Pick of the Week

July 8, 2010 – Scarlet #1

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

748
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 3.4%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Writer: Brian Micahel Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

Size: 40 pages
Price: 3.95

Tuesday, July 6th was the day the insanity started. Coming out of a nice long three day weekend, the comics world woke up on July 6th, looked around and decided that now was a good time to go crazy. A type of crazy that will last, oh about three weeks, right until July 26th, the day after the San Diego Comic-Con ends. It’s not like we’ve had our own personal challenges and dilemmas here at iFanboy HQ this week, but even beyond that, the insanity of the upcoming super bowl of cons is enough to make a grown man cry. But what’s this? Comics ship on Thursday this week in the US, thanks to the holiday, thus throwing off my finely tuned schedule for the week? And what else? Oh, I bought over 20 comics this week, including 9 number one issues, with most of those being by A-List creators? I should never have gotten out of bed on Tuesday.

No! I take that back, these are the times of our lives! As comics professionals and media alike gear up to take the world stage for a week in San Diego later this month, these are the times to be alive! And what better than way to celebrate that with a stack of comics so high, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to read them all. And yet, here at the end of the day on Thursday, July 8th, I’ve survived what can only be described as round 1, and came out with a very happy surprise pick for the Pick of the Week, Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.

It’s no secret that here at iFanboy, we’re pro-Bendis, and I, specifically, am a huge fan of his work. He defined himself in the 1990s as one of the hardest working creators in comics, and he has completely dominated at Marvel in the 2000s, leading the company creatively on his many successful, best selling books. As I sat with my stack of books, I realized that it has been nearly 10 years since Bendis has released any “new” creator owned or “indie” work. Once Powers launched, it’s plodded along over the years, and perhaps Alias was as close to indie as he could get at Marvel, but it was still not creator-owned. So after 10 years, he’s back to a character of his own creation, along with his art partner from that epic run on Daredevil, Alex Maleev.

As I sat with this comic, preparing to read it, I couldn’t help but remember how I felt back in 2005 when one of my favorite all time musicians was back with a new record after about 8 years of not releasing any new albums or new material. I was worried sick. Would it suck? Did he still have that magic that caused me to become as big of a fan as I am? All that anxiety that ran through my head before I heard the first song was replicated today. Was the Bendis of the 1990s still in there? Or would this be more characters in costume sitting around a table talking? Further, while I loved Alex Maleev’s work on Daredevil, I was immensely disappointed by Spider-Woman, which felt stiff, uninspired, and way overboard on the photo reference. All of this worry and bother for a silly little comic book.

I finally got the courage to open it up and read it. I took my time, taking in each page, discovering the world and paradigm that Bendis was creating. Analyzing every panel, every word balloon, every aspect of the book. I think I took about the longest I’ve taken in a while just to read a comic. And when I finished, I exhaled and without thinking, I read it again. I don’t know why I read it again. Maybe because it was good, or maybe because I was in disbelief as to what I had just read. But whatever it was, it got me.

Scarlet #1 opens up with a violent scene of a red-headed girl taking down a cop. It’s shocking and leaves you confused. And then the fourth wall gets broken and she begins to address the reader, telling her tale. This issue works purely as an origin/scene setting issue. We find out who she is and how she got this way. No cliff-hanger, no sense of what’s to come. Just an introduction to this person and the world she inhabits. What amazed me about this issue was that Bendis, who has made it no secret how much of a movie and TV buff he is, was able to create a story and execute it in a way that made it feel like a cross between a really good indie movie and TV show. This felt like the first episode of a really edgy TV show created by a great indie film director.

Now, I’m guessing many people will have a problem with the fourth wall breaking narrative structure, but for me, it worked. By working with letterer extraordinaire, Chris Eliopoulos, they were able to, with a subtle tweak of the word balloons, make it clear when she was talking to the reader and when it was dialogue amongst characters. That elegant squaring off of the word balloon instantly was a device to help me the reader understand what was going on. In addition to an amazing 3 page sequence of snapshots of Scarlet’s life, combined with edgy, dynamic typography to give us a glimpse into the live she’s led thus far. It was a three page sequence that, while so simple, just absolutely knocked my socks off.

