After the successes of Low, Deadly Class, Black Science, and Seven to Eternity, Rick Remender attempts to continue his hot streak of creator-owned titles with The Scumbag #1: a loving mash-up of two '70s sleaze and super-spies. Alongside Punisher Max artist and Valiant favorite Lewis Larosa (but just for this issue), Remender
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Lewis Larosa and Moreno Dinisio
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Remender's script is structured like a dirty joke, revolving around grotesque set-pieces. It tells the story of Ernie Ray Clementine, the archetypical rock and roll burnout. Ernie stumbles from fix to fix, barely clinging on to life like a barnacle soaked in booze, until he stumbles on to a fight between super-spies and well… let's just say things change for Ernie. It's a decompressed issue, offering no surprises that aren't spoiled by the solicitation blurb and solely focused on building the titular Scumbag. Luckily, Remender absolutely nails it. There is some truly graphic toilet humor here that manages to elicit laughs through sheer boldness. This much is clear, Rick Remender is willing to go there. Yes, The Scumbag #1 exists in a state of permanent adolescence, but that juvenile nature gives it a unique energy.
Remender's strong grasp of character comes through in his dialogue – the bar patrons' malice for Ernie drips through every word, whilst Ernie himself is a mixture of slurred promises and half-remembered lyrics. Rus Wooton letters Remender's words with a curved font that matches the idiosyncratic dialogue. Taken as a whole, there's a broad theatricality to this issue: drug dealers sneer, innocent bystanders recoil in shock, heroes grin, and villains cackle.
Lewis Larosa's artwork is gorgeously rendered, deeply textured, and uncomfortably realistic. He settles into a subtle caricature that magnifies Ernie's bony body and contrasts it against average people to drive home the character's penchant for self-abuse. Heavily blurred action reflects Ernie's tenuous grip on sobriety and adds a convincing sense of speed and force, whilst softly focused backgrounds create a tangible sense of space whilst centering focal characters. Larosa's art should seem too busy, every element of the panel is incredibly detailed, but this technique of softening background focus and thickly outlining the main features ensure every panel is readable.
Moreno Dinisio's colors add a painterly dimension to Larosa's inks, adding a warm light to the artwork that feels hot and sticky. Cool blue makes an appearance towards the issue's end, just in time for the introduction of the only level-headed character in the issue.
The Scumbag #1 preview
Yes, it's only late in the script that Remender gives us a character worth pulling for. Their introduction gives us the second biggest laugh of the issue, setting up a premise with promise. Larosa's style is finely attuned to the tone of Remender's script, making it almost a disappointment that each issue of The Scumbag will be drawn by a fresh artist.
All in all, The Scumbag #1 is another solid start for another Remender Image title. At its heart, it's a fish out of water story, starring a subversive character but told in a time-tested way and with a wicked sense of humor. There's an old Roger Ebert quote: "When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher." Taken at its intentions, The Scumbag #1 succeeds in its attempt to squeeze together '70s exploitation and super-espionage into one greasy sandwich. Let's just hope future artists can match Lewis Larosa's sky-high standard.
The Scumbag #1 goes on sale October 21.