May 22, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- Ripclaw Special

Two-Bit Comics
Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

May 18, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
Published by Image Comics
Written by: Marc Silvestri, David Wohl (story), Brian Holguin (script)
Art by: Jordan Raskin


Did you know that most Dutch telephone numbers increased to ten digits in October 1995? This was also the month that OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murder, and John Bobbit had plastic surgery to increase his penis size by three inches. October 1995 also saw the Million Man March in Washington D.C. and saw the contract moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore being signed. Insane Clown Posse released their album Riddle Box and Image Comics released Ripclaw Special.

I know all these things are connected in some way. My problem is figuring out how.

As I have said many times in this column, I had basically stopped reading mainstream comics in the 90’s, so I have little to no background as to who this Ripclaw character is. After reading Ripclaw Special, though, I mourn for this loss of innocence.

I will warn you right now that reading Ripclaw Special was sort of like snorting a giant line of methamphetamine, chasing it with two bottles of tequila, getting punched in the face repeatedly by circa 1986 Mike Tyson, and listening to a the Scorpion’s Rock You Like a Hurricane on endless repeat, all while skydiving over the Grand Canyon without a parachute.

If this is an experience you wish to have, then join me as I go through Ripclaw Special. If not, may I suggest you watch some cat videos on YouTube.

Here’s what I was able to find out about Ripclaw. tells me that:

Ripclaw is a Native American meta human with cybernetic enhancements. He is an expert in hand to hand combat and possesses a superhuman healing factor and the ability to commune with the spirit world. He was recruited into Cyberdata and surgically altered and brainwashed into a SHOC trooper.

Apparently Ripclaw was featured in 32 issues of Image’s Cyberforce series from November 1993 to August 1997, and the 90’s version of the Ripclaw series lasted for 6 issues, from December 1995 to June 1996. Ripclaw Special was, I gather, the prologue to the Ripclaw series.

I can see why the series only lasted six issues if this was its prologue.

I need to take a few deep breaths before I continue. You may want to take a few yourselves.


Ripclaw Special opens up with serene nature scenes interrupted by seven yellow text boxes.

These seven yellow text boxes contain the following text:
In the long shadows beneath the watchful moon, something stirs. Abruptly startled from its idyll, the woods react. The birds of the air… the creatures of the earth… even the land itself… Trembles. Something is wrong. Very wrong.

Right from the first page I knew I was in trouble. I hate this kind of writing. This is the sort of pedantic middle-school fan fiction crap that tends to make my eyes bleed and causes me to make snap judgments about the professionalism of the author. From the “watchful moon,” to the reliance on ellipses, to the sentence fragment at the end, all of this wafts heavily on the crap meter (available at K-Mart for $9.99) and leads to preternatural alcoholism.

Then I turned the page.

HRRGGGGH! What the hell is that thing? Apparently it has “an acrid, feral scent – like parched leather and gravedust” (which sort of reminds me of Driven, the perfume by Derek Jeter).

Whatever this thing is, it’s there to kill.

“It happens in a single, panicked heartbeat. The fierce beating of huge wings, the sickening scrape of powerful claws… a desperate tight-throated shriek… and the rest is silence.”

Of course I have no idea what “It” is in the sentences above. From the look on the woman’s face I’m guessing it has something to do with a dance move from a Beyonce video.

Page four and we cut to Ripclaw and his mentor, Tallhorse, hanging around a campfire talking about how wrong it is for some logging company to develop the land they are squatting on. Suddenly Ripclaw does this:

I don’t even know where to begin with this panel. I mean, seriously, WTF?

Ripclaw and Tallhorse have felt a disturbance in the “Great Web”. When Ripclaw feels a disturbance of this nature, he seems to get pretty damn jiggy about it.

Ripclaw and Tallhorse go in search of the disturbance. As they track down whatever the heck they are tracking, Ripclaw thinks about the debt he owes Tallhorse for being his teacher. In a reddish colored textbox, says, “He showed me how to search with my heart, to listen with my bones. I don’t much like what my bones are telling me right now.”

I don’t much like what your bones are telling you right now either. A matter of fact, I wish your bones would just shut the heck up!

Tallhorse and Ripclaw make it to the cabin we saw on pages one and two. They figure out that the damage done was caused by a Manitou, which is an Iroquois word meaning “fierce spirit”. The woman doing the Beyonce dance earlier says to them, “M-MNN-MONSTER…!” but I can’t tell if she is talking about the Manitou or Ripclaw, not that it really matters at this point.

Page seven (Only page seven? How long is this thing?), and we are now in “the steel and glass labyrinth of the city. As the fluorescent-lit world flickers to its close, its pale-faced charges are released eagerly into the cool evening air.” That is what it actually says in yellow text boxes. I wish I was making this up.

Here in the city some guy tells another guy that there has been an “unfortunate incident near the proposed logging site.” The other guy tells them to “Erase any corroboration and proceed as planned.” OOOOOOH – very ominous. A Heartless Corporate Leader who values profit over people? Who’s the real bad guy here? What was the earlier killing motivated by really? Is it all a big misunderstanding? Do I care at this point?


