The Harker moment 2012….. The Scarifyers Issue 1 is quite brilliant.
By Simon Barnard and Simon Gurr (Cover by Garen Ewing)
2009: I discover Gibson and Danks’ Harker, immediately fall in love with it, devour every single issue as it arrives, a fantastic genre police adventure somewhere between Morse and The X-Files, a TV series in comic form.
2010: Just as Harker goes on hiatus with issue 12, along comes Martin Stiff’s The Absence. I immediately fall in love with it, devour every single issue as it arrives, another beautifully done genre fiction black and white comic, countryside postwar drama with a dark twist.
I trust you can see where this is going?
We’ve skipped a year, but here we are again…. The Scarifyers is another wonderful little comic series, perfectly contained within its own genre trappings, this time sitting somewhere between Quatermass and classic Blake & Mortimer. Executed with style, expertly written, full of great characters, sparkling dialogue, and some quite magnificent artwork from Simon Gurr. I loved it.
From the very first page, right the way through to the end, I was gripped, really enjoying this delightful piece of genre fiction, one of those works that just fills me with absolute joy that it exists. It’s not arthouse, nor is it the sort of overblown action superhero thing Marvel and DC would have you believe is the mainstream. No, this is part of the REAL mainstream, the sort of comic Uncle George would read, would understand, would enjoy. The Scarifyers is my new favourite thing in mainstream comics.
You’ve seen the first six pages yesterday in that preview that Barnard gave us permission to put up, so you can see and read just how bloody great this is. Opening with a frantic, terrified Russian racing through the snow, crashing into the ghost story evening Professor Dunning hosts every Christmas for his students, and setting up the mystery to come… with demonic threats, devil worship, aristocracy, and much more….
(Meet Inspector Lionheart. From The Scarifyers Issue 1, by Simon Barnard and Simon Gurr)
What you haven’t seen yet is the other side to the story; the irascible presence as a counterpoint to the bumbling, tentative professor. That comes on page 7 (above), as we meet the Met Police’s oldest-serving officer, Inspector Lionheart, a man who defines prickly, and does so brilliantly, with a great line in put downs, and a mean punch to go with it. The character may well be stereotypes, but they’re a perfect collection of really well written stereotypes.
(Whatever you do, don’t call Lionheart old)
The nearest experience I can give you is listening to a great short play on Radio 4. Which is pretty much to be expected, as that’s what The Scarifyers series started out as, created by writer Simon Barnard in 2006, featuring the voices of the late Nicholas Courtney and Philip Madoc, and the thankfully still with us David Warner and Terry Molloy.
It’s beautifully reminiscent of so much that’s gone before, and quite fittingly has the delightful rhythm of a really great radio play. But if you’re expecting something slightly over-written, dialogue heavy, this will surprise you.
Barnard keeps some elements of audio drama; the radio tradition of careful scene setting, a limited cast, all introduced and clearly identifiable through the plot, something very important without the visual side. But it’s never intrusive, merely thorough, and the plot, characters and story all roll out in front of you so very, very well.
Add to this the wonderful, conversational nature of the dialogue, full of quiet invention, lots of humour in the words, very easy on the ear, and all in all it’s something rather special.
(Converstaional dialogue with sparkle and wit – that’s The Scarifyers Issue 1)
And then there’s Gurr’s art. I hadn’t seen anything by the artist before catching a Terror Tales in a recent 2000AD, of which I was complimentary. But here, given more time and space to utilise, his art has flourished.
There’s a piece at the Scarifyers blog where he talked of grounding the artwork both in the 1930s setting, and in keeping with Garen Ewing’s cover art for the CD adaptations. He’s certainly managed the former, but although there are elements of Ewing’s ligne claire style, this is very much Gurr putting his own, quite beautifully stylish stamp on the comic, full of details that all add to the experience – such as the halftone screens for the greys that give it that unusual, old-fashioned look.
Yes, this is my new favourite genre comic. Absolutely safe and secure in what it is and nothing more. But in doing that it delivers something hugely entertaining, and I had an absolute blast reading it. You can too, all you have to do is go to the Cosmic Hobo website to buy your copy and you’ll have a new favourite in no time as well.