Scalped

Scalped 59 (July 2012)

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This issue of Scalped originally cost 2.99. One can watch a collection of John Woo’s Mexican standoffs on the Internet for free. He or she might even be able to watch the finale to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for free. Of the three choices, the third would have the most artistic value, then the second. The first–this issue of Scalped–offers none.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever thought Aaron was ripping the reader off. Guera’s action art is competent but uninspired and boring. The brief characterizations are weak, Aaron’s page of first person narrations are awful… There’s nothing to recommend the issue. It’s just the penultimate one. Aaron’s taking advantage of the situation; Scalped has its faithful readers and Aaron knows it.

Aaron apparently misses the irony of Nitz’s incompetence. Had he ever done real detective work, there wouldn’t be a story.

CREDITS

Trail’s End, Part Four; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

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Scalped 58 (June 2012)

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The shoot out between Dash and Lincoln is pretty good. It makes up for the hilarious scene where Dash shaves his head to show he’s a tough guy and not the nice boy who’d been shacked up with the American Indian rights girl.

Maybe if Vertigo had taken a publishing break with Scalped, Aaron could get away with the head shaving scene. But he just did the jump forward. It’s silly.

The stuff with Catcher’s bad, the stuff with Dino’s bad… But that shoot up makes up for them too. Only Falls Down and Nitz have good scenes otherwise. For the main plots, Aaron always promises resolutions then makes the reader wait for thirty issues. At least the side plots exist on their own with a natural pacing.

I’m very curious–but not particularly hopeful–about what’s going to happen next. Aaron is going for a record on delayed gratification.

CREDITS

Trail’s End, Part Three; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 57 (May 2012)

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In its final arc, Scalped feels like a sequel done by adoring fans rather than the original writer. Maybe Aaron’s writing needs to be read on a monthly schedule, not accelerated enough to know when and where he’s pulling a fast one. In other words, Scalped works as a periodical, not a trade.

There’s some good stuff this issue with Lincoln and Falls Down. The stuff with Catcher turning into an inhuman killing machine? Really dumb. If he turns out to be an alien or a cyborg from the future in the end, it’d probably work better.

As for Dash–or Dash 2.0? Aaron doesn’t seem to understand noir, which has been one of Scalped‘s problems all along, but he also doesn’t seem to understand point of view. Dash’s internal monologue is nowhere near as impressive as visually well conveyed actions, which Guera provides.

Aaron’s writing just mucks them up.

CREDITS

Trail’s End, Part Two; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 56 (April 2012)

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It’s a one year later comic! Wow. So now Aaron is ripping off “Battlestar Galactica,” Millar’s Swamp Thing and Dark Horse’s Aliens to make up for his lack of forethought.

Oh, I guess it’s not a year. It’s eight months. Dash has cleaned up and is dating a saint–much to Carol’s disappointment–but Catcher has disappeared, Dino’s apparently a popular little thug and Lincoln’s in jail.

While it’s the problem with the comic, one does have to stand back and marvel at Aaron’s unawareness of his own writing. He really does seem to expect reader to identify and like the new Dash. Or am I reading it wrong? He’s just drawing out the reader’s hope Lincoln has him killed? It’s one or the other; I’m guessing the former because the latter would impress me.

Aaron doesn’t write well enough to sell the gimmick. The characters, save Lincoln, are boring.

CREDITS

Trail’s End, Part One; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 55 (February 2012)

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I wasn’t sold on Guera’s handling fight scene between Dash and Shunka, but he won me over. It’s a hard scene, since neither character is particularly likable and Aaron has spent whole issues intentionally making them more unlikable. Reading Scalped is occasionally letting Aaron handle you as the reader. Sometimes the manipulation’s obvious, sometimes not.

This issue? Very obvious.

As he enters the series’s final issues, Aaron has brought Scalped to an interesting point. There’s nothing in this issue Aaron couldn’t have done in issue fifteen. He’s going to have to make the case for the series being worth the effort. Taking responsibility for characters and plot has never been Aaron’s strength on Scalped.

Other notable events this issue? None. Aaron subjects the reader to Catcher, even trying to get some sympathy for him. No Falls Down, no fun Nitz stuff. Scalped now seems like it’s gone on too long.