And what of the art? Was Maleev’s art more Daredevil or more Spider-Woman? Well, if there was any knock against the book, it would be the fact that we didn’t get just one consistent direction of art. There were pages and panels in this issue that completely blew me away and made me remember why I loved Maleev on Daredevil. And yet there were pages and panels that made me cringe a little, as the photo-reference style went a little too far in my opinion. There were moments where I looked at the art and wondered if this was just straight up Fumetti? But it was on that second read that I really focused and evaluated the art, knowing that many of you would freak out on me for picking a book as the Pick of the Week with art that I didn’t like, and I saw that for the most part, I dig what Maleev is doing. Some of the layouts, composition of characters and storytelling techniques show that Maleev can make amazing art. Especially some of the full page and double page spreads. And ultimately, that Fumetti feel helped to instill that feeling of an indie film that the book gave me. So while I’m a little cringey at points, ultimately the art stands on its own as something to absorb and digest for enjoyment.

What I like most about Scarlet #1, and what I expect from many indie comics, is that it challenges me as the reader. It challenges me with the story and its confusing setting and events mixed hyperactive action. It challenges me with the art, pushing my sensibility of what’s “good” and what’s “bad” and most of all, it challenges me with a type of book and promise of stories that I have never read before. Scarlet #1Β is as close to a great indie film as a single comic book issue can come, with all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into making it laid out on the page.

My hat’s off to you Brian Michael Bendis, for showing me that 10 years of Spider-Man and The Avengers and all the rest hadn’t shaken that hungry indie creator out of you and I look forward to the story that you and Maleev will be giving us with this future of this book and I pray it stays on schedule. It’s nice to have this type of book back in my stack and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Ron Richards
I didn’t know Josh was freelance writing in Portland?
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Ron, this is easily one of my favorite reviews you’ve written for the site. Not 100% sure why, it’s just really honest and well written. Your enthusiasm is obvious and you did an awesome job of letting us in on the anxiety that you were feeling before starting this book. Comparing this book to that album you were waiting for was a perfect touch. Nice work. 

    Wish I could comment on the book, but I have no idea when I’ll be getting to the shop this week. πŸ™ 

  2. So the comic about a stripper won this week?

    Sorry bad joke. Nice review Ron, not sure if I wanted to try this series but if it continues to be good I’ll pick it up in trade.

    My pick was Batman and Robin #13 for being the best issue since #3.

  3. I’m so glad this was pick of the week, because I really wanted to see you guy’s opinions. This was a fantastic issue. My girlfriend read it and she loved it. The only other comic that she has had that positive a reaction to is The Walking Dead. Both the story and the art shined and meshed perfectly.

  4. Really liked the book.

    By looking at the promo I obviously knew this was going to be another book where Bendis writes a badass lady, but was slightly concerned how it was going to differentiate it from other similar concepts. The whole breaking the fourth wall thing is certainly unexpected and was pulled off much better than initially thought it would be. It will be interesting to see how the concept keeps as an ongoing title.

    Also I smiled when I saw Josh’s name in the newspaper.

  5. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Nice! Really dug this one too. I like that it isn’t just a story about a bounty hunter or vigilante, but a story about a girl who gets totally overwhelmed by the world around her. She hasn’t grown up yet, so things could go many different ways. 

    I went in really curious about this new storytelling technique Bendis had been hinting at on Word Balloon. I assume that’s the nine panel pages of firsts and not the 4th wall breaking. Or maybe it’s the combination. It’s a pretty interesting device. Does it make you relate to her more because you see some similarity to your own life? Does it make her feel more realized? Is she special or normal? I think the results might be different for each reader.  

  6. Really looking forward to picking up the trade on this one (had to make cuts due to budget…things) can’t wait to hear the discussion on the pod. 

  7. I loved this, will possibly be my pick of the week. I’m a little concerned how the implemenation of breaking the 4th wall will feel after a few months; but right now it’s fresh and awesome, and Maleev’s art looks spectacular.

  8. Great issue and great review. I was really impressed with this comic.

  9. It was neck-and-neck between this and Batman and Robin for me. Both were really great issues, but I gave this one the nod purely because it’s new and it grabbed me.  I’ll stick around for Batman, because we’re 13 issues in and I’m invested in the story. 

    But for a number one issue to latch onto me like this is rare. I want to know more. I want to know more about Scarlet, about who she is, why she is. Bravo Bendis and Maleev.

  10. re-read your daredevil issues, the photo-ref is just as prevalent there as it is now.

     

    maleev is probably my favorite working comic book artist. while this wasn’t my favorite thing he’s ever drawn, it’s still easily an A. what a great book.

