Pick of the Week

February 11, 2009 – Scalped #25

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.9
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 12.0%
Users who pulled this comic:

Size: pages
Price: 2.99

What Jason Aaron has done with Scalped has been very interesting and very daring. The first year or so of this book was clearly the story of Dashiell Bad Horse, the undercover FBI agent who has returned to his reservation in order to take down the local crime lord. Then the spotlight of the story shifted, very subtly, to the crime lord himself, Chief Red Crow. And in the midst of all of that, there have been meandering looks at some of the side characters that inhabit the reservation, which has been utterly fascinating and has helped to create a rich and lively environment for this book to live in, and which has also been counter to most conventional storytelling. Usually, you’ve got a protagonist and an antagonist and the story follows them.

At the Vertigo panel at last week’s New York Comic Con, Jason Aaron said that future issues of Scalped would explore more of the supporting characters; Jason Aaron seems to be happy shining the spotlight wherever he sees fit, and we the audience are all the better for it.

Scalped #25 opens with a brief and bloody history of the American Indian and then very quickly introduces us to a brand new character. A stranger has come to the reservation: he’s a cheat, a con, a grifter, a criminal, and a murderer. We don’t know his real name, but we do know that he’s trouble. The stranger specializes in card counting and in ripping off casinos and thus can’t be seen anywhere near Las Vegas or Atlantic City or any of the other big gaming towns, so he has now set his sights on the small reservation casinos. He’s got a suitcase full of disguises and money and guns and you just know that this isn’t going to end well.

The stranger in town proceeds to make his way through Chief Red Crow’s casino, using a variety of disguises and cons to rip the joint off, all the while shacking up with a stripper and finding himself feeling both contempt and (possibly) affection for his new bedmate. It’s all very lowdown and dirty and in real life you’d never want to spend even a moment with any of these people.

One of the best things about a book like Scalped is that it is utterly unpredictable. You never know which characters will be featured, or what the characters relationships with each other are going to be. You don’t know if the person you are following will commit merciful acts of good or dastardly deeds of evil. Who you root for at any given moment is never clear until it happens you don’t always feel good about it afterwards.

Scalped #25 ends with the stranger spotting Dashiell Bad Horse at the casino and then suddenly everything changes. No more counting cards at the blackjack table. No more stripper companions. It turns out that the stranger and Dashiell have got a history of sorts and it’s not a good one. When the stranger confronts Dashiell two things came to my mind. One, it had been a while since Dashiell has been anything more than a background character and that threw me for a loop a bit. And two, with the way that Guéra drew Dashiell’s face when the stranger confronts him and basically blackmails him into helping the stranger rob the casino, I think that the stranger is going to learn the number one rule of Scalped – you don’t fuck with Dashiell Bad Horse.

A while back we did a show about great creative teams and if we were to do that show again we’d have to add Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra to the list.

There is something really magical about the creative connection that they have, and even though we have had some excellent fill-in art on Scalped, I cannot imagine this book being done by any two other people. When a writer and an artist work together and they are both firing on all cylinders it’s a wonder to behold and it’s like that with every issue of Scalped. I believe that R.M. Guéra is Spanish but you’d think that they guy grew up on a reservation with his eye for the butte-filled vistas and his attention to every dirty detail of life on the rez.

This world is so authentically grimy you have to wash your hands after every issue.

If you have ever thought about giving Scalped a look, this is a good place to jump on and give it a try. It’s the start of a new arc, the characters and settings are mostly explained. I cannot recommend this book more.

Conor Kilpatrick
Robbing the casino always works.



  1. You’ve convinced me. Starting this issue, I’m in.

    Let’s see how it goes.

  2. I did not see this coming. Oh wow.

  3. Okay, so hyping Captain Britian all this week was for nothing? All on Twitter and on this site it’s like: ‘Space Vampires FTW!’….Blah, sorry I cant gel with this pick. Not gonna say you cant pick it, but I thought for sure you were gonna make it Captain Britian all the way.

    You tease! 🙂

    Green Lantern Corps was my pick btw.

