Scalped 60 (October 2012)

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Given Aaron and Guera created Scalped–and it not being a television series–there’s no reason for cast changes. Reading the final issue, seeing who Aaron concentrates on, one would think there were some big cast changes throughout and the need to reorient the finish.

But there weren’t. Aaron just has the five characters he’s going to end with and it doesn’t matter they don’t have the resonance to carry the issue. Oh, Lincoln does, of course. He’s got an absolutely amazing finish. Carol’s and Dino’s finishes are both stupid, though at least Aaron spends time with Carol’s. With Dino and Falls Down, Aaron thinks any attention is good enough.

As for Dash? After sixty issues, all I’ve learned is he needs to figure out how to use condoms.

Scalped‘s many failures outweigh its not insignificant successes. Aaron clearly needs firm editorial guidance; he didn’t any on Scalped from Vertigo.

CREDITS

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

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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…

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…

Scalped 45 (March 2011)

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Maybe I was wrong. I thought I could shake off a bad issue and move along, but I find myself unable to trust Aaron anymore. This issue, starting a new arc, is a little bit of a soft reboot. Dash and Carol aren’t together, Lincoln’s bringing Dash into politics, there’s a bunch of new characters… but then Aaron reminds the reader about Falls Down and Catcher.

But instead of being a big revelation, it’s more a reminder Aaron’s terrible about following up on plot threads.

Guera’s art is good this issue without being great; he draws Lincoln really well. Lincoln’s about the only thing in Scalped ever done really well.

And even Aaron’s handling of the hippies out to rid the reservation of Lincoln’s corruptness is good. It’s hard to like them; Lincoln’s convinced himself (and the reader) he’s right.

But I can’t get hopeful; Aaron’s failed once too often.

CREDITS

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


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 42 (December 2010)

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Holy God, is this issue trite. Aaron’s been trite and obvious before, but never to this degree. The entire issue poses Dash and Carol as tragic, star-crossed lovers. It felt like Aaron had just got done reading Twilight and wanted to homage it with some Scalped fanfic. It doesn’t even feel like the same comic.

Though Guera’s art is back on target again. Faces aren’t funny anymore.

Aaron opens it with a collective dream sequence, then does his whole split declarative statement first person thoughts thing. He’s done it before and it’s worked occasionally. It belly flops here. Belly flops so hard I’m angry I read the comic.

He even gets rid of Wade. The one thing he’s got going for him, Aaron drives him off the rez.

Apparently, Aaron never thought through Carol and Dash hooking up.

I hate this issue. But Aaron’s abject mishandling isn’t a surprise.

CREDITS

Unwanted, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 41 (October 2010)

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Guera’s art is something of a disaster this issue. A managed disaster. Everyone looks off. Men’s faces are too skinny, women’s faces are too full. I was surprised Guera didn’t have any credited help. It really doesn’t look like him, but an impression.

As for the rest of the issue… it’s incredibly trite.

Wade’s back because Dash hasn’t been looking for Gina’s killer. The guy who has been looking for Gina’s killer–Falls Down–hasn’t been in the comic for about five or six issues, so it’s hard to say where the investigation’s going.

Oh, wait, did Catcher kill him too?

It ends with a montage of Carol and Dash, both cured of their drug addiction (Dash through the ancestral sweating out, Carol through methadone), searching for each other.

It’s inane and only reminds Aaron still hasn’t dealt with Dash telling Carol he’s an FBI agent.

Filler issue. Big time.

CREDITS

Unwanted, Part Three; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 40 (September 2010)

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Reading about Dash detoxing is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Oh, Aaron throws him naked into the snow, hallucinating about Heaven, but it’s still no good.

Gina’s detox story–Aaron’s big on juxtaposing this arc, like he just got out of an AP literature class–is a lot better. Maybe because Aaron’s actually doing some writing. He’s got a big family conversation going on around Gina. With Dash’s stuff, he just makes Guera do all the work.

Actually, if Aaron took the time for metaphors and so on, Dash’s might work. But he doesn’t.

What does work–and what shows Aaron decided too late what Scalped should be about–is Wade and Lincoln. Wade’s return has Lincoln practically claiming Dash as his own (or at least implying he wants to be the father of Gina’s child). It’s a great scene, way too short.

The issue’s another mixed bag.

CREDITS

Unwanted, Part Two; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco and Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 39 (August 2010)

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Well, Wade’s back, which is good. Aaron can write Wade.

But Wade’s return is the soft cliffhanger. Before his appearance, Aaron deals with Carol’s pregnancy and drug addiction. I’m fairly sure there’s some Lifetime movie out there he ripped off, what with Carol literally burning down her drug den to show she’s changing her ways and all.

