If you aren’t familiar with him, Mike Baron is the guy responsible for what I personally hold to be the greatest comic book of all time: The Badger. He also is responsible for my favorite take on the Punisher. And you may have heard of this award-winning comic he did called Nexus. In any event, Mr. Baron is a well-known comic book writer, who has now joined the ranks of novelists around the world.
My first read of Mr. Baron’s literary work was one of his latest: Skorpio. It has a suitably interesting cover, with some kind of cadaverous monster walking away from what looks to be one of those desert Devil’s Tower-looking things.
The blurb offers this as a tease of what the book is about:
A ghost who only appears under a blazing sun.Vaughan Beadles, Professor of Anthropology at Creighton University, is at the top of his game. Married to the beautiful Betty, with a baby son, Beadles has just taken possession of the largest uncatalogued post-Anasazi Indian collection in the world. Creighton has long maintained the existence of the Azuma, a previously unknown and extremely belligerent southwest Amerindian tribe. When a scorpion crawls out of a bowl and stings Beadles’ student, his world turns upside down. The university charges Beadles with theft and the police charge him with homicide. He loses his job, his wife, and his future. Beadles’ only chance at redemption is to prove the Azuma existed, setting him on a path that will inexorably lead to a terrifying confrontation in the desert with a creature beyond belief.
While The Badger is a supernatural, kungfu satire that left me flipping pages as fast as I could, despite often wonderful art, Skorpio progresses at an entirely different speed.
First off, there’s darned little humor. Which is okay, but I was more than a little bummed not to have any belly-aching laughs as I read this. Mike Baron is a funny guy. Even on Facebook.
Secondly, the book reads like a Quentin Tarantino film, taking place in a seedy underbelly of crime setting, with hookers, drugs, sex and a few glimpses of violence that are horrifying and not fun at all.
Third, there’s a whole lots of drama and tragedy. I hate drama and tragedy. I mean, I still get mad about the ending of Terminator 2.
Skorpio is not the Badger. And it’s not the Punisher (although I’d definitely be interested to see Tarantino direct a Punisher movie).
It is a darn good book though. Baron paints vivid scenes with his narrative. I wanted to pop in Nightwing (1979) or Pale Rider (1985) or something so I could compare the desert in the movies to the one the book so clearly painted in my mind’s eye.
It’s also a gripping story. It’s not fast-paced, pulp-styled ass whoopery, but it does keep you reading, as Baron strings you along, making you want to see what is going to happen to these people. Will they find the treasure or not? Will Beadles and his wife work things out? Will the Native American Hooker with the heart of gold and a link to the supernatural escape her abusive boyfriend? Yes, stuff I normally could care less about was interesting this go-round. I couldn’t stop reading. In fact, I often lost track of time reading Skorpio–and that’s always a good sign in a book.
Would I read Skorpio again? Probably not–I like explosions, car chases and fast, fast prose with lots of humor. But this is a good book and I do plan to read the sequel. I suppose a little bit of drama, done right, is okay once in awhile.
If you’re at all a fan of shows like The Walking Dead, where the story is about the people, and not the situation, I highly recommend Skorpio. If you’re more of an action person, I’d suggest something like Doc Savage or an Indiana Jones novel.
Four Treasure-digging Shovels up.