Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Book Review: Scratch #1-#5 by Sam Kieth

ScratchScratch by Sam Kieth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Each and every one of you who are reading this know I am a huge Sam Kieth fan. The Maxx made me aware of story telling methods and narratives that I had no clue existed, I didn't even know one could go to those places in comics or animation. In short, Sam Kieth was my gateway drug.

I had first heard about Scratch in 2003 or 2004 and I was eager to read it. I mean, Sam Kieth drawing werewolves AND Batman?! I had flipped through it several times at my local comic book store but never put down the money for it. It never grasped me enough to actually buy it.

Today I got myself the series and read through all five issues

Sadly, I found Scratch to be just...kinda...meh.

Searching the internet, I found that apparently I wasn't the only one, hell, there wasn't even a Goodreads entry on it. I had to make it. Wikipedia doesn't have anything, DC Comics wiki has nothing, the series isn't even collected in a trade paper back. There isn't even a "Scratch" tag on Kieth's blog! All I could scrounge up was a CBR interview with Kieth.

So, why is it so...meh? Probably because I know Kieth is better than this. The writing is sub-par (For Kieth's standards) and simplistic.
The story doesn't move at break-neck speed so much as it just sort of bounds along, jumping from place to place with not very much connectivity. I don't know if there were time-jumps that simply weren't labeled or if big chunks were edited out or what but it all just moved too fast for me. Kieth is great at setting ground work (The Maxx, Ojo, Four Women, the Zero Girl series, Batman: Secrets) but there wasn't enough time spent on much of anything. Who was Zack? Who was his family? Did they miss him? Did they abuse him and call him a freak? Was he emancipated? What?

The art veers too much into crazy whimsy (Batman's Chin(s)!) and not enough somber eeriness (Batman! Werewolves and Batman! And Circus freaks!), and some parts Kieth just goes into "Pfff screw it" mode and renders basically kiddy drawings of characters, which works for him a lot of the time but it simply doesn't here because it doesn't feel appropriate.

But to be fair, some shots of Sage are absolutely stunning. I love how Kieth draws women. They all look so natural and cuddly.

Finally, Batman. Batman is narrating this story and I found myself asking "Why?". Why does Batman care? For that matter, how did Batman learn about Scratch/Zack in the first place, let alone go out hunting for him?

There were some good moments of course, some scenes were poignant and some of the lines were funny, but all in all it was weak and moved me very little.

It's not all bad, it's a nice little time-killer and I recommend it for hardcore fans, like myself, who want to leave no Kieth story unloved. But if for some reason you're new to Kieth, go read The Maxx, Ojo or Batman: Secrets and then get back to me.


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