Comic of the Week - Scalped Finale
A great beginning that grabs you by the eye lids and drags you into the world of the story, putting you face to face with the characters, making your heart pound as if you were in real danger along with them is a wonderful, rare, thing. It takes a master to do that in an instant (see Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga). Keeping you there, page after page, month after month, year after year, living inside the story, growing, failing, falling, rising, agonizing, plotting, hoping with the characters, living through whatever obstacles may come up, never able to predict what’s next, is a whole other matter that few creators can maintain (see Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man). But then, to end it in a way that is both satisfying and true to the characters and world that has been established, well, that’s even more rare, particularly in longer stories. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera, over 5 years of Scalped demonstrated a mastery of storytelling and character development that is unrivalled, culminating in a final issue that tragically resolves everything the only way it could have gone.
Now that it’s done, I don’t even know how to properly review this issue, to be honest. It’s a perfect ending and one thing that sticks out is that rather than just focusing on wrapping up things up, there a few new details that emerge that shed light on some characters and even some that raise new questions. The edges of the story bleed from the frame, making the series a window into a much more complex world than we could have imagined. And considering the complexity of the series, that’s saying a lot. Comparing this to The Wire is about as accurate as it gets. Much like that show, the resolutions here indicate that while things have changed, much remains the same. Things are just too broken to fix and the best you can hope for is a changing of the players in a game that seems to continue to play itself out over and over again with very minor variations. Our hero, if you can call him that, Bad Horse, has learned his life lesson but it literally cost him everything he grew to love.
Jason Aaron clearly had this story plotted, at least in his head, from beginning to end the whole time. This is not something that was made up as he went along, and if it was, then he deserves even more credit. Every character is multidimensional, every moment means something, every line of dialogue moves things forward whether it’s the plot or character development. R.M. Guera made every character distinct from their design to the way they act. He also kept the story flowing even in moments where things were meant to be confusing and harrowing. This is visual storytelling on a level so high you forget you’re reading a comic book sometimes. I’ve said before I have a mixed desire to see this made into a TV series one day, because I’d like more people to see this, but the comic book is so perfectly crafted that I’d rather not spoil it with an adaptation. All I can say at this point is that you should pick up the trades of this series if you’ve never read it. I didn’t start reading it until about 2 years ago, but once I was hooked, it became my favorite book. I’ll miss it and I sincerely hope Aaron gives us another creator owned series soon.
Comics of the Week(s) - Three Week Catch Up
I had a three week build up of comics that I finally caught up with this weekend. I had a lot of books, so I’ll just point out a couple of issues here.
Saga #4 continues the trend of this book being on a whole other level of greatness. The characterizations here are so rich. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples are doing something special here and it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes, because 4 issues in, it could still go anywhere, really. It’s never predictable, but always makes perfect sense. Never mind the high concepts, this is just perfect storytelling.
Speaking of perfect, the second to last issue of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s Scalped… wow. This was just insanity. The whole issue is basically a long gun fight, in the dark, involving fire, spears, knives, hatchets and wild dogs. I’ve said before this would be an amazing HBO series and at the same time, I’d rather they never adapt it, but man, I’d love to see how anyone could really pull off filming the events of this issue. The way this one ended, with shots being fired at a Mexican standoff, means the last issue will really just be a clean up. But we don’t know who will be cleaned up. This won’t end neatly, because it can’t and shouldn’t, but it’s going to be satisfying, I can tell. I really hope Aaron does more creator owned work soon, instead of just writing the Marvel books. I want to see more of him really cutting loose like this, with no editorial mandates or precious characters.
Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT #2 has now made this series one of my favorites. I’m not even sure what exactly it is about it. Could be the conspiracy plot that seems to become more mysterious even as it unfolds and new angles are revealed. Could be the Kindt’s almost child like art that makes its own complexity seem simple. Could be the little stories told on the inside front and back cover that seem to be connected to the main plot, even though I don’t know how. Could be the newsprint it’s printed on. It’s probably all of these and more, but by the time I put the book down, I was sure I had enjoyed every plot twist and turn, and I felt like what I was holding was special. This is completely unlike any other book I read right now, though it’s closest relative might be The Secret History of D.B. Cooper.
Comic of the Week - Scalped
To try to describe Scalped is not easy, but it’s basically a crime story that takes place on an Indian reservation. There’s history, family drama, mystery, and pretty much just life mixed in. This issue was the close of the second to last story arc, and really, the climax of the whole series as everything came to a head. What Aaron and Guera have created in this series is something that the best serialized TV dramas of the past few years have done only occasionally. And that’s a consistency of tone and characterization that rings true from the first page of the first issue through the last page of the latest issue. And that’s not to say characters don’t evolve and change. Revelations as to their motivations have come up at various times, illuminating things that came before. But in every case, reading this story has felt like peaking in to events that are just happening.