The Scumbag #1
Ernie Ray Clementine is not a nice guy. He doesn't mean to be a scumbag, he just is. He's the ultimate hedonist with a fifth-grade education, an all-consuming need to Hoover as many drugs as possible at a given time, and an obliviousness that defies all known laws of gods and man.
But when Ernie accidentally stumbles onto a battle to the death between a secret agent and his arch-nemesis, his life changes more than he could ever possibly imagine.
Now... the fate of the world rests in the hands of the worst possible person on it.
The Scumbag, the latest new comic from writer/creator Rick Remender’s Giant Generator imprint, stars Ernie Ray Clementine – a profane, semi-literate, people-using, drug-addled cheapskate and miscreant. He is, on paper, everything a leading man shouldn’t be – unlikeable in every aspect. To be clear: you absolutely would NOT want to know Ernie Ray in real life.
Which is exactly what makes him such a compelling protagonist.
Ernie Ray has a twinkle in his bloodshot eye, and a hangdog quality to him that makes him utterly compelling despite what a completely awful person he is. And truly, he is: in the opening sequence alone, he steals a Salvation Army donation bucket to pay his dealer (after being reminded yet again that he doesn’t do freebies or credit), Spanish Larry. Ernie Ray insists he and Spanish Larry are friends, and Larry very, very quickly disabuses that notion to anyone in shouting distance. Nobody wants to be this guy’s friend. Which, in a sense, is exactly why it’s so fun watching him go.
In his afterward, Remender likens Ernie Ray to the tradition of Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Vic Mackey, or Walter White: fundamentally flawed, bad people who we can’t help but root for, because we get to live vicariously through them without any negative consequences. Do bad things, suffer no harm – because it isn’t real. Ernie Ray may just take that unlikeability to a whole new level, but at no point in time does Remender’s portrayal of him turn into slapstick. There’s a scene that takes place in a very, very public avenue highlighting exactly how low Ernie Ray can go. It’s cringe-inducing to the extreme, and we honestly can’t take our eyes off the trainwreck unfolding before us – but at the same time, Remender, in a very short amount of space, gets us to like Ernie Ray just enough that we can’t help but feel bad for him.
And then, the book’s hook, and Remender’s masterstroke: Ernie Ray accidentally runs afoul two super-spies battling it out for a prototypical secret formula, and just like that, he comes into possession of it whether he wants it or not – and becomes the only man who can save the world. It’s a concept that’s utterly perfect, and flawless in its execution. With the turn of a single page, two wholly opposite worlds collide, yet seeing them side-by-side makes for a seamless transition (Ernie Ray, naturally, hallucinates that he’s seeing “a leprechaun fighting a Medusa”). Ernie Ray is too bombed out of his gourd to grasp what’s happening, and just like that, the witless screw-up is in way, way, way over his head. Rus Wooton’s pitch-perfect lettering brings the whole thing to glorious life, conveying a sense of debauchery with every word balloon.
The Scumbag is undoubtedly a comedy, but there are enough dramatic and even tragic elements to it that it surely qualifies as some genre-defying hybrid. That uniqueness means there’s nothing else quite like it on the stands, despite its tried-and-true “hero plucked from obscurity rises up to save the day” DNA. Remender, though, is set to have an absolute blast inverting that trope, as Ernie Ray couldn’t care less about the end of the world – much to the dismay of pretty much everyone else living in it.
(He does, however, care about getting two grand in cash, a flying ’78 Trans Am, and Judas Priest to play for him.)
Lewis LaRosa and Moreno DiNisio’s art is a thing of absolute, jaw-dropping ugly-beauty. Everything about Ernie Ray and his world just reeks of sleaze and scum and body odor and greasiness. Our hero is described early in the issue as a man out of time, utterly incapable of grasping how the world works – an anachronism from a bygone era, when love was free, drugs were plentiful, and everyone just needed to chill out, man. The years haven’t been kind to Ernie Ray, and LaRosa communicates that perfectly through body language, ropey limbs, crow’s feet, stained shirts, three-day stubble, and so on. Everyone around Ernie Ray carries a revulsion bred from all-too-familiar contempt: “Oh god, here he comes again” is practically written on each and every face around him.
DiNisio’s coloring borders on psychedelic by way of the worst trip imaginable. (Don’t take the brown acid.) Everything in the art just perfectly communicates the gross, vulgar world Ernie Ray wanders through, from high to high and scam to scam. There’s a bit of a disconnect, then, when these artists have to flip to the well-manicured world of super-spies and life-or-death back alley battles – suddenly, they need to communicate a much cleaner world, and can’t quite pull it off as neatly and convincingly. It’s almost too pristine. There’s obviously supposed to be a contrast in worlds, but the artists fall just a hair short. The blocking is great, the action superb, but there’s a slight lacking of the loving details in the spies’ world that so exquisitely populate Ernie Ray’s. It’s still gorgeous, though – don’t let that minor critique fool you. The Scumbag is an absolute blast of a comic, and anyone with the stomach for it would do well to check it out.
In the immortal words of another slacker: “Yeah, well – The Dude abides.” Ernie Ray Clementine doesn’t just abide. He abides, and %$#@ing then some. Enjoy the ride, man, because this comic is the rug that ties the room together.
The Scumbag #1 is a profane, gnarly, gut-bustingly hilarious look at a world whose fate is in the hands of the absolute worst person on it. Ernie Ray Clementine may not be anyone's idea of a hero, but he's got the job whether he wants it or not (though he'd rather just roll a joint).
The Scumbag #1: Abide, and &%#!ing Then Some
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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