  4. ‘Scalped’ is the only book I actually buy and read in trade, so whenever that’s the pick, I just skim the review. . .but also smile knowing there’s more good stuff to come.

    ‘Batman’ is my pick so far, but I haven’t seen ‘Incognito’ yet.  I’m not sure I get the enthusiasm for ‘Captain Britain,’ so I’ll be interested in what you guys have to say about it.

  5. Mine was Incognito though Batman was close.

  6. If I can post this without sounding like a troll here. I just wanna make an observation.

    I saw on the comments section for Scalped from Cadgers. Apparently it only sells 6,000 copies per issue? (If you see this cadgers I’d love to see the article you got it from). If that is the case….how the hell is this series still around? Not in terms of quality, but looking at a business stand point; this cant be good for Vertigo. How much money do they spend printing out how many total copies of this? Yet only 6,000 pick this up per issue. (Fun Fact: Juding from the pulls for this series Ifanboy and it’s members contribute 3% to the 6,000 copies sold.)

    Again if that figure is true, I am flabbergasted that this series is still around. Either Vertigo is very forgiving to bad sales numbers or Jason Aaron has some dirty info on the people running the company.

  7. It probably sells better in trade, where it makes most of its money.  Standard practice for Vertigo.

  8. @josh: Then why dont they just turn it into a graphic novel series? I know that usually isnt Vertigo’s forte into comics….But if it sells better in trade then issues, then why release it in floppy form at all?

    I mean if graphic novels are the wave of the future then it would be a neat idea to have Scalped as a test subject.

  9. Probably because the issue sales just cover the expenses of the writer, artist, and printing?  And trade sales are gravy.  A good business has multiple revenue streams, each contributing to an overall profit.  In this way, they’re able to serve both customers, the issue and the trade people.  There’s no need to turn off both spigots if they’re producing revenue.

  10. @josh: But how long can you let trade sales be the gravy train?

    I know this is turning into a different topic but still…There might be a time where there will be more trade sales then floppy sales. What happens then? I know you said not to talk about it again but Fear Agent is a great example. How many people went from issues to trades? Or said ‘this look great, I’ll wait for the trades though’. Those people (including myself) got shafting in the end of that.

    If the 6,000 mark is to be believed, Aaron better pray the sales go up or never (ever) go down. If it does, he and more importantly the fans are fucked.

  11. Yeah, I buy Scalped in trade. On a side note I really find this cover a lot weaker than the rest he has done, just not my taste i suppose.

  12. I bought the first 3 arcs of Scalped and felt it wasn’t for me.  I thought it was ok, not great but just ok.  Should I invest in the next trade?  Or if those first couple weren’t my cup of tea I should stay away?  I only ask this because all I hear is how damn good this!!

  13. Historically Vertigo books have always sold better in trade than in monthly form and several series have survived very low monthly sales due to high trade sales such as Lucifer, 100 Bullets and now Scalped (usually when a Vertigo series gets cancelled it’s because both the monthly and trade sales are low).  Jason Aaron has said several times Scalped is safe, as the trades usually sell out and go into multiple printings, which is great as Scalped is easily one of the best comics out there.  My only shock with this pick is that my money would have been on Conor picking Batman, but that was based more on "Conor loves Batman" than Batman is the better comic than Scalped.

  14. @TNC:

     Where are you getting this number? It’s been stated on the standard attrition forum that the numbers regularly posted on the internet are inaccurate regarding this title at least. It’s also been said that this book has been slightly gaining or holding to its issue base and does great in trade.

    It’s a great book and I wish I read it in issues but I started picking it up and trades and I’d hate to not be able to collect all of it in one format. This is easily one of my favorite books in print right now and the newest issue sounds like it’s a fantastic read.

    It sucks hearing one of your favorite books should be canceled and that publisihing it is not good for the publisher. This holds true for this book especially when this information is based on a source that may be inaccurate… so quit it!

  15. @PatK: Again, Cadgers posted it on the Scalped link on the comics portion of the site.

