Change of Pace 7: Com.X: CLA$$WAR & RAZORJACK

Change of Pace 7: Com.X Two-fer

One of the real joys in covering comics comes from finding something you enjoy that you had perhaps initially overlooked.  For whatever reason, I didn’t get to Cla$$war and Razorjack in their original incarnations.  Now that the reconstituted British company Com.X has issued a hardcover and trade, respectively, of the two series, I was able to catch up on what I’d missed.  What I found makes for a two-in-one Change of Pace.

Razorjack: This comes to us from John Higgins, possibly best known stateside as the colorist on Watchmen and The Killing Joke.  In addition, he’s been writer and artist on a number of books, possessing a line that’s a little more toward the John McCrea end of the spectrum.  Higgins puts that to good use here, as there’s all sorts of madness running all over the page.

Razorjack comes off as the Cthulhu mythos mixed with a really nasty episode of .  You’ve got cults, cosmic monsters from the beyond, good cops, bad cops, and idiot students mucking about with supernatural forces that they don’t understand.  It adds up to a pretty potent stew, fueled by Higgins’ frequently off-the-wall imagery.

At the center of the tale is “the death-bitch” Razorjack, lurking beyond the dimensional walls and waiting for a crack at Earth.  I really like the representation of the character, blending as it does the tropes of sex and violence crossed with decades of pop-culture demon design.  There are echoes here of Clive Barker and the aforementioned Lovecraft, but those are just part of a stream of ideas that sail along in a much different way due to the comics format.

I found the cops, Frame and Ross, to be very appealing characters, and I can see them perhaps appearing in an ongoing capacity somewhere.  If there’s a downside to the volume, it’s that it’s over in a seemingly short period of time.  There are roughly 80 pages of story, but that’s also backed with copious material, including pin-ups, sketchbook bits, and examples of pencils with finished covers.

Cla$$war:  The six issues of Cla$$war, initially released from 2002 to 2004, get the hardcover collection treatment for the first time here.  While a trade of the first three issues was made prior to the downturn of Com.X’s fortunes in mid-decade, a second trade didn’t appear.  That’s okay; if you were a fan of the book, you’ll probably want this presentation.  The six issues come backed with the original proposal script, sketches, and some layouts.

In terms of story, bits of Cla$$war bear passing resemblances to other series like The Authority, but many of those similarities are superficial.  This series is more specifically political, and it deals with the consequences of a country (namely the United States) using super-powered persons as weapons.  Writer Rob Williams doesn’t flinch when he puts a cold eye to this idea, and it’s his willingness to stare deeply that gives the story its fire.  One has to remember that this book, which essentially questions the motives of America in the world, was produced during the “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” phase of foreign policy.  Imagine how that plays in other countries.  Now imagine that you’ve got Superman; how does THAT play NOW?

Trevor Hairsine and Travel Foreman lend some terrific art to the proceedings.  While I prefer Hairsine a bit, they both take the concept and run.  Everyone involved gets the rhythm and flow of epic super-hero fights, and the representations of destruction (including one unfortunate aircraft carrier) and pretty spectacular.

I’m not going to wax too philosophical over the book in this space, but I will say that it’s refreshing to read a super-hero work that isn’t afraid to confront the politics of the day.  Granted, we have other cape-books with messages and warnings about society; however, I think that this one strikes a chord with a certain level of paranoia and innocence lost that we suffered as a society earlier in this decade.  It’s an action-packed super-hero tale with resonance and relevance.

Learn more about these collections at www.comxcomics.com.  Though they lean on the familiar by way of introduction, these are both unique works that boast a lot to capture your attention.  They’re a great Change of Pace, times two.  

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