Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: R.M. Guera
32 pp. Vertigo. $2.99
Reviewed by Paul Stotts
“First man I ever killed…I had to strangle for 11 minutes.” – Scalped #22
Literate and highly gripping, the latest issue of Scalped weaves the past and present of Chief Red Crow into an ultra-tight crime drama. Red Crow is an evil man looking to change, to get out from under all his bad deeds in his past in order to save the soul of his dead friend Gina. But change is a struggle when one is already buried so deep in a morass of evil. His past haunts him, currently complicating a life he wishes to escape from. He yearns to figure out how to escape, but events conspire against him.
Red Crow symbolizes an increasingly persistent evil; every wrong turn he makes buries him increasingly deeper. It’s an intriguing idea to explore; the evil man attempting to change his ways. And Scalped does it shockingly well. It is in parts intense, gritty, unsympathetic and smart; a character drama in the literal sense as the drama is the character. This is not an external fight, a battle between superheroes. This is one man’s battle with his greatest enemy: himself. And he’s clearly on the edge of losing.
A violent incident years earlier has Chief Red Crow in an introspective mood. He’s quickly interrupted by new concerns. It seems that Brass has carved up one of the local drug dealers, much to Red Crow’s displeasure. Brass and his Hmong backers are becoming quite the problem, but Red Crow is insistent that things don’t turn bloody. On top of all this, one of the girls Brass killed previously comes from a family that has their own history with Red Crow. A history that seems on the verge of repeating itself.
Jason Aaron’s script is fantastic here. Disturbing, deep and clever, Aaron’s writing makes most other comic writers look like they are wading in the shallow end of the pool. The interweaving and interconnection of flashbacks with current day is masterfully done, adding a vast amount of emotional depth to Red Crow. R.M. Guera’s art melds perfectly with the story; it’s evocative and hard-edged. Guera bypasses showy for storytelling and it shows. Nothing about the interiors is jaw-dropping, but combined with Aaron’s incredible story the entire package becomes stunning.
For fans of crime dramas, I can’t recommend Scalped enough. It’s a highly engaging look into the darkness of one man’s soul; a darkness more likely to utterly consume than to let him free.
Final Grade: 87 out of 100