  11. I hated this. It tried too hard to be cool and innovating, and instead came off as forced and wannabe. I think this book will sell well because Bendis and Maleev are very established names. Bendis is very hit and miss for me so maybe I’m being unjust, but it wasn’t for me and I wouldn’t recommend it.

  12. Anyone see the a certain "Josh Flanagan" was the author of the news article printed in the book? Thats pretty cooooooool.

  13. Erp… yup, there definitely was. Doesn’t hurt to read the comments before I make one… lol

  14. I think my favorite part of this was the seperate scenes of the progression of her life.  I liked the banter, as is customary with my feelings toward Bendis, and I thought the art was some of the best I’ve seen Meleev do.  I really want to know this girl and felt more intimate with her than I do with some of the comics I read.

  15. I didn’t read this yet (ill get it in about a month) but every single book I got today (Chimichanga, TWD, Batman and Robin, The Atom, and Jonah Hex) was a 5 star book. And Batman and Robin was the best issue since #2, at the very least. And it’s why I think this is the best Batman run of all time.

    Oh, and um Jason Todd is and has been the Joker. Calling it now. 

  16. Ha, I wonder if Josh would have picked this just cuz he had a mention in this book

  17. Cover: " Who the hell is this? Ugh. "

    Last Page: " Go, Scarlet! " (cue: For Whom The Bell Tolls)

    ..

    So, she’s gonna hunt down Josh now, right? 

  18. Josh needs to do some investigative reporting considering everything he wrote was a lie;)

  19. Fantastic review, Ron for a fantastic book.

  20. I forgot to pick this up! Doh! I really loved Shadowland though.

  21. @Josh- how’s that for COMPLETELY sucking you out of the story?

    @Ron- it seems you’ve talked to Bendis more than Josh has, unless the video evidence is misleading.  does it bother you that you were not namechecked?

    Maleev’s photo-referencing only bothers me in heavy action scenes.  I didn’t realize Gabriel hit the cop until Scarlet said as much.

  22. Beautiful book.  Not just aesthetically, but also in the story-telling.  Bendis outdid himself in making me care for a character.  There’s so much heart in this book – After finishing, I made it my pick of the week, before I even finished my books.

  23. Looking forward to this even more now, and I’m optimistic that it could stick to it’s schedule too.  Even Spiderwoman kept to it’s shipping dates more or less once it finally got released.

  24. I think this is one of those books that if you don’t like it you come across as incredibly uncool..but here goes..I thought it was  self-indulgant and the fourth wall breaking narrative annoyed the crap out of me.  The art was hit and miss.  Because its Bendis I will most likely give issue 2 a chance, but certainly not even close to a pick of the week for me.  But then again, I’m not the one picking..so glad Ron liked it.

  25. feels like something I’ve seen or read before, like, bad ass girl kicking more ass, ala black widow, etc. . . but for Maleev I’ll probably give this a shot and I’m all for seeing how people try new word balloons/captions stuff. sounds promising

  26. Didn’t this self-pitying, grunge, Gen-X stuff die with the 90s? Should I have listened to Pearl Jam and Nirvana while reading this?

  27. @fnord: Hahaha! I was thinking a similar thing in terms of the typography.

  28. Anoher Bendis book zzzz.  I will read his USM instead.

    Matthew

     

  29. I loved all the art and all the story. Great book.

  30. Pfft… Another Christopher Nolan movie, I’ll just go watch Memento again.

  31. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The backlash is kind of curious. I liked it. 

  32. Curious to me as well.  Perhaps people see it as Bendis aping on Millar/Ellis.  Me, I thought it was well done, even though I usually find breaking the fourth wall to be irrititating.

    fnord:  You’ve got it all wrong.  Self-pitying, wayward kids have never gone out of style.  You should have been listening to My Chemical Romance while reading this.

  33. @horatio: HAHAHA! Good one!

  34. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    What’s the Millar connection? Violence? Youth as vigilante? I don’t think Millar has a trademark on anything aside from sensationalism, shock, and scattershot execution of high concept ideas. If anything.  

  35. Asshole character doing bad things.  Difference is Bendis can make such a character likable.  Scarlett feels like a better version of Wanted.

    Maybe Bendis is tired of not having movies made.  If I were him, I’d send this to Luc Besson. 

