Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trade Waiting - Scalped Vol 6: The Gnawing

Scalped is a great series. There’s just no other way to put it. It’s not just a great comic, it’s a great story, and I feel certain that if you dig on any form of story with a bit of grit, some crime, and a large scope then you will become addicted from the very first issue of Scalped and never look back. I just picked up the sixth trade so hit the jump to see what I make of it.

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by R.M. Guera
Covers by Jock

There’s been a lot of history in the previous five trades and so I’ll do my best to review this without spoiling what came before. Each trade isn’t always so much an arc as it is another painting in a collection of magnificently majestic vistas of Jason Aaron’s broken American heartland. Suffice to say, this comic shows Dashiell Bad Horse returning to the Indian reservation where he began life. This time he’s an FBI agent, and he’s going undercover in local Indian boss Chief Red Crow’s crew. The last trade, High Lonesome, saw Dash in a very bad place and hitting lows that a man in his position certainly should not be.

This trade opens and plays to one of the main strengths that this series has, the surrounding cast. As much as Dash might be the main character, or our character, or possibly even the good character, everyone else around him is always equally important. We initially look at Red Crow and his current worries with an Asian gang that has been backing him, the Hmongs.

Aaron is smart to pepper his cast on the Rez everywhere and with a multitude of motivations. People connect and interact like Venn diagrams of greed and blood and you never know when a new link will be made. It makes for backdoor dealings and dramatic irony that will keep you guessing along to see who lives and dies.

The latest issue for Dash is that he’s been tasked with finding the FBI mole in Red Crow’s rank. It might be a move pulled straight from The Departed’s playbook but here we know it’ll play out most differently. Everything in this world plays out in a different manner. The people of Scalped play for keeps, and, like real people, you can never tell what’s going on under the surface.

The Gnawing brings a lot of players together in different ways and this mostly ends with them hurting or killing each other. It is rare, though it does happen, that two or more characters just get to sit around and enjoy the company of one another. Usually they are threatening to hurt each other or acting on that impulse. And sadly enough, everyone has a reason to hurt everyone else.

In this trade we get a few beatings, a fair few bullets to the head, people running for their lives, others running to end someone’s life, and no matter how much blood is shed rarely does anyone get the answer or solution they do desperately want. They might get a stay of execution, or a moment’s respite, but they’re never fixed, only bandaged and sent back out to war.

R.M. Guera, as usual, does a great job with Scalped. The world seems like it could only ever look this way and only ever should. It’s brown, it’s muted, and as the run progresses always becomes that much clearer. Guera knows exactly how all the characters look and does a wonderful job at making their faces look like they have just been through what we have seen. Everyone is real and everyone is haggard and every action has a visual opposite reaction.

Each trade in Scalped brings another masterful piece of it all together. It also does a great job on making you want to go back to the start and maybe even read it all again in the lead up to what you’re about to take in. Scalped works great with reruns and Aaron hasn’t faltered at all in bringing us this violent and brutal tale.

Matt Fraction provides the introduction and in it he transfixes you to the page with his historical recount of the Alabama Corn Snake. What it all means? Well, you’d have to read it to find out. It’s interesting, I’ll say that much.

I will also say, High Lonesome read as an almost standalone tale within the Scalped world of criminals and crooked officials, a roadside attraction on the journey across the barren landscape of Scalped. However, The Gnawing is much more a situation where every single vehicle, passenger, and animal on the road has come together to cause an accident of monumental proportions. And those who survive simply take another swig on their drink and keep on truckin’.

Verdict – Must Read. There is no other way to put it. Scalped is a must read book, but this trade does not disappoint on its own. Each trade of Scalped brings more density to the journey of Scalped and I get the feeling that by the end, whenever Aaron decides to bring this tale to an end, this series is going to go down as one of the best issue for issue and complete run titles to have ever been created.

Like this review?  Interested in Scalped Vol. 6: The Gnawing? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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brandon said...

I switched over to singles for this arc and I'm glad I did. This was one of the stories I just couldn't wait to see through and it was awesome.

For me, this series, Preacher, Walking Dead and a few others are going to rank as the series I will read and re-read for years to come.

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