    I dont know, I mean I guess I can see this series still going because of the trade. But how long does it take for trade to come out for this series? If it’s huge gaps, like 4-5 months at a time….I’m even more surprised this series is still around if more sales are for trade then floppies.

  16. I made a mistake. Scalped keeps hanging in the 7K area. And I got the numbers from ICV2 who gets them from Publishers Weekly.

  17. @Cadgers: Thank you for providing the stats.

    Yeah I mean even if it’s about 7k copies sold….That’s just…not good. I mean it doesnt even look like it has gained sales over the last 12 issues. It just stays steady, which is good but also bad. Good because it’s got a general fanbase, but bad because it just doesnt look like it’s hitting new readers.

    Let’s look at some of the stuff above the list (Scalped it ranked #190 for DC…which isnt good to begin with) Simon Dark got 2k more readers, it got cancelled. Manhunter got 4k more readers….got cancelled. Blue Beetle got also 4k more readers, got cancelled. Legion of Superheros, which got almost 4x more readers; got cancelled. Maybe it’s me being negative but….that’s not a good sign for Scalped. I mean I would love to see more trade sales figures for this series and with the other DC trades. Plus no offense to anyone who readers Tiny Titans (I love the series so that includes me)….but Scalped gets outbeaten by Tiny Titans! How is that good news?

    Again I am looking this as a business man or a numbers guy. If I am seeing sales figures this low for a series I would seriously consider cancel the series. Again trade sales can be a crutch for so long and with 6 month intervals (hell even more then that!) to wait for the next trade….There is, again, only so much trades can do for a series like this.

    ……This was a great review btw josh, I didnt mean to bring everyone down like this I swear 🙁

  18. Okay, let’s get back to the comic now.

  19. I buy Scalped in trade only as well. I wait for it and truly savor it when it comes out. Same with Fables and DMZ.

    My understanding (sorry to keep this going Conor) is that the monthly model is — at this point — still necessary. They use it to test the waters and build buzz on the book, but the real money comes from the trades.

    There WILL come a day when Vertigo announces a Trade Only series. I wouldn’t be surprised it happened in the next few years. But right now we’re not there. You are seeing a rise in Original Graphic Novels, though. If you were to compare the number of Vertigo OGNs release today to those they released, say, 5 years ago, you’d see a big difference.

    The day is coming, but for now: monthly issues still matter. Case in point: Josh reads the issues, and when one gets the pick, the iFanbase knows that’s a certain stamp of quality. It may make someone finally break down and decide to read Scalped. And they’re likely gonna hit their LCS or Barnes & Nobel or Amazon and buy the first Trade (… and then the second and third soon thereafter, cuz it’s just that friggin’ awesome).

  20. oops, sorry — just realized it was Conor’s pick. That’s what I get for skimming the review while I wait for the trades.

  21. I also buy Scalped in trade.  I keep hearing that Red Crow’s become a bigger presence over the last few issues and I say thumbs up to that!

  22. Scalped was sold out at my shop, so i can’t really talk about it POW wise, but i honestly can’t see it beating one of the best issues of Fables i’ve read so far, i was literally bawling, and even then it was a phenomenal week from tomasi and the Gaiman Batman issue pushed this week to the top, if it weren’t for Fables i would never have been able to choose, this had to have been a tough week for Conor.

  23. Conor,

    R.M. Guera is actually Serbian.

    Rajko Miloševi7-Gera is his real name.  Fun fact.

  24. Those funky assortment of symbols were actually supposed to be a "c".

  25. Ah, maybe he lives in Spain.  Or maybe I’m mixing him up with another artist.

  26. Yes! I am so glad this is the POW. This issue was amazing. Seriously stop crying about the sales and just go buy the book already, I might go buy another copy of this issue just to support this book. It’t that good!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. This was easily the best comic I read this week– the only book that came close was Captain Britain. 

  28. Man I really have to get around to buying the trades.

  29. Just finished this issues this morning, I never read comics before I go to work, but I’m definitely willing to be a couple minutes late, because I could not put this issue down.  I never got a chance to see what the PTW was last night, so I just hopped online and and low and behold.  Excellent pick Conor.

