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Comic Book / The Scorpion

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Le Scorpion (2000-) is a Franco-Belgian comics series written by Stephen Desberg, illustrated by Enrico Marini and published by Dargaud in French and Cinebook in English as The Scorpion.

The story takes place in Rome during the second half of the eighteenth century. Cardinal Trebaldi decides to reinstate the power of the nine families, based on papacy. Armando Catalano, also known as The Scorpion, is a holy relics dealer. He is the son of a heretic who was burnt alive for misdirecting a priest from the church and Christian beliefs. Armando, the bearer of the “mark of the devil”, a birthmark in the shape of a scorpion, will challenge the cardinal’s authority. The cardinal, who seems to be filled with hatred for The Scorpion, sends a young gypsy specialized in poisons to kill him.

The adventures of the Scorpion lead him to the treasure of the Templars and to discover an interpretation of what might have happened to it.

The Scorpion provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Ansea Latal is not only gorgeous and intelligent, but also a skilled swashbuckler.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Armando is more of an adventurer tomb robber, but the science of archaeology hasn't been invented yet.
  • Agent Peacock: The foppish and vain Nelio Trebaldi is a deadly swordsman with few equals.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Nine Families have secretly ruled Western civilization since Roman times.
  • Bar Brawl: Armando starts one between the warrior monks and the Swiss Guard in In the Name of the Father so he and his allies can slip out off the bar without being seen by the monks.
  • Big Bad: This is Cardinal Trebaldi in most of the stories, but after his death this becomes a Deconstructed Trope, as the comic is set in a world full of Black-and-Grey Morality without any true villains or heroes. Quite surprisingly, in the 12th book (Le Mauvais Augure) the closest to a central villain is Armando himself, and his Side Kick flat-out accuses him of this during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: Armando has a scorpion-shaped mark on his back. It's actually a scar.
  • Black Knight: Captain Rochnan dresses in all black armour.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The title of the third French album, "La croix de Pierre" has been translated as "The Stone Cross", where it's pretty clear that the original title refers to the upside-down cross of St. Peter (Pierre meaning both "stone" or "rock" and Peter, which you know, make sense since Peter was given that name since he would be the Rock upon which the Church would be built...) and finding the original Cross of Saint Peter is what the whole album was about The Scorpion needs to find the original to prove that the upside-down cross Trebaldi is using to establish his claim to the Papacy is a forgery. Adding insult to injury, the word "Pierre" in the original title is capitalized, which given French title capitalization conventions means it's a proper name and a lot of the titles are explicitly religious, like "Au Nom du pere"... "In the name of the father." The best part? The cross in question is wooden.
  • Bowdlerize: Some nudity is covered up in the official English releases, including at least one case of Fan Disservice (a woman being tortured).
  • Burn the Witch!: Armando's mother was burnt as a witch by the Inquisition for misdirecting a priest from the church and his Christian duties.
  • Cain and Abel and Seth: Late in the series it is revealed that Cosimo and Nelio Trebaldi may have an illegitimate half-sibling. Said half-sibling turns out to be none other than Armando himself.
  • Carnival of Killers: In The Mask of Truth, Cardinal Trebaldi puts a 1,000 gold coin price of the Scorpion's head. Every assassin in Rome tries to claim it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Armando experiences one at the beginning of The Stone Cross.
  • The Charmer: Armando. He could easily be The Casanova but sex is not his primary goal. It's just another weapon in his arsenal.
  • Church Militant: The Warrior Monks are highly-trained religious fanatics.
  • Church Police: The Warrior Monks are used by Cardinal Trebaldi to enforce his various decrees.
  • Cool Mask: The series has both this and Faceless Goons, handily coded by different levels of mask coverage: the Big Bad's warrior monk mooks, who wear half-mask helmets, aren't a very big deal; but their leader captain Rochnan, who is distinguished by his ornate mask that covers his entire face except for the eyes, is one of the most dangerous characters in the series.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: At one point, Armando uses on of Mejai's spilled poisons to to burn through his bonds.
  • Corrupt Church: The Catholic Church is decadent and corrupt, and controlled by the Nine Families.
  • Dark Action Girl: Mejai is a Hot Gypsy Woman assassin, while Ansea Latal is a Fiery Redhead swashbuckler who is part of the Ancient Conspiracy.
