Scalped

[28 May 2008]

By Greg Oleksiuk

Jason Aaron has got a big pair of balls. You have to in order to write Scalped. Not only is he tackling a very touchy and almost taboo subject, namely the state of Indian Reservations in the United States, but then he goes and uses his second story-arc to retell his story from different points of view. One of the main plot-lines within Scalped is the opening of a reservation casino. For Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra’s second story-arc, titled “Casino Boogie”, they chose to tell the tale from six different points of view of the casino’s opening night. Never mind that the last panel of the first story-arc had a shocking cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more, but instead of following up on that plot thread, Aaron and Guéra take a step back and tell six tales that take place just before said event. Talk about balls.

The big question though is, does it pay off?  Without a doubt the answer is: “yes”. Aaron and Guéra introduce us to several characters whom either didn’t appear in the previous arc or only had small parts to play and make us not only care about them, but leave us wanting to know more. Never mind that the first story-arc left readers with a dangling plotline, now there are even more characters and stories pulling us in to see where exactly this title is headed.

Guéra’s art fits this comic like a glove. His dirty style keeps this book in the dark regions it should be. Those used to clean and bright superhero books may find it unsettling at first, but it does not take long to enjoy his storytelling abilities. He gives this book a very grim look which matches the subject matter. This is not a book that should look bright with crisp, clean drawing. This is down in the dirt, mud-covered and a few other nasty things stuck to you storytelling.

Over the last year or so, quite a few Vertigo titles have been given the axe due to lackluster sales. Some deserved it, while others not so much. If Scalped ever gets cancelled, it will be one of the biggest travesties in the comics world, and we will be worse off for not knowing where Aaron and Guéra are planning to take us. This comic encompasses everything that is good about the medium, and the fact that the writer is still pretty new can only make someone even more excited, as Aaron can only get better. This is what the publishers who bring in writers from other mediums want. They want someone as good as Aaron who does not to pull his punches when it comes to great storytelling.

This takes a no-holds-barred look at life on an Indian Reservation, and shows how even things that are touted as being helpful to their communities perhaps do more harm than good. I don’t know of any accolades from the First Nation community for this title, but there should be. The characters are all compelling and that says a lot considering that this collection tells one-issue stories. It gives the reservation more depth and will only deepen the stories that are being told.

Aaron and Guéra have created a modern masterpiece that keeps getting better. The fact that a collection of stories about minor characters that lends itself to the bigger picture is one of the most enjoyable reads of the year only lends itself to the greatness of this comic. It is definitely one of the top comics out there. Oh, and did I mention this comic has balls?

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/scalped/