Aaron uses her to narrate most of the issue. A drug addicted pregnant woman going through withdrawals. He does a terrible, terrible job with that first person narration but he does even worse with the few pages he spends on Dash.

Odd how Aaron’s so bad at narrating his “protagonist” even train wrecks are better.

Guera’s art is utterly wonderful, regardless of what’s going on in the scenes. He’s really hit a good stride lately.

Nothing happens this issue besides Carol deciding to detox. She doesn’t even start detoxing. It’s all useless filler.

CREDITS

Unwanted, Part One; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 38 (July 2010)

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Aaron sure does expect a lot from his readers. I was almost through the issue before I remembered Wade is Dash’s dad. I thought it was an unlikely Falls Down flashback.

The issue takes place at the end of the Vietnam War, with Wade working the black market and romancing a local girl. It’s the best frost person Aaron has written in Scalped, even better than his occasional Lincoln first persons.

It just goes to show the series’s salient problem–Dash is poorly realized character. In one issue, Aaron does a better job realizing Wade than in thirty-some with Dash.

The issue is one of the series’s best, both in writing and art. Guera really captures the desperation in the battle scenes and the subsequent “regular life” ones. Aaron doesn’t try for profundity, just earnestness and the result is a sublime issue.

Shame it’s a done in one though.

CREDITS

Family Tradition; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 34 (January 2010)

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Well, Aaron definitely surprised me. Dash does not become George Clooney. Sadly, Aaron’s only way of making the arc surprising was to change Dash’s character entirely. He’s about thirty issues late for the development he’s doing now. It comes off as contrived. Intricate, unexpected, but contrived.

And how has the reader known (or guessed) for three issues about Carol’s pregnancy but it’s a big surprise to her. It makes absolutely no sense.

The issue’s pretty good–except when Aaron writes Dash’s internal monologue. You can just feel Aaron straining to do tough pulp writer. It stale.

As for resolving the street fight cliffhanger, Aaron actually follows through very well. Sure, he’s been hiding an integral factoid to the Hmong behavior in regards to Lincoln so he could surprise the reader… but Scalped is all about the cheap narrative tricks, bad cliffhangers and occasionally profound character developments.

So, there you go.

CREDITS

The Gnawing, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 33 (December 2009)

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Roger Ebert once wrote, “the very essence of noir is that there are no more heroes.” Much as I loathe Ebert, it’s not an incorrect observation. Someone really should have told Aaron. Just because he’s turned Dash into a dope fiend doesn’t mean he doesn’t have him running around this issue like George Clooney setting up to do the right thing.

And Aaron spends most of the issue on him, only giving Falls Down a page or two. Sure, Lincoln gets the rest of the comic, but Lincoln’s hunting down the prize witness or he’s being opaque about how to deal with the Hmong war.

Aaron’s cliffhanger for the issue is in the middle of a street fight. One has to wonder if he’s going to actually resolve it or do the Aaron thing and pick up later on.

This issue’s engaging, but it’s not particularly good (or bad) otherwise.

CREDITS

The Gnawing, Part Four of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 32 (November 2009)

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Okay, so Carol didn’t die. She just fell down in a very suspect way and it looked like her neck broke. She’s alive and well this issue and Aaron reminds the reader she knows Dash is an undercover agent… he also reminds the reader he never resolved that particular cliffhanger.

And she appears to be pregnant. Little Dash on the way.

She’s got a great scene with Lincoln.

As for Lincoln, Aaron continues positioning him opposite Nitz in the whole thing, even having them mirror dialogue, but it still doesn’t work. Aaron spent way too much time on Dash, which all seems wasted at this point.

The waste continues this issue with Dash having the only action scenes in the issue. Two times Aaron sets Dash up with confusing behavior (pulling a knife but not to hurt someone, visiting Carol) and no resolution.

It’s tiring.

But the rest is great.

CREDITS

The Gnawing, Part Three of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 31 (September 2009)

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I think I’ve figured out one of Aaron’s big problems as a writer. He’s scared of women. Sure, if it’s Granny or the old lady who lives by herself, he’s fine. She can show up and be wise. But if it’s a character he’s actually got to develop, he’s not willing to make the commitment. He puts in a shockingly paltry amount of work on Carol this issue.

Everything’s on a convenient collision course–Nitz is raiding the reservation (well, him and his sidekick), the Hmong are coming, Dash is in a bind regarding his heroin addiction (don’t know why I assumed it was meth)–and Scalped is definitely getting exciting.

While Lincoln’s at the center of it all, he’s got the only calm this issue. I guess there’s a little with Falls Down, but it’s a repeat. Lincoln’s the one character Aaron never cuts corners on.

