Subtlety has never been Rick Remender’s MO, and The Scumbag is one of his most obnoxious creations to date.
Now blessed or infected with nanotech that gives him super agent powers, Ernie is being led Sister Mary to stop the Scorpionus, a fascist GI Joe-esque antagonist.
While not quite as lecherous as he is in issue #1, Ernie is still an uncomfortable parallel to Trump and the power dynamic the soon-to-be ousted POTUS projects. Ironically, Remender considers himself a liberal and the antagonists of The Scumbag are comical fascists, but Ernie’s attitude and Remender’s insistence we shrug off his sexism and ego is a very pro-Trump sentiment.
Just replace the fascist foes here with liberal or PC foes and you have the same protagonist: a Trump stand-in who exhibits remarkably similar characteristics: gross, sexist, outsider who becomes in tangled in a big system, must stop what are believed to be mind-washing evil corporate overlords, unqualified straight white man granted immense power despite disgusting traits—he’s supposed to be the everyman who speaks like it is using the tired excuse of “he’s from a different time.” Ultimately, it’s all very pitiful and sad no matter the intentions.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Alex, you’re reading too much into this. It’s just supposed to be fun and just because you were politically rubbed the wrong way doesn’t mean the comic is bad. Talk about what elements work aside from the politics!”
Well, sorry to disappoint: but the comic’s not very good even putting politics aside.
Apart from being a pig, Ernie is neither entertaining nor complex. He’s a tired, one note “joke” “character.” There aren’t that many significant side characters for him to even bounce off of, and the few that exist are also boring, flat archetypes.
I’m baffled as to why effort was made to make this comic the way it is, because the world-building frankly sucks. Unlike many Remender pieces, there’s little spark or imagination to the super secret agent shenanigans. Fascists are either dressed in suits or terrorist-y leather outfits. Liberals are either in dress suits or jumpsuits. There’s a fast blue car. There are hologram interfaces. Uhh, there’s a golden bomb thingy?
Perhaps if the artist was exceptional and able to stay on the whole run of the book, more cohesive, thought-through, exciting designs and imagination could take over. Alas, Andrew Robinson’s sharp edged cartooning is fine but it’s far from masterfully detailed or epic in scope. More problematic is how underwhelming Robinson’s action scenes are — not that he’s given much in this issue to begin with, but his compositions on the whole are rather uninspired and unchallenging. Moreno Disinio’s colors are equally by-the-numbers and flatly high key.
Overall, The Scumbag is trying to take down fascism while hypocritically reveling in the key characteristics of white supremacy’s modern patron saint. If that wasn’t bad enough, the characters are as flat as the art and story.
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