I've now caught up with all but an issue or two of the Scalped
saga, and I can say a few things about the characters and about how the story fits into the noir and hard-boiled traditions. I can also speculate about how long writer Jason Aaron and artist R. M. Guéra will continue this superb comic-book series.Scalped
works as high-intensity noir because every major and significant supporting character is driven by traumatic, unresolved events in his or her past. It works as fast-moving narrative because Aaron jumps back and forth in time, more distant flashbacks always building toward the present, and thus averting the danger of losing focus.
It works as believable, contemporary storytelling because it is unsparing and unsentimental in its depiction of the fictional Prairie Rose Indian reservation, and because its Native American, Asian and black characters can be driven and corrupt. There is little guilty-white-liberal breast-beating at work here. It works as hard-boiled because it's harsh and violent and because Aaron puts wisecracks in the mouths of tough characters at the grimmest moments.
Vertigo has just published or is about to publish Issue #33 of Scalped
, and I wonder how long the series will continue in its current narrative form. A number of stories to this point include lengthy flashbacks to a given character's back story, and Aaron will run out of characters sooner or later, or at least risk seeming soap-operalike if he introduces new characters for the sake of giving them dramatic backgrounds. Already, the two strongest characters — the gone-but-returned Dashiell Bad Horse and the violent, corrupt, venal, haunted casino owner/police chief/boss/ex-activist Lincoln Red Crow — overshadow fellow characters given equal back-story treatment.
But that's a quibble. Scalped
is one of my best crime-fiction discoveries in recent years and certainly the most unexpected.(Read Scalped #1 free here.)
I've read Scalped
in trade paperback collections and regular monthly issues. One of the latter offers on its back cover an advertisement for Star Wars: Space Chicken
. That's a cartoon comedy based on the Star Wars™ "universe," but the ad copy makes fun of the Star Wars™ fan phenomenon, with references to nerds and such. The idea of a movie/television/action figure empire so all-encompassing that it can make fun of itself is disquieting. Satire is good. Officially licensed satire seems somewhat worrisome, totalitarian and beside the point.© Peter Rozovsky 2009
Labels: comics, crime comics, graphic novels, Jason Aaron, R. M. Guéra, Scalped