  36. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Scarlet’s not an asshole though. The crooked cops are. 

  37. I am stupefied by the tenor of the naysaying about this book while thousands of copies of Young Avengers go unburned even as we speak.

  38. That’s debatable, but at the very least Bendis wants you to think she’s an asshole in the beginning.

  39. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Sorry, I disagree. 

  40. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Just, to elaborate, I think the reveal of her motive comes so quickly that the reader immediately sympathizes with her. 

  41. She commits a heinous act on the first page then spends the rest of the issue rationalizing her actions.  The cop MUST be bad because had 600 cash, grabbed her ass in a certain way, etc.  Scarlett is an unreliable narrator.  We only have her account of what happened.  It wasn’t even explicitly clear to me that the guy she beat up about the bike wasn’t actually the owner of the bike.

    Sure, I’m probably reading too much into it, but those things came to mind as I was reading.

    We can agree that it was a good issue, at least.

  42. Ah dammit, now I’m curious to read it! I’m waist deep in back issue bin finds…

  43. I like the little touch of showing what the community’s POTW percentage is. Sorry if that’s ALWAYS been there….it’s the first time I’m noticing it.

  44. @ultimatehoratio – Interesting. I don’t see her as unreliable, though. I think she’s pretty straightforward in her narrative. She actually pauses for the reader, then adds the thing about him grabbing her ass — like she’s really thinking it over. And the whole "life" sequence of panels (birth, first shit, etc.) doesnt’ feel like something fabricated for the audience. It seems like we’re meant to see this as her actual life, see that she’s like us, so that when we catch up to what happened to her, we start to understand her.

    At least, that’s how I read it. i mean it could turn out to be unreliable. But it doesn’t read that way to me.

  45. Well, she kills someone immediately and begins to rationalize her behavior, later calling into question her own sanity.  That might alert the reader that she may not be a reliable narrator.  The fact that we’re even questioning it shows what a good job Bendis did. 

  46. Ah, I just realized that I’ve been adding an extra ‘t’ to Scarlet.  My bad.

  47. I want this, but I want it in trade.

  48. Anyone else think of 500 Days of Summer when reading the nine-panel grid?

  49. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Yep. 

  50. Attention everyone, go listen to Paul and daccampo discuss Scarlett #1.  Look for "fuzzy typewriter" on iTunes.  Good stuff.

  51. This was an amazing book. At first I thought she was just going to end up being a Punisher rip-off or something, but it turned into a lot more than that. I’m really looking forward to reading this series more, it definitly seems to have the chance to be something really great.

    Not sure if it’s going to be my POTW though, Demo #6 incredibel and was right up there for me too. It’ll be a tough choice.

  52. "My So Called Life" with violence. 

    20 bux says Scarlett has a tribal (or asian characters) tramp stamp tattoo. There was a lot of 90s throwback happening here with the characters, but that might turn out ok.

    I thought it was a pretty decent first issue. I would have liked more of the female punisher as promised on the cover, but i guess thats coming. I don’t have the infatuation with Bendis that others have, so I guess thats why i’m not hyperbole-ing all over this comic. 

    I agree with Ron…the photo referncing went a bit far, and I would add that Maleev went a bit too far with the photoshop filters. I started to notice those more than the draftsmanship. (put down the posterize and walk away) Besides that, the art was pretty awesome.  

  53. I couldn’t finish this goddamn comic. Anything I hate more in a medium of storytelling is elongated points of nothing happening or nothing moving the plot forward but the fact that I have to listen to pretentious dialog from psychotic Ferris Bueller. I have nothing against decompression in my comic book but taking 5-6 pages in a comic book to tell you something that could be told around a page or 2 is ridiculous. Seriously, this are among the many serious flaws (others being, everyone sound the same and have same type of dialog; too much decompression; trying to be clever when its not; ignoring continuity; not doing research on character history or development; ridiculous violence against women; constant points of inactivity) that Brian Micheal Bendis has with all his comic books right now. I’m gonna try to read the rest tomorrow so don’t believe this is my final opinion. I’m a guy second read troughs and chances and, pretty open minded. I hope this doesn’t turn out like Phonogram; I still have nightmares about that.         

  54. As a designer, I admit to a little pet peeve when people throw out comments about "photoshop filters." Take a good look at Maleev’s artwork in this issue — those are NOT automated filters at play. I’m not saying he’s not using photoshop — he probably uses a lot of computer tools to assemble the pages — and I see a lot of hand-crafted elements and textures as well. I have no problem if people like or dislike Maleev’s art, but to suggest he’s just throwing filters on everything is  too dismissive of the work that’s gone into these pages.