     The Walking Dead was pretty fucking good too this week. 

  30. I gave Scalped a try over the summer. I read the first arc and found the characters unlikable and uninteresting. And I didn’t like the art, either. I’m willing to give it another go at some point, though. I wasn’t a fan of the first Preacher arc the first time I read that, either. And it took me three tries to get into The Invisibles. But…Conor is really in danger of losing his "Batman-guy" distinction! Picking Nightwing as PoTW doesn’t count! Seriously, though, justifiable surprises are part of what makes iFanboy good. If Ron picked an x-title every go ’round, that’d be boring. And it’s fun that Josh liked Punisher and Cable last week.

    Keep up the good work, fellas.

  31. If you didn’t like Scalped to start, it doesn’t get that much different.

    Still, I didn’t think I liked it when I first read it either.  Depends on your mood when you first try something sometimes.

  32. Scalped blew me away this week, great pick.  I loved the conman’s internal comments about Red Crow and his reputation

  33. This issue was brutal.  I usually read it in trades, but I picked this issue up on a whim.  It reminded me a lot of Criminal, just 17 notches darker.  Probably not my pick, but I liked it a lot.  

  34. I didnt even know Jason Aaron was writing this. I rarely stray away from Marvel and DC but Im going to try this coming off your glowing recommendation of Battlefies:Dear Billy, which was spot on.

    Conor-it was cool meeting you on Saturday @ stitch. I was the guy that needed some explanation on Final Crisis.

  35. This book is the reason Jason Aaron is writing for Marvel.

  36. @josh: I could believe it.

    Does Aaron has like a ‘thing’ he does in every comic? Like what he does in Scalped, is it the same in his Wolverine or Punisher stuff? Cause if it is the same then I am totally for getting this in trade.

  37. I haven’t been to the shop to get this issue yet, but "Scalped" is the best book going in my opinion. Each month Jason Aaron raises the stakes & continually surprises with plot twists & new character reveals. The book works on so many levels (thriller, noir, social commentary, crime epic) that I can’t believe everyone isn’t buying it. "Scalped" is the real thing and the sooner you get onboard the better.

  38. @TNC – Yes. His "thing" he does in every comic is "being awesome." 😉

  39. @daccampo: Ha! Alright then, I see what you mean.

    Oh every writer should use that when they are talking about themselves.

    Chuck Austen-Oh What’s my thing? Being Awesome that’s what my thing is……and destroying X-Titles…

  40. Just purchased the 1st trade the other day online….waiting for it to come in….another book I wasn’t that interested in till I started on this site.  I think some of these publishers should be writing out some checks to yall.

  41. @TNC – Aaron generally has a gritty, street-level feel to his writing.  I’m basing this on The Other Side, his Punisher MAX X-Mas special, Scalped, and that Joker’s Asylum – Penguin issue he did.  Brutal stuff, really well-thought out violence, and a knack for making you empathize with villains.  I haven’t read any of his Wolverine stuff.

     This book is the best out of everything I read.  I am more of a vertigo/indie guy (though I am reading more superhero stuff as of late), and this book kills it every month.

  42. Aaron does really well with voice.  He writes great interior monologue.  He can also write authentic violence and brutality.  By that I mean, he doesn’t sound like a poser when he writes villains and anti-heroes.  There’s a poetry and sophistication to what he writes that escalates it above mindless violence.  

  43. He also has some great, almost Chronenberg-esque uses of violence.  Really quick, but incredibly shocking and original ways of inflicting pain on the human body.

  44. And he has really good sex moves he learned in China.

  45. I’ve read his Wolverine arc with Garney and his Ghost Rider run, and it doesn’t even seem like the same writer to me.  What makes him great is the depth that he gives his characters, which is probably tough to do with such well established icons like Wolverine and GR

  46. That said, I’m really excited for his new Wolverine series.  

    Oh, and he also wrote my favorite part of Secret Invasion, the Black Panther issues.  That was such a great, great mini.  Or a micro I guess.   

