I'm haven't finished any of the novels or non-fiction books I'm reading at the moment (possibly because I read too many books at once, oops), so this week's review is on an amazing comic book series that I plowed through this weekend. Scud's first publishing run ran from 1994-1998 and ended with a cliffhanger that lasted ten years, but the series was recently concluded, and the entire collection can now be found in a new omnibus, Scud: The Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang!
The title may seem to give a lot away here, and that's partially true, but Scud: The Disposable Assassin ended up being way more intelligent and complex than it initially lets on. The series takes place on an earth several decades in the future, where violence has become much more common than it is today. A "Scud" is a brand of robotic assassin that can be purchased from vending machines on any street corner, and programmed to kill whomever you would like however you would like, for only a few dollars. Our Scud is sent to kill a strange squid/mousetrap/electrical plug monster named Jeff who is terrorizing a mannequin factory. Scud easily takes care of Jeff, but as he is about to finish the monster off, he notices a sign on his robotic back that informs him that he will self-destruct upon termination of his primary target. Now, Scud doesn't want to die, so he instead sets Jeff up in an intensive care unit at a local hospital to keep them both alive as long as possible, and then starts working freelance to pay the medical bills. He does all this rather matter-of-factly, and as a reader you kinda just go along with him for a while.
The first few issues—there are 26 total in the omnibus—introduce the reader to Scud in a very blunt way. He blows stuff up, he shoots a ton of people, he makes witty remarks as he blows up said stuff and shoots said people. These issues are fun and completely absurd, but not necessarily all that interesting. Also, there are times early on, especially during any one of the near-constant action scenes, where the art is a little confusing. Wait, how did that guy lose his arm? Hold on, I thought Scud was behind that soldier in the giant ape suit? Stuff like that. There's so much going on, so many bullets and body parts flying all over the place, that it gets difficult to keep your bearings. I admit, I put the book down a couple times during the first half of the omnibus. Something about the characters and way the stories unfolded kept bringing me back, though. Around issue twelve or maybe even a little later, once the character of Sussudio is introduced (she's a spy with a robot fetish, for the record), all of the minor details that were overlooked earlier start coming back in highly impactful ways. The loose ends begin to tie themselves up, and the stories start to get down to the real meat of what's been going on since the very first issue. Seriously, shit goes down. Villains you thought were stupid and meaningless end up being extremely powerful, others who you assumed were running things get kinda pushed aside, and God Himself even makes an appearance, but it all makes sense somehow in the context of the story. I was even hoping for the series to keep going when I found myself at the end, the writing and art having gotten significantly better than where it was when it began. Similar to Agents of Atlas, though, I don't think I would necessarily recommend this series to someone who isn't already a fan of comic books. However, for those readers who are fans, I'd say Scud is like reading Deadpool, if Deadpool was a robot, had an insanely hot spy girlfriend, battled forces straight out of Heaven and Hell, and had to keep alive an absurd squid monster thing named Jeff who was trying to kill him. So, very similar.
Scud: The Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang!
by Rob Schrab
It's a surprisingly complex story hidden beneath a million explosions and a hilarious robot assassin who time travels, goes to outer space, joins the mob, and fights not only a squid monster and zombie dinosaurs, but also a choir of angels and a reanimated Ben Franklin. Sign me up!
The witty assassin anti-hero character may not be the most original in the comic book pantheon, but the writing keeps getting better and better as it goes, while maintaining a level of consistency regarding the quirkier and more absurd aspects of the story. The art gets better as well, and each page is treated as its own work of art. Scud never falls into the trap of boring/repetitive layout.
It's a ton of fun, with some surprising twists, interesting characters, and more blood and firepower than a Quentin Tarantino movie. It's a little long, and definitely slow up front, but it's worth it in the end. I'd say it's a winner.
Keep reading, Genoshans!
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