CREDITS

Knuckle Up, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 54 (December 2011)

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Eh. Aaron’s stopped with the intricate plotting and now he’s on to resolutions and he apparently doesn’t have any idea how to do those. He tries for sensationalism, whether it’s a riff on Saving Private Ryan or The Godfather Part II and he flops both times. Guera doesn’t help in those occasions either. His visual pacing is awful.

And I haven’t even gotten to Nitz and the sheriff. Once again, Aaron asks the reader to believe he’d textured something deeply into Scalped‘s grain. Only this time, without clever plotting, there’s no reason to buy it. Aaron also throws in Dino for a frame, because it’s supposed to mean something. Even with Dino having been around for so long, Aaron’s filling Scalped with contrivances.

Falls Down doesn’t make an appearance and Dash all of a sudden is a lot less amusing.

It’s a poorly paced issue without any redeeming scenes.

CREDITS

Knuckle Up, Part Four of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 53 (November 2011)

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In writing workshop terms, Aaron doesn’t “earn” the surprise events in this issue. He never put in the work on the characters he’s got going–I always thought Scalped had a finite number of issues planned and Aaron probably would’ve need another ten to properly introduce all these new guys–but damn if it isn’t a lot of fun.

Aaron’s not going to produce a great comic book or even a good pulp. He’s gone too far off road with Scalped over the last fifty issues (to the point he’s apparently forgotten distinct character traits, especially about Catcher), but he’s got a fun read for this arc.

It helps, once again, Dash can’t talk. It gives Falls Down something extra to do and makes the scenes a lot more amusing than otherwise.

Lincoln doesn’t get much time this issue, which is too bad. Otherwise, the issue’s a very entertaining read.

CREDITS

Knuckle Up, Part Three of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 52 (October 2011)

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Aaron does get one heck of a surprise ending out of this one. I’m impressed; even with some discreet visual foreshadowing, it’s unexpected.

The other big development is Dash’s voice. With his jaw wired shut, he can’t talk. Somehow, making the character mute is the best thing Aaron has ever done for him. It gives Guera something extra to do–making Dash’s reactions non-verbal–but it also makes Aaron’s writing more creative.

He should’ve done it at issue four.

Otherwise, even with the cliffhanger suggesting otherwise, the issue belongs to Lincoln. Aaron’s not explaining his actions, just letting them play. The reader is left to interpret Lincoln as he or she chooses, which might be Aaron’s smartest writing move ever

There’s a cheap flashback Aaron can’t sell and a scene where he pretends he introduced Shunka’s sexuality earlier in the series, but it’s impossible not to appreciate the comic.

CREDITS

Knuckle Up, Part Two of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 51 (September 2011)

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For the first time ever (I think), Guera has so much action he can’t lay it out properly. The opening scene has Shunka defending Lincoln, but the panels are so tiny, I thought it was Lincoln defending himself until halfway down the next page.

Everything’s coming together now, as Aaron starts racing towards Scalped‘s finish–Dash and Falls Down are going after Catcher, Lincoln has found God (but not enough he’s probably still going to have to kill Nitz) and Dino figures in somewhere. Aaron throws so much into the mix, it’s hard to keep up. After the previous issue’s pin-up gallery, I’d even forgotten Catcher messed up Dash.

Cynically speaking, having so much in one issue makes it easy to ignore Aaron’s contrived plotting. He didn’t lay these threads in issue one… I mean, did Shunka even have a name back then?

But Aaron muddles memory effectively.

CREDITS

Knuckle Up, Part One of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 50 (August 2011)

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Making it fifty issues in today’s comics industry is no small feat, so I guess one can forgive Aaron and company for just wanting a breather with the fiftieth issue of Scalped.

It’s basically a pin-up issue, besides some slightly weak framing content, and there are some great artists on it. Oddly, Brendan McCarthy’s page is the only disappointing one. It’s obvious and tame. Igor Kordey does a few beautiful pages. Steve Dillon’s pin-up page is probably the best.

The story, which Guera illustrates, involves a couple white scalp-hunters in the 1800s and Aaron juxtaposes it against how the Natives see the whites. Unsurprisingly, they see each other the same. Aaron’s history lesson, however, is rife with problems and he goes far in demonizing the white man instead of doing something interesting.

