Post-Apocalyptic mutant animals, cloned pseudo-Nazi Stormtroopers, and bondage-clad lobotomized sex slaves.
(and that's not all!)
Writer – Barreio
Illustrator – F. Solano Lopes
Translator – Sonya Jones
Letters – Heather Kennedy
Art Direction – Jim Blanchard
Production – Jason Lutes
Edited – Ryder Windham
Publishers – Gary Groth and Kim Thompson
This is the second time I've written this review.
The first time was for the original Crapbox, a series of reviews all of which have been reprinted here on the forum boards of Rotten Tomatoes website. The sub-forum the original Crapbox was on got deleted in the late 2000's along with all its content. Lucky for me, I created the articles in Word files that were saved to my local hard drive. However, after the destruction of almost two years of work, I decided not to repost the Crapbox in another forum for fear it would vanish once again.
To my knowledge, the Razorguts #2 review was the only thing in the blog that didn't make it out alive. I must have written it online and not made a backup copy of the text.
That means I have to take another stab at this one, and brother! out of all the comics to have to wrap your head around a second time, Razorguts has to be the most bizarre head-trip that I've ever had the discomfort to review.
Written by "Barreio" who is most likely Argentian writer Ricardo Barreio and drawn by Columbian artist Francisco Solano López, Razorguts is a mature adventure tale of resistance against an evil overlord. Let's begin with the basic story premise and you'll see how wild this one gets.
Our setting is The Ministry, the future sanctuary of all mankind, a towering skyscraper that reaches up into the upper atmosphere. I don't have issue number one, so I really have no clue on the how or why it came about, but for some reason our descendants build this monumental structure that stretches up into the sky. And once complete, they sealed themselves in. At some point, a brutal dictator and his scientist allies take over.
Now that you know where the story takes place, I'm going throw you in with Carl the Kid, one of the worker drones in The Ministry. Not having issue one I can only surmise about how exactly this came to pass, but Carl's girlfriend Susana was taken as a sex slave by the trollish evil dictator of The Ministry.
Carl has taken up with these guys called the MOFATA, who are plotting against the dictator. And the method of us find all this out is something that pops up from time to time in the book: the handy-dandy exposition box.
See that third panel breaks the forth wall and directly addresses the audience to explain a specific story element. It isn't distracting as that might seem. Most of Barreiro's placement of these is handy providing info we the audience needs to correctly understand the action going on. Occasionally they provide story that enhances one or more of the characters.
But let's leave Carl the Kid as he ventures down the giant structure's elevator shaft in search of weapons of some type to use against the vile overlord…and turn now to poor Susana at the top of the giant edifice
She is being groomed for sexy time by two not-at-all-clad lobotomized sex slaves. And I have to say this is done in a very creepy and effective way that both titillates and horrifies. Lopez does a great job of conveying the twisted beauty of this story and I am glad that his hand is the one charting the images used. He is a skilled artist who can handle character models as well as backgrounds and settings with the same degree of intricate inkwork.
Like this sequence of panels here of Carl being menaced by something coming down the shaft. That first panel is amazing and we have barely scratched the surface of what Lopez can do.
We move for there to confrontation between Susana and her captor. It begins with some not-so-subtle foreplay. Or make that threats of abuse against her if she doesn't capitulate.
Ugh, he's such a repulsive troll. I hate that guy. He keeps after her until she gives him a little cat scratch fever across the face.
Make that a LOT of cat scratch fever. Like epidemic proportions. He vows to disembowel her with his bare hands and instructs the other sex slaves to hold her down while he does it. As they move too comply, Susana makes a fatal decision.
And as she plunges to her doom, the building tries to save her, even though she's already dead from cardiac arrest. All it does is end up adding insult to injury, and a plot point that will be picked up later on.
And it was right about here, where the book killed the love interest of the protagonist that I really felt we were in for a totally different kind of ride. The art, sex, and violence of the story reminded me of the "good" kind of Metal Hurant/Heavy Metal tales. The harsh nihilistic bent of this comic fits right in with those magazines, and I kind of dig it.
Shifting back to Carl the Kid, who has problems of his own. Getting down the shaft ends in hatch he can't get open. Barriero and Lopez take a break from this to show us what is approaching him in a half-page aside, and again I found this break in the narrative to work in context of the story. It is world building and background dumped on the audience. I should hate it, but it makes the story more understandable, so I don't.
Carl escapes the beast in a series of panels that emphasis action and suspense. Lopez knows how to work a layout. Even without reading the words, the intent of each panel is evident.
After Carl's escape from the beast, you'd think the guy would catch a break. Unfortunately you are wrong. Because around the corner is a squad of genetically engineered Nazi-like SS Stormtroopers and really, don't ask me how they got here (although through panels later Barriero will explain exactly that). Oh and he encounters them right before finding his path leads to a doorway with a rather ominous sign.
Which means he has to press on through the very dangerous electric snake room…
…with the guards in hot pursuit. The frying pseudo-Nazis are almost worth the price of admission. Look at these panels.
I was going to say "Of course Carl survives" but then I remembered this book recently slew his love interest in one of the most "she sure is dead" kind of ways. So maybe his chances aren't that great. Except he and two guards make it through unscathed.
The first of those guards falls victim to Carl's inventive use of razorblades on the elevator cable.
He falls to his death while Barreiro does this forth wall breaking aside where he apologizes to the audience first and then goes into an almost page long description of how the guards are "made". I am still digging this background stuff as it makes the story deeper and more understandable (even as it also makes it more outlandish).
The final guard chases Carl in a series of panels that are astoundingly good, but I am resisting posting because at this point EVERYTHING art-wise in the book is astoundingly good. But here goes a few of them.
Love the black face on the guard in that last panel, with the implication that he isn't the true evil, just another faceless drone in the cogs of a much worse machine. Carl tricks him with a spear and then we have a reveal I didn't expect: Susana makes an appearance!
Love the anguish and true emotion in those final panels. And then this series of panels where he gives her the only kind of burial honor he can. And while the exposition at the end isn't necessary, it still works in context.
Carl is next chased by like a million rats. He barricades himself into a room with…well, see for yourself.
That's right: preserved accountants. They died at their desk and are still in the same upright position as if they were working. This book is just freaky.
Then we break with the story in progress to tell the tale of how the scientists genetically engineered two "super-ferrets" to take care of the growing rat problem.
Then to explain how the female, who was pregnant, took up residence in the wrong file room drawer…
…and gets on the wrong side of the leader, who kills the female but the male escapes. And in escaping becomes…
…the leader of the rats in a rebellion against the evil dictator…
…which precipitates the creation and release of the giant spider penises yet ends with the animals all dying of radiation poisoning and WHY is this part of the story if it affects it in zero ways? I don't know, but I enjoyed the crap out every last panel.
The book ends with Carl continuing his journey, using a rope to scale the outside of the building.
I enjoyed this WAY more than I expected. The art was fabulous and the story so strange that it intrigued me.
So what are we working with here? An insane premise. A wonderful artist. A distinctive writer. A plot that defies expectations. And believable characters worth investing in. I have to mention that the book only lasted four issues, which probably was enough time to complete the story of Carl and his attempt to subvert the system.
If any of that appeals to your sense of the weird or you like Heavy Metal type fiction, definitely check these out.