Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 08.22.2012 – Scalped #60

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

267
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.9
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 38.7%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Scalped_60_Full
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by R.M. Guera
Cover by Jock

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

I’ve initiated a coup d’état here at the iFanboy Pick of the Week. Ron Richards originally was scheduled to write the Pick of the Week this week, but he doesn’t read Scalped and as the only member of the iFanboy editorial team that has read Scalped all the way from issue one without ever dropping it, I could not allow this final issue to go unrecognized. So I stepped in and took over, which is something that has rarely happened in the 12 years we’ve been marking the iFanboy Pick of the Week. Ron was gracious about it, although I suspect that had a lot to do with suddenly being off the hook for writing a 1,000+ word review in the middle of a busy day in the middle of an even busier work week. I don’t mean any disrespect the fine book that Ron was going to bestow honors upon, this is just the way it had to be.

And so it ends.

“It” being Scalped, one of, if not, the best on-going series in comic books today. We knew that an ending was coming; this is not Superman and Dashiell Bad Horse was never meant to fight a never ending battle for truth, vengeance, and the Lakota way. We not only knew that the story had to end, we knew that it would probably end badly, in that there would probably be a lot of guns and bloodshed and heartbreak and freshly dug graves. And that’s pretty much how the story ended.

Only not really. At least, not in the way one might expect.

The previous issue, Scalped #59, ended with our two main characters Dashiell Bad Horse and Red Crow standing in the flame engulfed confines of the latter’s casino, bloodied and pointing guns not only at each other, but at Catcher, the Prairie Rose Reservation’s resident mad man who not only has always seemed to know more about the secrets on the rez than anyone else, but who also murdered Dashiell’s mother and Red Crow’s great love, Gina Bad Horse. It was that murder that has driven this series over the last 5+ years and now it was all reaching a head in a bloody, fiery, angry Mexican stand off, and on the final page of the last issue, the shooting started.

Scalped #60 opens, moments later where we find Red Crow and Catcher have taken all the bullets, both men had turned their guns away from Dashiell because both men really hated each other more than anyone else. As Red Crow slumped to the floor in a mess of blood, Catcher staggered away and into the flames, leaving his own trail of blood on the floor of the casino like a boat leaking oil in the ocean, and as Dashiell fantasized about shooting, stomping, pistol-whipping, and then brutally scalping Catcher, in barged FBI Special Agent in Charge Nitz, who has not only represented the corrupt Federal oversight of the reservation throughout the series, but was also Dashiell’s handler when he was an undercover agent in Red Crow’s criminal organization. Nitz has a stake in all of this too because Catcher not only killed Gina Bad Horse, he also killed two FBI agents. Even though it moved very quickly, the rising tension of this scene was unbearable. Just as one got to catch their breath from the aftermath of the shoot-out, in came a new element to add to the chaos and uncertainty. And then just as quickly as it began, the chaos ended. Nitz and Catcher died in the flames, Nitz’s hands around Catcher’s throat, while Dashiell helped carry his old nemesis and father figure Red Crow out of the burning casino and to safety. While slumped over outside the burning casino waiting for help to arrive, Red Crow tell Dashiell that he can use his influence to make the murder charge that’s around Dashiell’s neck go away, and that it’s time to stop running. He wants Dashiell to stay on the rez and be the heir to his powerful political (and formerly criminal) empire. Dashiell yells at him in his native language and then we jump ahead three months.

And that’s where things get really interesting. Scalped draws to a close, probably not as most people expected, but in a way that is both satisfying for the readers and true to the characters.

The thing is: there was always going to be one final violent act of bloodshed at the climax of this story. And things were always going to end badly for most of the characters. But the real question was always going to be: what was going to happen next? What would the epilogue be? Because ultimately, while this book has excelled at grinding its characters up under the unrelenting dual boot heels of violence and despair, it has always been about life on the rez, and everyone knows, life goes on.

