Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A real cool comic and a real free sample

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

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Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Oooh, free comic. I'm going to read this today.

Disturbing or not, Robot Chicken's send up of the Star Wars series is truly hilarious. And also available for free, too.

December 23, 2009  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

What are your thoughts on the Moses Johnson character? When I read the trade collection I really felt like that whole story line was an unnecessary diversion.

But I do love how the book ended with Dash on the verge of telling Carol. It should lead to an extraordinary explosion of their relationship because the emotional vacuity of that relationship is already pretty established. It can't sustain the weight of that revelation.

I've read in interviews over the years that the story arcs through the end of around issue #35 were all outlined from the very beginning. So it's possible the series may take on a very different feel in a post outline scenario.

Here is just one of the most recent quotes:

"Jason Aaron couldn’t get too specific as to what exactly happens in “The Gnawing,” but promised the arc will significantly change the status quo for several of the major characters in “Scalped.” “I think we’re coming to the midpoint of the story. The initial outline I had for ‘Scalped’ was for the first 35 issues and it brought us to the point we’ll be at by the end of the year,” the writer said. “I’m obviously not going to wrap up all the mysteries and subplots for the series, but by the end of the year some of our characters will be dead, the ones that are still alive will be very changed, and some of our major characters will be in very different places than before. Hopefully they won’t be places readers are expecting.”"

December 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, Loren, I'll admit that there's some good stuff in that first part, mosly those involving orders for food. I wonder how George Lucas feels about unlicensed pokes at George Lucas, though.

I hope you enjoy Scalped. It's well worth reading.

December 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian: I don't have much of a feel for Moses yet. All I seem to remember is a wisecrack about his name. I, too, am wondering what will happen with Dashiell and Carol. Other than some screaming and freaking out from her, I don't know what to expect,

If Issue 35 is a kind of a turning point, maybe I have a good sense for the pace of the story. It was Falls Down more than any other character who spurred my comment. I liked the character on his initial appearances, but the back story about his wife's death lost me somewhat. It's a dramatic story, but nothing in the character to that poiont had led me to wonder about why he was the way he was. And the back story answers no vital questions. Maybe Aaron was laying groundwork, but it seems to me that every part has to stand on its own as well as contributing to the larger story. Falling Down's backgtound seems detached, like a holding action or a set-up.

December 23, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

OT, however,

Its a Festivus Miracle.

December 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You know, her legs aren't bad, either.

December 23, 2009  

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