Scalped #49

“Scalped” is the sort of title lots of people read and praise, but it seems they do it from the trades. They do it in nice little story chunks and not enough look at how well this book works in the monthly format. Maybe you have to be a monthly comic fan to enjoy this book in such short installments, but I don’t think so. This book delivers a neat package every month and this issue is no different. It’s the conclusion of the arc so we get some moments that have been built up for a while. They certainly pay off here amidst displays of character definition you don’t always find in the spandex crowd.

Dash and Catcher are off to catch the man who killed Dash’s mother. This ride at night in a car that damn near looks haunted is an emotional journey. Nerves are high strung and it feels like no one is being honest about anything. Well, maybe Dash is, and that’s what makes this all the more heartbreaking. He’s caught in a web that was spun by the generation above him. It’s not really his fault. But he’ll be paying some of the price.

The events that transpire on the journey of Dash and Catcher are nasty and hard to watch and ultimately nail-biting stuff. There’s suspense on these pages, it’s suddenly an old EC crime comic, and then we get a gorgeous panel of a shoot out. This panel might be one of my favorite things this year. The bullets whizz through sound effects and the sterile headlights of the car see none of what happens. The shadows fall across the landscape icy cold and this book drops it theme on us once more: hidden violence. It’s hidden within us all, and sometimes it escapes. When that time comes, will you know why?

The other pages are dedicated to Chief Red Crow and his latest defining moment. He is presented with a choice of grave importance for himself and another. It’s a sad indictment of the character that once the page cuts away from Red Crow you simply assume what he has done and it’s not a difficult conclusion to draw in your mind. You don’t even need to see Red Crow do it to know he did it. What a shock, then, to find he played us for fools and went another route. It’s nice to always be surprised by the next step of this story.

R.M. Guera is consistently praised for this title, so how do you find a new way to state that which has become comic truth? The shootout sequence that takes up a good quarter of this book is brilliant and gorgeous. Guera doesn’t stylize it to appear glossy and choreographed. This is two people, at close range, trying to kill each other. That sort of scene isn’t glorious, it’s dirty and terrible. Guera makes it look amazing and these pages are something you will want to read more than once. That’s a great artist.

The next issue is the #50 and yet this issue shows plenty of quality without saving it for the anniversary milestone. The narrative just got another twist and everything else will careen into it and bank up. Where the larger universes promise us nothing will ever be the same and it always is, this book says nothing and then delivers what you always wanted. These characters are so complex and when they barely know themselves we can’t be called upon to guess how they will react. That’s just one power of this book; you never know. Good fiction should always be something you cannot get elsewhere. “Scalped” satisfies that criteria.

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