Ripclaw and Tallhorse perform some smoke ritual at the Nexus (you know the Nexus, a gateway to other worlds? You don’t? Noob.) which tells them that they will find the Manitou next in Manhattan. I assume because if it can make it there, it can make it anywhere.

Ripclaw leaves Tallhorse to guard the Nexus and somehow heads to Manhattan. I have no idea how far away he is or what mode of transportation he plans on using. My guess is that Brain Holgun had no idea either.

Page nine now (you can certainly judge your response to a comic if you are counting pages until it ends), and we get a nice butt shot of the Manitou flying over Manhattan while he text boxes his disdain for the “toils of men.”

The Manitou focuses on an office building, and page ten brings us inside, where Eric and Holly are engaged in a little after-work tete-a-tete. The Manitou, apparently quite prudish, provides the ultimate coitus interruptus by breaking through the window and clawing Eric’s face off.

Holly’s reaction to this echoes my reaction to this entire comic so far.

I think I want to write a doctoral thesis called: Jordon Raskin’s Choice of the Red Rectangle. Not because I want a PhD; I just like to tackle inscrutable intellectual challenges that will give me an excuse for heavy alcohol intake.

Ripclaw burst through the door just as the Manitou flies out the window. He calls Detective Gray to report the crime and then jumps out the window himself. Can he fly? I have no idea.

He ends up in front of the Peterson Institute, which is a Center for Observation and Recovery (read: loony bin). Ripclaw jumps the wall surrounding the Institute (so he can’t fly?) and looks into the barred window of Michael’s room. Michael is his brother. At that exact moment, the Manitou grabs Ripclaw by his pony tail and tosses him across the lawn. They battle. During the course of the battle, Ripclaw reveals that the Manitou is actually a manifestation of Michael, who is ensconced in the Institute.

The fight goes on for four pages. It gets a little awkward at one point.

I think you can see what I mean from the middle panel there…..

Michael the Manitou flies off warning Ripclaw not to harm Michael’s physical form. Ripclaw sulks off into the night to rethink his ‘strategy talk to Tallhorse.” I have no idea what that means.

Nineteen pages in now and we are now “far beneath the city, in a Cyberdata Research Facility.” The corporate overlords are trying to make sense of the killings that have been going on of late, and they are worried that their operation might be compromised.

Luckily, one of the lackeys seems to have figured it out.

I love the last panel. Where the heck did they get that picture? I can’t believe that at this point I care enough to even ask.

Page twenty brings us back to the Nexus. Michael’s Manitou (not a bad band name, actually) shows up in front of Tallhorse. Tallhorse calls forth his own Manitou and they battle Manitou to Manitou for four pages while gibbering about the morality of whatever it is that Michael is so cheesed about. It ends with Michael’s Manitou ripping Tallhorse’s Manitou in half, which “tears open a hole in reality itself.”

Of course it does.

Michael’s Manitou throws Tallhorse into the reality hole, which Ripclaw senses while he is still in front of the Peterson Institute.

My sentiments exactly. I hate this comic.

Suddenly, Ripclaw’s migraine is interrupted by the arrival of S.H.O.C.S! These are heavily armed and armored guys who can, unlike Ripclaw, fly. They head towards the Institute when:

“Nobody said anything about no Force Field!” Ripclaw has nice thighs.

As the S.H.O.C.S. try to blast the force field, BOOM, there’s Michael’s Manitou, who starts crushing their heads.

Ripclaw is able to pass through the force field because it is mystical in origin (of course). He enters the Institute and kneels next to his brother’s unconscious body. Is he planning on committing fratricide to end this whole thing? I can’t even tell? And it doesn’t matter anyway because suddenly Michael’s Manitou appears in the room and smashes Ripclaw through the wall.

They fight. While fighting, Ripclaw tries to appeal to the sensible side of his brother, begging him to stop his madness. Somehow Michael is able to control the Manitou enough to make it hesitate. Why he suddenly does this is not explained, is out of character, and is such a lazy plot contrivance that I want to start screaming, but at least it provides an ending this miserable comic.

Ripclaw takes advantage of the Manitou’s hesitation,

and rides its head like a skateboard?

This move, apparently, is enough to defeat the Manitou. The downside to this, Ripclaw learns, is that “just as with Tallhorse, destroying the physical body of the Manitou” sends Michael “back to the Whispering Worlds”.

But Michael’s Manitou threw Tallhorse into a reality hole. How did Michael end up falling into a similar hole if he was unconscious in bed the whole time? It makes no sense. Which one is it? Do you get thrown or do you just get sent there? Why am I even worried about this? It’s the last page of the book!

The final panel has a close up of an emotionally wrought Ripclaw.

He’s going to go to hell to save his brother and Tallhorse. It is fitting that he will have to journey to hell to do this, as he has just put me through hell for 32 pages.

I hate you, Ripclaw.

So we made it through the whole comic, and of that, at least, I am proud. If I ever so much as hear the word “Ripclaw,” let alone the words “Rip” and “Claw” even used in the same sentence, I will be releasing my Manitou all over somebody’s ass.

And that won’t be pretty.

I’m sorry for this whole thing.

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