  • Depraved Homosexual or possibly Depraved Bisexual: Nelio Trebaldi. He revels in his decadence, mostly because of how much it disgusts his father and brother.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Why the Scorpion is called the Scorpion: he has a very distinctive scorpion birthmark (later revealed to be a scar) on his shoulder.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Done twice The Angel's Shadow. First Armando disguises himself as a warrior monk as part of a Trojan Prisoner gambit to gain access to the Vatican dungeons. Later, he and Hussar disguise themselves as Warrior Monks to steal a shipment of gold.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Hussar's first name is Aristotle. His father thought it would help him become a great philosopher.
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": It is never made explicit, but it appears that Hussar is actually his nickname from his time as a soldier rather than his surname. (His first name, which nobody—including himself—uses, is Aristotle.)
  • The Faceless: Rochnan's face is not revealed until The Treasure of the Templars; his face being concealed by his armoured helmet before this. And he falls to death not long after the reveal.
  • Faux Symbolism: In-universe, the Trebaldi family uses this in order to make themselves appear more significant. For example, while skimming through the comics, a first-time reader might think that the Warrior Monks are somehow unique due to their masks, or that the exotic birds held by the Trebaldis have some kind of magic properties, but it's frequently shown how there is absolutely no real deeper meaning to anything that the Trebaldis do or own – the Warrior Monks are just regular Faceless Mooks, there is nothing specials about the Trwbaldis' birds, the Cross owned by Trebaldi is a forgery, etc.
  • Fiery Redhead: Ansea Latal, a hotblooded swashbuckler who is the equal of any man in a fight.
  • Foreshadowing: the prostitutes' brand marks in The Mark of the Devil foreshadow the fact that The Scorpion's "birth mark" is actually a brand as well as seen in The Mask of Truth.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: The Scorpion sometimes uses a grappling hook crossbow.
  • Handy Cuffs: In The Mask of Truth, Nelio Trebaldi uses the shackles around his wrists to strangle the warrior monk who is guarding him.
  • The Hermit: Gottfried dwells in the middle of the desert, protecting the Cross of Peter.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: Cardinal Trebaldi. He doesn't even believe in God but plots to become Pope because the Vatican's position will give him a stranglehold on power in Europe.
  • High-Dive Escape: The Scorpion does it to escape from Trebaldi's castle in The Stone Cross.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: A Gypsy assassin who plays with the ancient idea that the Gypsies emerged from Egypt, Mejai uses her beauty as a weapon almost as much as her poisons. Her appearance hits all of the stereotypes: olive skin, loose wavy black hair, a low-cut, midriff-baring top, a low-waisted skirt slit to the hip, bare feet and lots of jewelry.
  • Human Notepad: In The Treasure of the Templars, it is revealed that Rochnan was punished for pretending to convert to Islam by having the 99 names of Allah tattooed over his body.
  • In the Hood: Mejai frequently wears a long, hooded cloak that wraps right round her whenever she is attempting to move about incognito.
  • Knight Templar: Captain Rochnan, the fanatical leader of the Warrior Monks.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Scorpion eventually learns that Trebaldi is his father.
    • Which in turn is subverted and becomes a case of Luke, I Might Be Your Father... at the end of one volume, it would appear that actually, Trebaldi is not his father, and the Scorpion is being led away to meet his true father. Maybe he is the Devil's son after all?
    • And now it's revealed Trebaldi, Nelio and Armando are all half-brothers, after Trebaldi senior raped Trebaldi's girl.
  • Master Poisoner: Mejai is a gypsy assassin famed for her use of poisons.
  • The Murder After: In In the Name of the Father, Nelio Trebaldi wakes up to find his lover lying dead next to him. This is not an attempt to frame him for murder, but a warning from his father that he can get to him anywhere.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: Several of Mejai's poisons are shown to be acidic. Armando uses one to burn through the ropes holding him at one point.
  • Red Baron: Armando is universally known as 'the Scorpion'.
  • Roguish Romani: One of the main villains is Mejai, a Hot Gypsy Woman and an assassin who specializes in the use of poison. She is eventually forced into an Enemy Mine partnership with the hero Armando when her employers betray her.
  • Scars Are Forever: The scorpion mark is actually a scar from when the main character was a baby.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: on the cover of The Stone Cross, the Scorpion is about to shoot you with a crossbow.
  • Shoot the Dog: The subplot about Armando's alleged "son" is this, with the poor boy having a particularly brutal death.
  • Sinister Minister: Cardinal Trebaldi, the Big Bad of the series.
  • Slave Brand: All of the prostitutes in Armando's hometown were branded with a 'P' by order of the local bishop.
  • Trojan Prisoner: In The Angel's Shadow, Armando and Mejai pull this stunt (with Armando Dressing as the Enemy as a Warrior Monk) to gain access to the Vatican dungeons to rescue Hussar.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Trebaldi suffers one as all of his villainous schemes come crashing down around him.
  • Wall Bang Her: Armando takes Ansea like this when she offers herself to him in In the Name of The Son.

Alternative Title(s): Le Scorpion