He makes Scalped.

CREDITS

The Gnawing, Part Two of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 30 (August 2009)

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Guera’s art changes a little once again. It’s more crime art now, a lot less mystical. It’s good and it fits where Aaron’s taking the story–Lincoln going to war, Dash going nuts at the stress. There’s one weak panel with Nitz.

Let’s talk about Nitz. Aaron has Dash as a pawn between Lincoln and Nitz. Lincoln is an amazing character, easily the best thing about Scalped and probably the best thing Aaron will ever do as a writer. Nitz is a disposable racist psychopath. It’s not a worthy setup. And Aaron seems to know it–why else would the disposable Hmong get propped up in stature?

Catcher and Dash have a scene where Aaron tries to foreshadow Dash’s redemption. Unfortunately, it comes off a little more like the origin of Eagle-Man.

Falls Down has a little scene. He’s still Aaron’s second best creation.

Warts and all, excellent stuff.

CREDITS

The Gnawing, Part One of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 29 (July 2009)

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Dash is back! Who knew he was still a character in Scalped.

Aaron reveals the heist gone bad this issue–and some more (only a little, actually) into Dash’s descent into meth-addiction or whatever–and he’s been watching some Pulp Fiction.

The way the heist ties in on itself isn’t particularly interesting and the way Aaron reveals details late is very Ocean’s Twelve, but it’s a good issue. It’s not deep, but it amuses as Aaron throws a strung-out Dash through a very bad night.

He does try to get some sympathy for Dash, whether it’s flashbacks to his awful childhood or to being a soldier, but since Dash is such a non-character at this point in the series, it doesn’t matter. Dash is a pawn on the Scalped board. Not all the characters are, but Dash is definitely one of them.

Guera’s enthusiastic art helps lots.

CREDITS

Rock Bottom, Pop. 1High Lonesome, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 28 (June 2009)

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This issue, even though Aaron makes the strangest decision regarding the identity of Gina’s killer I can imagine–he reveals it without any reason–is a fine issue.

Guera’s back on art, still letting the colorist fill in facial details, but at least the style is constant not. He’s not experimenting anymore, he’s committed.

And Aaron splits the issue between two and a half strong characters. Falls Down is investigating the murder from a couple issues again (when Scalped got real mean), the convict on death row has his scenes (which are all just b plot development), and then Catcher returns.

Catcher gets less and less interesting the more Aaron develops the character. He and Dash should leave the comic and never come back….

But it’s a good issue, particularly because of the Falls Down scenes. Lincoln never makes an appearance, but he’s always present. Aaron’s sublimity is sometimes great.

CREDITS

I’ll Never Get Outta This World AliveHigh Lonesome, Part Four of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 25 (March 2009)

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At first I thought Guera was homaging Bill Messner-Loebs’s Journey and then I thought it was a Corben homage… and then I just realized Guera stopped doing much face detail and made the colorist do it.

This issue isn’t a nice one. It’s an intentionally mean one, with Aaron introducing a violent, sadistic career criminal to the reservation with his eyes set on ripping off Lincoln’s casino.

After one issue, all from the new character’s perspective, it’s hard to see how Aaron’s going to make it organic to Scalped. Lincoln has a walk-on, Dash makes an appearance at the very end… but it’s a brand new comic, not just a new arc.

Reading it as that new comic, it’s okay but nothing more. Aaron tries hard to continuously surprise the reader with his protagonist’s inhumanity. There doesn’t seem to be a point to it… I’m hoping I’m wrong.

CREDITS

This Then Is the RezHigh Lonesome, Part One of Five; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

Scalped 24 (February 2009)

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Guera’s art falls apart a little this issue. He’s careful and considered on the flashbacks and the postscript, but during the big action scene he falls apart. He gets loose and the scene suffers a bit.

Aaron ties everything together a little bit differently than I expected. All the work he did on Dino last issue has nothing to do with Lincoln, which makes one wonder why Scalped needed a pointless Dino issue. The plotting for the issue in strong, these little disconnected scenes of Lincoln’s rage building.

The ending to this issue, this look into Lincoln’s soul, could very well be the end of Scalped too. Sure, there are lots of places for Aaron to go, but this issue sums up Lincoln quite well.

Aaron finishes the issue with Lincoln’s first person explanation of himself. It’s a complete narrative shift, but it’s a beautiful sequence with the Guera art.

CREDITS

The Gravel in Your Guts, Conclusion; writer, Jason Aaron; artist, R.M. Guera; colorist, Giulia Brusco; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.


Contemporaneously…

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