Thursday, January 12, 2012

Comic of the Week - Scalped

In November I started reading Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's Scalped from the first issue. I'd heard enough praise for it and it was about time to read it. I think it was issue 4 or 5 that I read and realized I was hooked like a crackhead. Throughout November and December, I read the whole series, like a gluttonous junky eating heroin infused cheesecake. I'd take in big chunks and then try to slow down to make it last. Knowing the series is ending soon made me want to hurry up, but also made me want to linger all the more on the issues that were all new to me. Well, now I've caught up and this week, number 55 was the first issue I picked up and read on the day of release. And what an issue.

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.

Every issue I've read, I struggle with wanting to see this as a TV series and also, not wanting that. I'd love for this to be seen by a much larger audience who may have watched and loved shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, etc. But a big part of this world is RM Guera. It's easy to see his mastery of tone and mood in his work. But look deeper and there's real emotion on every character's face. It's like he's a master thespian with his pencil, letting the lines disappear into actual feelings and motivations that show on faces and eyes. That he's working with someone like Aaron, who does not have his characters do anything randomly, is a perfect match.

I finished reading issue 55  and, although I still had about four more books to read this week, I stopped. I wanted to let this sit in my mind. It was a fast paced issue, with barely any dialogue in it. It was harrowing, because knowing we're so close to the end, literally anything can happen. It's dangerous, as the series has been from the start. And, because Aaron and Guera make it impossible not to be invested in the characters, it's also a relief. It's a relief to see things start to wrap up with the possibility of justice and peace. Of course, there's still one more arc, 5 issues, before it's really over, and Aaron has been known to be dark and grim, so where this is going still remains to be seen. I cannot recommend reading this entire series enough. It is firmly in my top series of all time, with it's position to be determined based on how it ends. I have faith it will be pretty high on the list though.

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