Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Chicago Comics: "Scratch 9" #1

Another comic book I picked up on this year's Chicago Comic Con trip was Scratch 9 #1 from publisher Ape Entertainment.

The term "All Ages" comics is supposed to be used for comics which are just that -- appealing to all ages of readers from kids to adults. Far too often, however, it gets used for comics which splat tired old jokes, treadworn plots, and one-ply tissue thin characters on the page because the writers and publishers figure these comics are just going to be read by kids and how smart can kids be really?

I'm here to say that Scratch 9 is a perfect example of what a true all-ages comic should be. And the first issue gets things off with a bang....

Scratch is a beloved pet but he runs away when his owner wants him to wear a collar; finding trouble in the big, bad world. He ends up the subject of a mad scientist's experiment and when things go wrong Scratch is suddenly granted the mysterious ability to manifest any of his nine lives! It looks like Scratch has led some interesting lives, though, since the first one he summons is a sabretooth tiger. He's going to need all of these wild and crazy lives, though, because he still has to make his way back home and if that were not enough he has one mad, mad scientist on his tail as well.

With only one issue it's hard to judge how the whole series will go but so far writer Rob M. Worley is on the right track. Scratch comes across as young, a little naive, a little impulsive but sweet and definitely in over his head. It makes the character endearing as well as understandable to all ages. Kids can see some of themselves in both Scratch and the little girl who owns him and adults will see the children they know as well as the kids they used to be in the characters.

The premise of a cat who can summon a variety of nine lives -- a lives which definitely go outside of just being a house cat -- is unique and interesting and the reader is instantly drawn in by the potentials. Here is a story that, for once, hasn't exactly been told before -- here are some fresh, new ideas to explore.

The art, provided by Jason T. Kruse, is equally up to the task of the story. It is rounded and cartoony but expressive and just plain charming. Scratch and his owner are as cute as can be here but Kruse can also bring the menace in the form of Dr. Schrodinger and his robot grizzly bears. Yeah, you read that right... Robot. Grizzly. Bears. How awesome is that? But Kruse handles it all masterfully, filling pages and panels with lots of action and warmth without ever letting that delicate balance slip.

Can Scratch make it home? Will he learn why he has gained these strange powers? Can he evade Dr. Schrodinger? Buy the title and find out!

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