We already took one leap forward in time after the last big inciting incident but this time, while it has only been three months, we see that for these characters that we’ve been following for 60 issues, it’s finally time to find a new life and a new place in the world. For some, it’s returning to the land and their ancestors to live life as their people once did. For others, it’s hitting the road and really truly taking a shot at finding themselves. For others still, it’s filling the criminal void left in the wake of all the killing. And in perhaps the most heartening development, it’s making the decision to use your past mistakes to take a more active and positive role in the community. These kind of endings are often described as “the Six Feet Under”, but it’s not that final. We don’t follow the remaining characters all the way through the rest of their lives and unto death. Instead, we’ve followed them up to a door, and we’ve watched them take that first step through the threshold. It’s not a new world waiting for them on the other side, it’s a new life. And in true Scalped fashion, for some people it’s a better life and for some it’s worse.

During its 5+ year run, Scalped has been one of the best books on comics, and the final issue caps things off beautifully. All of the credit in the world goes to Scalped creators and writer Jason Aaron and artist R.M. Guera. But credit should also go to artist Davide Furno, letterers Phil Balsman and Steve Wands, colorists Lee Loughridge and Giulia Brusco, and editors Will Dennis and Casey Seijas. And let’s not forget cover artist Jock, who gave each of the 60 issues a distinctive, stylized, and usually breathtakingly gorgeous look that should have won him five Eisner Awards.

Jason Aaron is one of the biggest names in comics right now thanks mostly to his stellar superhero work at Marvel Comics. When Scalped started he was mostly unknown, his biggest credit at the time being The Other Side, a book about Vietnam for Vertigo that got him some notice but not a ton of recognition. But then Scalped hit the stands and suddenly those in the know (i.e. those who read the book) understood that the next great comic book writer was here. For 60 issues he wove an epic crime tale that was as dark and as grim and gritty as anything. But he also wrote a sprawling story about family and loss and the search for love in less than ideal conditions. Throughout Scalped, whenever things were at their most dire there was always an underlying sense of hope, a sense that if one of these characters just made the right choice or said the right thing that everything would turn out okay. The tragedy of Scalped, and what made it so great, is that these characters invariably got right up to the cusp of finding happiness and then one wrong move threw it all away. It was gut wrenching, but not in the way that makes you throw the book down in disgust, it was gut wrenching in the best possible way, the way that makes you come back for more next month because maybe this time these characters will make the right decision and someone will find happiness. It takes a great writer to weave all those elements together into an entertainingly tragic and inherently violent modern day crime epic. Jason Aaron is a great writer. I’d put Scalped up against Breaking Bad any day of the week.

In Scalped #60 we see why artist R.M. Guera was as much of a reason for this books’ success as Jason Aaron. First and foremost, he’s a top notch storyteller. The mark of any great artist is if you can tell what’s going on in the story and what the characters are thinking without any words to accompany the art. When Red Crow makes his offer to Dashiell after the gunfight, we don’t need to have Dashiell’s angry yelling translated. The intensity on his face as he was listening to Red Crow’s proposal says it all. We know what his answer is. And for all of Guera’s wonderful character work and clear storytelling, there’s also the violence. There’s no way around it: Scalped is a violent book. But stark and uncompromising portrayal of that violence never made you forget that what you were looking at was horrible without ever veering into being exploitative. When Dashiell fantasizes about all of the things he wants to do to Catcher, it’s not celebratory, it’s awful and uncomfortable. Guera never made you feel good about the violence that you were seeing, but he made sure you saw it. From the look of the characters to the violence to the seemingly wholly authentic settings, Scalped has been a book that was completely unique, visually speaking. No other book out there looks like a R.M. Guera book, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

If you haven’t read Scalped, I urge you to pick it up. There won’t be another like it any time soon.

Conor Kilpatrick
8 out of 60 issues were the Pick of the Week.
Conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. jackietam jackietam says:

    When the pull list for this week came out, I was wondering “it’s shame that Ron has POTW, cause that means there is no chance the last issue of Scalped would be chosen”. I guess I was wrong. Good job, Conor and thank you, Ron.

