essentially a good, old fashioned swash-buckling adventure done for the noughties and with all the fast action, set piece driven drama of modern cinema I think I’d just read too much of it in one sitting.
But put it in a single book, just 46 pages long, and it does rather satisfy, albeit in a read, enjoy, forget, type of way. Everything’s done rather well – the action races along, the drama sort of works, the characters are all suitably sexy and mysterious (good guys), nefarious and boo-hiss evil (bad guys) or sultry, mysterious and prone to double crossing (every woman that isn’t a nun).
Throw in some rather attractive artwork – reminiscent of Simon Fraser’s Nikolai Dante (thanks to Patrick Brown in the comments here for that one – stupid me for missing it first time round) or even, in a few panels a little Charles Vess and it’s an attractive, spirited and fun adventure romp.
(The Scorpion doesn’t meet any women who aren’t gorgeous, especially not if they’re out to kill him or steal his ill-gotten gains. And I am right about the Charles Vess touches aren’t I?)
In the first review I said this….
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.
All that’s exactly the same here, except rooftops. No rooftops this time – lots of caves and underground passages instead since the action relocates from Rome to Instanbul (although rightly, in the late 18th Century shouldn’t it be Constantinople?).
This volume continues the action with the exotic, swash-buckling, impossibly suave and rugged brigand known as The Scorpion looking for the real cross of Saint Peter. Except true to form, the last episode ended with The Scorpion and his comely companion (“the beautiful and dangerous Ansea Latal”) in an Ottoman prison accused of murder.
Why do they need the cross of Saint Peter? Well, The Scorpion got himself dragged into a plot by the dastardly Cardinal Trebaldi (boo, hiss) to establish himself as the new Pope using a false cross of Saint Peter and the only chance of overthrowing him is to find the true cross.
Not so easy, as it’s long been lost, possibly connected with the 9 powerful Roman families who secretly established the Catholic Church once they realised the Roman Empire was on it’s last legs. And probably something to do with the Knights Templars as well.
(Secret passageways, search for hidden antiquities of religious significance, deadly traps – it’s Indiana Scorpion!)
But the whys and the wherefores aren’t all that important since all these various plot elements are merely devices to move the Scorpion and his companions from place to place, adventure to adventure. In the first review I compared it to James Bond, but it occurred to me reading this that a better comparison was Indiana Jones. And the storytelling owes an awful lot to Spielberg and Lucas as well, utilising the modern (and quite lazy) technique of jumping from set piece to set piece, using drama and plot merely as stepping stones.
But with The Scorpion, just like Indiana Jones, just like Bond films, it honestly doesn’t matter. The fun is in being along for the ride. It’s not great literature, it’s not deep, meaningful or insightful in the slightest. It’s a romp. And it’s a spirited, exciting one at that, even ending with the wonderful old device of the inescapable sealed room.
And you know what, provided I read them in short, single volume chunks, I really don’t mind that at all.