Review: Scratcher #1-3 (Arbutus Comics)

When a struggling artist becomes a tattooist (or scratcher), she gets more than she bargains for as her customers become possessed by their ink and head out on bloodthirsty rampages in Scratcher!

Publisher: Arbutus Comics
Writer: John Ward
Artist: Juan Romera
Price: £1.49 from ComiXology

Writer John Ward has created a fantastic concept for this ongoing comic as it can be read like a police procedural and have a ‘freak of the week’ quality to it, making each issue feel fresh and original, while still keeping an overall story arc. Issue 1 sees Dee deal with the initial outbreak in her friends tattoo parlour, issue 2 sees her take down a demonically possessed priest, while issue 3 sees her take on a group of satanic sorority girls. In the background there is an over arching story which rewards regular readers, as Dee looks into the cause with a help of travelling virologist and also sees her bringing her ex-clients together in an attempt to find out some meaning behind these incidents.

Artist Juan Romera gives the whole thing a Charlie Adlard-esque mix of monochrome blood and guts but with great facial expressions and characterisation, giving the book a really smartness to it and without veering off into the more outlandish areas that many indie horror books head. (i.e. poor quality digital colouring to mask poor artwork and an excess of blood!). It’s definitely not a book for all ages and Romera revels in the blood and guts side of things, but it’s not the only thing the book has going for it as the characters are what make you keep reading.

Scratcher gets scratchy

Despite the strong concept and artwork, the story is a little haphazard at times. it leaps from one scene to the next and it could do with a bit more exposition and context in a few of the scenes to help the story read and flow more smoothly. On the plus side this means the story gets down to the action a straight away, but a couple of times we found ourselves re-reading scenes to try and understand where they had come from.

Fortunately the rest of the elements of the book are strong enough that this isn’t a major problem and in actual fact Scratcher is the kind of book that we are definitely going to return to in order to see how it develops – however we don’t think we’ll be heading to the tattoo parlour anytime soon after reading this one!!


Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.