Review – Scratcher #2 (Arbutus Comics)

Publisher: Arbutus Comics
Writer: John Ward
Artist: Juan Romera & Eric Grissom
Release Date: 4th April 2018

Scratcher is a great slice of unique indie horror. Last issue we met Dee, the unsuspecting Los Angeles tattoo artist making her way to work on a fairly average morning. There she discovered the mutilated corpses of her work colleagues and one of her closest friends Sarah claiming the new tattoo Dee gave her was forcing her to do terrible things. There was a scuffle which Dee barely escaped from with her life, suffering a shattered tattooing hand and a very traumatic experience of her best friend trying to kill her.

After the tearful climax of last issue we travel with Dee to Las Vegas, as she tries to track down her former client who has been acting strange since their session. Dee, with very little of her life left is trying her best to make amends for this strange ink-based virus that she may have inadvertently caused. She’s an interesting character, and in her own words she sums up the situation perfectly “I’m an artist what am I supposed to do?”

She is a prime example of the old John McClane formula of wrong person at the wrong time, but comes across as a genuine enough human being by virtue of the fact that she’s trying to fix something she doesn’t even know if she actually started. As heroines go she’s nothing special, which almost makes the story better because she’s far more relatable than, say, Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. She’s just a bad-arse punk who has become wrapped up in a situation she can’t control, and who is trying to honour the memory of someone who once saved her.

The choice to make this a black and white issue was a bold move but it pays off. In issue one, I don’t know if it was an intentional nod or not, but the use of crows seemed like a nice nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which is totally the vibe I got when reading. It felt like a slice of vintage horror, like a far gorier version of a classic Twilight Zone episode, a tone which shifted to more of a grindhouse feel in this second issue. The craziness is ratcheted up a notch too with the addition of a killer preacher and stoner scientist, both delightful horror stereotypes that even after so many stories you never really get tired of seeing.

Scratcher is one of those horror stories that paints a world very similar to our own character wise. Dee isn’t a cop and the victims aren’t government experiments, they just appreciate body art. This horrific set of events happening to a fairly average Joe gives you that unsettling tingle of imaging it could happen to you too. The art blends in nicely with this unease by drawing unique but everyday looking figures with the vintage black-and-white feel of a horror-themed Sin City or the original Night of the Living Dead.

Rating: 4/5.

You can pick up the first issue of Scratcher (and the second issue after the 4th of April)  via ComiXology (CLICK HERE).

The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
Indy Tweets from @smokingpunkindy


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