Even though the juxtaposition, at the end, suggests Aaron was going for something more thoughtful.

CREDITS

The Art of Scalping – The Art of Surviving; writer, Jason Aaron; artists, R.M. Guera, Igor Kordey, Timothy Truman, Jill Thompson, Jordi Bernet, Denys Cowan, Dean Haspiel, Brendan McCarthy and Steve Dillon; colorists, Giulia Brusco, Thompson and McCarthy; letterers, Guera and Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 49 (July 2011)

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Aaron abandons Dash. He embraces Lincoln, big shock, but he abandons Dash after a gunfight with Catcher. Why? Because it’s easier. To be fair, Aaron created such a weak character with Dash–and Catcher–there’s nothing much to do with them. The dialogue’s awful between them and it’s unimaginable someone could’ve made it through FBI training and not understood Catcher’s confession.

Or fifth grade. Aaron writes Dash like he’s got less than a fifth grade education.

But Guera’s gunfight art is outstanding and the sequence is exciting, even if the characters are lame. Falls Down moves through the issue a little, without much to do, but he’s at least visually present.

And then there’s Lincoln. Aaron goes for the unexpected with Lincoln–twice this issue–and it’s great both times.

Even though the issue was a lot of problems, they’re endemic to Scalped overall; those aside, it’s an excellent issue.

CREDITS

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, Conclusion, Ain’t No God; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 48 (June 2011)

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I’m fairly impressed… Aaron tries for another concept issue and he actually succeeds. It’s a fractured narrative with Dash in the center of it, playing him off Lincoln, Catcher and Nitz, all at different time periods–in fact, it’s unclear where the cliffhanger fits.

Some of Aaron’s success with it might have to do with Dash as a character. Forty-eight issues into the series, Aaron knows he can’t possibly have Dash be a decent human being and have anyone believe it. So all he has to do is set up a problem where Dash can still be a twit and make all the steps through it be complex enough it rewards the reader.

Guera’s art seems a little off though. The issue starts on the wrong foot with a full page close-up of Dash. Guera’s too hurried, his details lacking.

But it’s the best issue of the arc.

CREDITS

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, Part Four of Five, Are You Honest Enough to Live Outside the Law?; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 47 (May 2011)

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Is Catcher narrating this issue? It’s Dino’s issue, but Aaron doesn’t use him to narrate. Until the Catcher appearance–and Aaron ripping off narration from Ed Brubaker’s Criminal–it’s an okay issue. Dino is in love with Carol, Carol’s still in love with Dash or whatever. Poor Dino’s heart gets broken.

Dino crushing on Carol, who’s nearly old enough to be his mom probably, distracts from Aaron making Dino such an unlikable character the last time he showed up in Scalped. I think Dino’s supposed to get sympathy for losing the eye from the reader as well, which is just weak.

Once again, Aaron’s showing an utter lack of planning on the series. Had he layered in Dino’s crush on Carol from the start–he had to have known her–it might actually play well. Instead, Aaron just slaps on another coat.

Still, Aaron has written worse issues. Much worse.

CREDITS

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, Part Three of Five, Hearted; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 46 (April 2011)

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Catcher isn’t a crazy man or a prophet, he’s Hannibal Lector. The other half of the issue is Lawrence–the guy in prison–and his half of the issue is great.

Maybe his name’s not Lawrence, but whatever. The guy in prison. Aaron does a great job with him.

As for the stuff with Falls Down and Catcher? Well, Aaron certainly seems to enjoy writing about Catcher torturing Falls Down. Maybe enough it’s concerning,

And I misspoke a little when I said Catcher is now Hannibal Lector; Aaron’s probably going for more of a “Twin Peaks” vibe. He’s not really accomplishing anything–the issue’s entirely disposable as a part of the narrative. Except the prison stuff, of course.

But the Catcher stuff? I don’t see the need. Aaron could’ve established it all in a page or two and had a great done-in-one at the prison.

Aaron disappoints again.

CREDITS

You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, Part Two of Five, At Her Majesty’s Pleasure; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…