Monday, 7 August 2017

Scars Review (Warren Ellis, Jacen Burrows)

Scars is an experimental comic in that Warren Ellis set out to write a horror story that would shock even him and the end result is, yeah, genuinely disturbing! Scars centres around John Cain, a Homicide Detective already near the end of his tether, as he investigates the case of a dead little girl who’d been kidnapped, tortured for three months and then cut up and delivered in some cardboard boxes. The further Cain looks for the child’s killer, the further he moves from his own humanity. This can only end badly.

I couldn’t put Scars down once I started reading. It was late at night, I meant to read only a chapter or two, I knew I had to sleep, but I couldn’t put it down - I had to know what happens next, bleary tomorrow be damned! 

The horror aspect works so well because Ellis makes his monsters everyday humans, knowing that human beings are the most terrifying creatures on the planet. Our propensity for darkness is limitless - just look at our bloody history. Believe me when I say that this is a sincerely grim read - everything about Scars is intentionally messed-up, unpleasant and supremely dark, both psychologically and viscerally. This one’s not for the faint of heart and maybe even a complete no-no for some readers who are parents - don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

The tension builds throughout as we see Cain become more affected by the case, more reckless, more consumed in finding justice for the little girl, all of which made this an absolutely riveting read. Crime thrillers are hit and miss for me but Scars is most definitely a hit. 

Jacen Burrows’ art takes the horror to the next level. The stark lines of his pages make the visuals all the more powerful when you turn the page and see stuff like… that… staring back at you. There’s also a lot of wide shots filled with empty space as if underlining the cold emptiness of this world while the colourlessness adds to the morbidity of the story. He’s the perfect collaborator for Ellis on this, his art is really top-notch. 

The only flaw is how much Scars reminded me of the David Fincher movie Se7en. The girl’s head in the box, the two cop main characters, one old, one young, the ordinariness of the villain, talking about bringing kids into this fucked up world, the overwhelmingly gloomy atmosphere, the evilness of the crimes and, most of all, how the heartbreaking cases warp some cops beyond all hope. All of it is fascinating stuff but the similarities made it seem a tad derivative. 

Scars is very dark reading but completely gripping. I highly recommend it but only to adult readers and only to those who don’t mind their stories served with a hefty dollop of nihilism with a side order of despair!

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