  47. Any fan of "Scalped" should also hunt down Aaron’s Vietnam book, "The Other Side". I can tell you right now it’s not what you think it is.

  48. I keep wanting to look for The Other Side at my shop and never remember what it’s called.  Gotta get on that.  

  49. @Paul I strongly encourage you pick up. I lucked out and found it in a used book store before I knew who Aaron was..Its very good!!

  50. I have to say, i think the dialogue is perhaps the weakest part of Aaron’s writing. he just seems way to excited to include swearing. but having said that, i have noticed a relationship between socio-economic standing and swearing. (i live next to government housing, it’s wonderful)

    The description of Aaron’s violence being like Chronenberg’s is very apt

  51. I loved this issue, but I do have to take my statement that it was the best book I read this week.  I just read Thor #600, which blew away any other book I read this week.  One of the best super hero battles I’ve ever read, in that book.  The writing, the art– just a brilliant fight sequence.  And Loki’s plan finally revealed– and it was worth all the build up. 

    This first 12-issue run of JMS on Thor has turned out to be just a masterpiece of super-hero comic-booking (I’m making up words left and right here).   I would encourage anybody that hasn’t tried this Thor run, or tried it but didn’t stick with it– to go back and at read through to this issue, #600.  Just a brilliant run, so far.

    And Scalped was still awesome, mind you– as was Captain Britain and MI13.

  52. I thought Thor, Scalped, Fables, Incognito, Batman, and X-Infernus were all pick-worthy.  Best week of comics I’ve had in a long time

  53. I was hooked on this as soon as I picked up the first trade.  Waiting for the new ones to come out is like torture.  When you see it as the pick of the week and you know you aren’t going to get to read it for months…makes you want to pick up monthlies again but I just can’t do it. 

  54. I was actually the one who asked Jason Aaron the question about Scalped at the panel!!                                   Another great issue, far and away the best monthly book in comics. Good choice Conor!!

  55. @Paul-You are absolutely right about Aaron, he gets the voice of his characters completely accurate each time! His story is well crasfted and authentic, whereas a large number of other writers sound fake or forced when they try and speak through another characters voice, the word poser was used to describe that and I couldn’t agree more!  

  56. I went to my shop (Golden Apple in L.A.) this afternoon — low & behold this was SOLD OUT. First time that’s happened to me with this book. Maybe the word is finally getting out.

  57. Or nobody’s buying it so they ordered less copies…

  58. I finally got around to finishing off my stack & this issue of Scalped was brilliant. I can’t wait to see how Dasheil is gonna ruin this new guys day. =D Based on consistency (25 issues and not a SINGLE bad issue) I’m gonna say Scalped is the best book on the racks. It’s a crime it sells so low.

    PS – It was a tie for me for POTW between Scalped & Thor. 

  59. Jason Aaron brings moral ambiguity to all of his characters, a sense of what is right and wrong and a knowledge that sometimes something wrong has to be done to achieve something right. He brings the world of grey into what is typically a very black and white world. Marvel will try to tell you that the difference between their comics and DC comics is that their characters live in the grey area more, but I think that in the last ten years that fewer and fewer of their comics have actually mined this idea. Lately it’s been writers like Bendis and Brubaker who have really grasped that, and Aaron is another of those names.

  60. As yet another trade-waiter on Scalped, my POW was X-Infernus 3.

    @Doctor13, where in LA you at? I hit Golden Apple for bags, boards, and back issues.


  61. This story was outstanding until the last page… then it got incredible.  Really looking forward to seeing where this arc goes.

  62. Awesome – best book on the market.

  63. Such a good issue. I love the noirish-way that Aaron reveals the grifter’s fake name on the bus–such an excellent tone to this issue. I think it really shows a jump in Aaron’s storytelling. I’ve been on this book from the start; been hooked for a while now. But man…this is was good one. 

  64. Just finished reading dead mothers… WoW. I’ve got issues 19 through 25 sitting in my stack taunting me right now.

Leave a Comment