Writers: Alex De Campi and Cliff Bleszinski
Artists: Sandy Jarrell and Ryan Kelly
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Alex De Campi
Publisher: Image Comics

The concept for Scrapper is a pretty simple one: Batman, but if he was a dog. It’s no secret; there’s even an email exchange included in the back of the new Scrapper hardcover between writers Cliff Bleszinski and Alex De Campi where the book is laid out exactly like that. This made me think of a piece of comics writing advice I heard recently: plot simple, script complicated (apologies to the source of this advice, as I’ve forgotten who said it).

It’s good advice, though, and it definitely serves this story well. From that simple premise of Batman-but-dog, Bleszinski and De Campi team with artists — first Sandy Jarrell and then for the bulk of it Ryan Kelly, with colors by Jordie Bellaire — to build a really intriguing near-future sci-fi setting. It might be that setting that is my favorite part of this book. It’s a a low-simmering background of capitalism run amok that uses its inherently sympathetic animal protagonists to show us how societal greed and disinterest harms the most vulnerable among us first.

It’s a nice layer to a strong main superhero narrative. Our lead character is the titular Scrapper, who was essentially orphaned as a pup and left with a high-tech collar that functions not unlike Batman’s utility belt. Scrapper is optimistic and earnest and heroic, and just a great lead for this sort of thing, from his design right down to his scripted character moments. 

And the creative team does a wonderful job of using Scrapper to engage the reader with just absolutely devastating and heart-rending character moments, from his separation from his mother as a youth to the loss of his human family as an adult. But what is a crimefighting vigilante without a tragedy or two in their past to shape them as they overcome?

The other not-so-secret weapon possessed by Scrapper is the artwork. Bellaire is in the conversation for best colorists in the industry, bar none, and I’ve long thought Kelly is one of the most underrated artists in monthly comics, both for his aesthetic and for the storytelling chops in his character acting and action sequences. This is one good-looking comic, to put it simply.

Overall, I really enjoyed Scrapper. It stands apart from both the growing number of talking animal stories AND the glut of superhero comics that are always out there, largely by the quality of the small decisions and storytelling. It’s a smart read that also has wide appeal, making it an easy book to recommend, especially in its new pretty hardcover format.

Verdict: BUY

Read more reviews from The Beat!