  2. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    I’m not convinced at all, I think Conor promised not to beat up Ron and steal his lunch money to get the POTW

  3. adrianrigter adrianrigter says:

    Damn, Connor pulls a Che guevara on Ron:)

  4. PymSlap PymSlap says:

    Thanks for beating the drum for this great series for the past 5 years.

  5. Great review of a great issue. Conor you not only reviewed this issue but wrote an eulogy for the entire series. I started reading Scalped with issue 6 and for five years have never once finished an issue disappointed. Thank you Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera and everyone who ever worked on this book. This book deserves to be mentioned with Sandman, Preacher, and Y The Last Man as the best of Vertigo.

  6. nastysnow nastysnow says:

    only vertigo book i buy sad to see it go.

  7. Not sure if I agree on the switcharoo here just to get this POTW. If it’s the best you read that’s fine….but to admit you wanted to switch to make sure it’s ‘THE’ POTW for the site is something else. You could easily have talked about this final issue just as much without it being POTW. Sorry, don’t wanna sound like I’m angry or anything (I’m not) but the opening paragraph annoyed me a bit.

    But it’s still a great review for a series that has been around for as long as this site. So I get the emotional impact this series has with Conor and everyone else who read it.

    • Re-reading this post I hope, again, I’m not coming off too critical here. In the long run, it’s Conor’s opinion so I have no problems with it being POTW. Just thought that opening paragraph was a bit strange.

    • Ron Richards Ron Richards (@ronxo) says:

      Calm down – there’s no grand conspiracy here – I was happy to step aside this week. Conor just had some fun with that intro. Given that currently 51% of the community agreed with the pick, I can’t imagine it was the wrong way to go. It’s all fine – let’s stay positive, ok?

    • @ron: Oh I wasn’t thinking conspiracy theory here. I just thought the full explanation felt a little unnecessary and made it sound more then it had to be. Again it was a great review and I’m staying full on positive here.

  8. lifesend lifesend says:

    I read the first issue of Scalped in trade and hated it, but something about it just compelled me to come back and read it again. I did and have loved every issue since. It’s the only series that has brought me close to tears, on an NYC train of all places, and that was the issue with the elderly couple out in the boondocks. Congratulations to Mr. Aaron, Mr. Guerra, and the rest of the Scalped crew. This is why I read comics. This is why I love comics.

  9. DrBr00klyn DrBr00klyn says:

    I have a strong feeling that the last panel will be a Panel of the Week because of how it’s a perfect blend of the literal and the figurative “leaving the rez”

  10. mickmac59 mickmac59 says:

    Vale Scalped & farewell – you were amazing. If anyone’s interested, Scalped was POTW 8 times, for issues 10, 18, 19, 25, 30, 50, 59 & 60. Nice job lads.

  11. Cooper Cooper says:

    Blackest Night #1 was better.

    But seriously, a great pick, a great review and a great ending to a great series. Great!

    Scalped joins the ranks of comics that made me cry – I suddenly started bawling like a baby in the panel at the end of Carol’s scene.

    In some ways this issue reminded me of the ending of The Wire – not showing the ultimate end of these characters, but hinting at the next stage of their journeys. Not everyone gets everything tied up in a neat little bow, and not everyone is happy, but it’s satisfying for the reader to see that this ‘world’ continues without them.

    Thanks, Aaron and Guerra. Hopefully you’ll work together again soon.

  12. MarkCWarner MarkCWarner (@MarkCWarner) says:

    And to pile on to the awesome. Jason Aaron will be at MorrisonCon. Here is to having a drink with such creators who have contributed so much to my life over these many years.

    That sound boys and girls of every age, is the sound of Happy Feet 6,500 miles away (as the crow files from Las Vegas – your mileage may vary)

  13. UncleBob UncleBob says:

    Best of Vertigo in a long time.
    Cover misleading!?

  14. diebenny diebenny says:

    Good call on the switch, dudes. I agree, no offense to Ron’s pick but this had to be done.

