Razorjack has been called “one of John Higgins’ best-kept secrets” by Garth Ennis . . . and I would have to agree. I was so excited to read a graphic novel created by the illustrator of Watchmen, Dredd, and Batman, among others. To top it off, a story involving aliens and a serial killer – right up my alley. Razorjack is Higgins’ baby, because it was his first project, not only to illustrate but to serve as creator, writer, penciller, and colorist. A massive undertaking.
Razorjack was not the graphic novel I was expecting. Based on the cover art and description, I was expecting a much more sinister and horror-style piece. While Razorjack includes violence and gore, it reads more like a combination of Species and Dick Tracy. The title character is drawn in bold colors, her “naked” body is a mix of shades of green and purple with ample, perky breasts that seem to grow as she becomes angry or aggressive, fiery red hair that shoots from her head like Medusa (minus the snakes), and an eerie, toothy grin uncannily reminiscent of The Black Dahlia. Razorjack’s evil aspiration is to overtake all planets by sacrificing a singular sex of young through timed rotations or ”cycles,” ultimately destroying their races, including the human race. It is not explained the length of time that paces in each town and or dimension between cycles. The novel starts in the Twist “loop,” a dimension for which Razorjack has overtaken and is now its ruler with her sidekicks the Twist B—-es. In this dimension she is sacrificing the female children of Kalabach, as well as children from Cinabach (the sex of children sacrificed of this town is unknown.) We also meet the true heroine of the novel, Helen, an alien-like figure similar in appearance to Razorjack but with a softer feel, almost ethereal, drawn in pastels. Helen has sacrificed her body so Razorjack would free her children, a pact Razorjack has not lived up to. Once we enter the Earth realm, we are transported to a city where there has been a series of youth murders. Our lead cops, Ross and Frame, are leading the investigation into the serial murders. By the time the readers are involved in Earth’s story, the action has started to enter a Twilight Zone/X-Files feel, where events become less and less explainable to the cops, and they are forced to fight their foe with no knowledge of what they are up against, but admittedly something unearthly.
The artwork in this graphic novel is mesmerizing. Sometimes, I would get so distracted just looking at the images and vivid colors that I had to go back to re-read the dialogue and catch up with the storyline. This is not to say the storyline is not interesting, but rather the imagery is so powerful and all encompassing. The dialogue is smaller as in any comic, and, therefore, easy to miss when confronted with such beauty. Any individual image block could be taken out separately and blown up into a poster for artistic display. The colors are not only vivid, but also unique. Nothing is “realistic” in a color scheme, even on earth. Shades of blue and purple, fiery gold, pink, and lime green. There is truly only one word to describe the artistic genius Higgins brings to this graphic novel, even in the bonus sketches in the back of the book . . . breathtaking.
This is not a novel that plays down to the audience. It moves fast as if you already have an understanding of the complexity of the world Higgins has created. In the beginning, I found this frustrating, because it took me a second to catch on to who was whom and what everyone wanted. In the end, I am still not sure I grasped everything, because the history of this world is so complex. It doesn’t fit in one novel and not all was revealed, but it left me not disappointed but rather wanting more. Higgins has created a mythology so epic and fascinating it spikes your curiosity and truly lends itself to all sorts of media, which ironically it has. Razorjack has inspired novels, an illustrated novella, and music. These, of course, I will be going out to read and listen to right away (after I read and write my other reviews, of course).
Ironically, my favorite part of this remastered hardcopy was the last short, “A Glimpse of Summer,” separate from the main graphic novel, which read more like an old tale, true mythology introducing the readers to one of Razorjack’s earlier attempts to take over humanity in Japan in the year 1707. The writing included “campfire style” narrative along with dialogue that seemed to better fit the type of story Razorjack is. Or maybe, the graphic novel needed a little of the legend and mythology intertwined into it to make the reader care more about the characters and action. In this short, I was able to follow the story without getting as distracting by the beautiful artwork, which was, of course, still astounding. The dialogue also felt less cartoony, but this could also be an attempt to establish a difference between modern America and ancient Japan; however, the modern American dialogue came across very Dick Tracy detective agency and not truly modern. If this is what Higgins was going for, it was spot on. It, however, left me a little disconnected from the modern-day characters and action and more interested in the history and origins of Razorjack and Helen – the prequel – rather than the action taking place on the page.
Razorjack is an artistic masterpiece with a mythological gory story that draws you in. Very few graphic novels, comics, or novels leave you frustrated that you didn’t have enough backstory, that it wasn’t long enough. It is rare for you to close the novel salivating for more. So, John Higgins, if you are reading this, I am desperate for the prequel to Razorjack, I want to know more about Helen and her battle with Razorjack, her ultimate sacrifice. This is an amazing story premise . . . I want more!