Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Scratcher, the Graphic Novel

Tattoo artists need to be good, because their clients will be conspicuously stuck with their mistakes. Even though she has confidence issues, Dee’s tattoos are excellent. Nevertheless, she discovers an unprecedented problem with her work, when the tattoos start moving on her customers’ bodies, driving them insane. Dee must do her best to save her clients and whoever might fall victim to their murderous rages in John Ward & Juan Romera’s graphic novel Scratcher, which is now on-sale.

One fateful day, Dee comes to work at Floyd’s tattoo parlor, where she finds her friend Sarah raving amid the blood and gore of her boss and two customers. Somehow, she fights her off, only to repeat the general experience when she visits the apparently deranged woman in the psych hospital.

Tragically, Sarah’s incident will not be a one-off. Soon, another customer contacts her to complain about his tattoo’s strange behavior. Alarmed by the pattern, she investigates with the help of a hippy scientist and Jerry Jones, the client-cool guy-priest, she manages to save. Unfortunately, she is not quite sure how she did it, but Scripture seemed to help in his case.

The premise of
Scratcher should have an insidious appeal to potential readers who might be looking at the ink on their own arms right now and wondering what if it tried to kill them. Ward‘s story keeps the exact nature of the uncanny phenomenon shrouded in mystery. However, what really makes the graphic novel so distinctive is the character of Jones and his cooperative alliance with Dee.

During the course of events, the priest loses and then regains his faith. Both developments are understandable, given the circumstances, while the former is never portrayed as an explicit criticism of his religion. He could even be one of the most thoughtfully rendered clergy characters you will find in recently published comics.

Scratcher is meant to be self-contained and finite, which we totally appreciate. Yet, if it is ever optioned for film or streaming, it is easy to envision Dee and Jones carrying franchise sequels. It starts with a grabby premise, but the drama deepens impressively over the course of the narrative. Romera’s art is suitably stark and ominous, showcasing some pretty powerful imagery. (Viewers might keep in mind the resemblance between Sarah and Dee’s other customer Lucy is a little confusing at times, but that’s a minor caveat). Highly recommended for horror fans, Scratcher is now on-sale wherever graphic novels are sold.