  15. Scarface Scarface says:

    This absolutely needed to be Pick of the Week. If it wasn’t Pick of the Week I would have lost all faith in iFanboy. No other series on shelves has been as consistently month after month as good as Scalped. Every issue you leave with your jaw on the floor and I’m going to be sad to see it go. Now DC/Vertigo need to do this series justice and give us premium hardcover editions.

    • Scarface Scarface says:

      Walking Dead got me reading comics again after a ten year absence, but Scalped is the series that got me back into comic shops on a regular basis as I needed every issue as soon as soon it came out.

  16. jasonhart jasonhart says:

    This is the kind of ending I’ve been waiting for from long-form comics since I realized comics could have an end. Just absolutely perfect.

  17. I read this in trade, so I didn’t read Conor’s review, but I did want to say that if this is anywhere near as good as the series has been so far, I can’t wait to read it. It’s a great accomplishment to get a book like this out and keep it running for such a long time. If you had told me before Scalped that a depressing noir on a reservation would be one of the best series I’ve ever read I would have thought you were crazy. Kudos to Aaron, Guera, and Jock (who definitely should have gotten more Eisner love for those crazy-good covers).

    I’m excited to find out what Ron’s pick was too, my money’s on The Rocketeer.

  18. JasonAaron JasonAaron says:

    Thanks for reading, folks. And thank you iFanboy. This series would’ve never made it 60 issues without all of you who liked it talking it up online and forcing it on your friends. I owe you all beers.

  19. bub64882 bub64882 says:

    I don’t even read this book, and am glad you stepped in Connor. All is as it should be.

  20. mguy77 mguy77 says:

    I look forward to reading the last tpb of Scalped very soon.

    Matthew

  21. stuclach stuclach says:

    I’m also glad ConNer stepped in, but if it had been Conor I’d be pissed.

  22. trugamer510 trugamer510 says:

    Even in the times when I had to stop buying books in issues, I scrounged up the money to buy these since about issue 13. It is one of the best examples of this medium and thanks to Connor for sending it off with such reverence.

  23. I can understand all the love for Scalped, but as I am one of the masses that does not read it, am I the only one curious to know what Ron’s pick would have been?

  24. Gerry Lopez Gerry Lopez says:

    Perfect review for a perfect series. This goes down as not just one of my favorite comics of all time but one of my favorite stories in any medium. I hope Aaron does more creator owned work soon.

  25. odare77 says:

    Just a sublime reading experience, the narration in this finale swept me away. Usually when I get my books I’ll read several one after another, but this I read first, twice and all on it’s own. I didn’t want or need to read anything else. The endings for all these characters were perfect, exactly what they should have been. Carol’s so hard earned and deserved, Dash and Red Crow’s mirroring each other’s in so many ways and Dino’s just so crushingly inevitable. I’m sad that we’ll see them no more, but this issue repeated it’s old trick of convincing me that surely these people and this place are still out there, there lives still grinding on. Thank you for making it POW, nothing else would do.

  26. Conor, I think that was the best Pick of the Week Review I’ve read since I started following this site a few years ago. I also want to say thank you to you and Josh for championing this comic. When I drifted back into buying comics I took all my recommendations from old iFanboy podcasts and so this was one of the comics I started again with. It’s one of the greatest comics of all time and shall be missed.

  27. TomiH TomiH says:

    Not only is Scalped my PotW, it’s also the best Vertigo book I’ve ever read, the best crime series I have ever read or watched (Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire can all suck a lemon) and possibly my favourite comic series of all time.

  28. mark. mark. says:

    glad to see this book getting as much love as it is. i’m excited to start it when i wrap up transmet.

    something i noticed though: i was watching some old video podcasts this weekend and in the “vertigo” podcast josh (i think conor, too) called scalped — and i’m paraphrasing somewhat here — a bad brian azzerello impersonation. so what happened? did you guys come around to the book’s merit or did it take a little while for jason aaron to find his voice?

    it occurs to me that the ifanboy community has probably had this discrepancy pointed out more than a few times. just curious why the change of heart is all….

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