    I have to admit, I also don’t understand the ’90s comments. I’d say that this book has more in common with ’70s films than anything from the ’90s. Bendis’ love of films like Network clearly shines through in this book. 

    @CedricElieBenson – I don’t think anyone would begrudge you for not buying any more Bendis. It’s your right; do what ya wanna do. In fact, I’m not sure why you’d be reading anything of his, given your complaints. πŸ˜‰

    But I gotta say, I’ve never cared for the argument about how long it takes to tell something in a story. Here’s the thing: I can tell the story of Watchmen in 8 pages, if I wanted to. I could compress the hell out of it, but I could do it. Doesn’t mean I should. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story. Bendis made a choice here. I liked the pacing because it allows him to let us see her own internal process. For me, that’s part of what gives the book heart and keeps it from too much cynicism. But that’s just my take. My only point is that there’s no determined "length" for a story; the writer makes a choice based on what he feels is important to the story.

  55. @daccampo: Amen brother!

  56. @daccampo: Ya, I guess It’s my personal beef with that comic book. The reason I read Bendis’s comic books because always need read an author I don’t particularly like to justify my opinion on his/her writing. Like I said before, I’m open minded to anything (that’s how I got into reading comic books). Also, I firm belief any writer can print something great in their life. I kind of newbie to comic books and really can’t say anything about Watchmen thing because I haven’t read it yet but when you got that many pages for something that minor to overall plot is bad. I starting to think that It is as much the fault of the artist as It is to the writer. If Alex Maleev did better job at laying out his pages, I wouldn’t hated it as much. That kind of stuff makes me feel that getting less of story out of this than I should be.    

  57. I loved this issue, and that 3 page snapshot sequence was awesome.  I still haven’t finished everything, but it’s a POW contender. 

  58. @daccampo–i’m a graphic designer as well, and have been using photoshop since version 4. One of my pet peeves in comics is the extent to which digital tools get overused and start to demand attention to themselves. Yes i’m sure he is doing lots of custom work, but I found it fairly easy to identify the handful of filters he was using especially in the backgrounds. I like photoshop as a tool, I just don’t like it being so obvious that it becomes a distraction, which is how i felt while looking at his work. Maleev seems talented enough as an illustrator to not have to rely on those sorts of things. 

  59. Awesome.  (review, comic, and Josh’s part time gig in Portland)

     also

    Chuck Pahlaniuk.  Did anyone else think of him?  Maybe Irvine Welsh.  There was a definite Tyler Durden / Mark Renton vibe to Scarlet’s soliloquy?

  60. Most readers are not graphic designers, and therefore to hold him to the standard of what they notice isn’t really far.  When I watch TV or read something, I do so as a writer, and I can see all the standard tools and tricks at work, but 9 out of 10 people don’t, and enjoy something just the same.

  61. This was a well-executed comic. I loved the hell out of it. Makes me wanna buy all of Bendis’ ealier stuff. Still never read Alias or his Daredevil stuff or his earlier crime GNs. Must get it NOW! Sucks this is a bi-monthly book, but I guess quality takes time.

  62. @Josh – That’s kinda what I’m getting at. I sometimes see comments like "walk away from the posterize" and I feel it can be dismissive of the work Maleev HAS put into it. I guess maybe it’s a little advocacy on my part, as i worry that casual readers will think that Maleev is somehow cutting corners — while my estimation is that there’s a LOT of work put into this book.

    @wally – I agree with your assessment of NOT using filters so obviously that it becomes a distraction. But, it’s honestly my opinion that he didn’t use simplistic things like posterize filters in Scarlet. So, what have we learned here? Even two designers can’t agree — do we cancel each other out?   πŸ˜‰

  63. Is this an X-Men book?

    Is that Rachel Summers on the cover?

  64. I loved this book.

  65. @daccamp–i see your point. Perhaps it did come off as being dismissive of all of his work which wasn’t my intent. Its all personal preference. I think Maleev is a pretty damn great illustrator, and i get disapointed when i can start to see visible distractions like that.

    and yes, two designers can’t always agree…at least we weren’t talking type. that woulda been epic! =p 

     

  66. Picked this book up yesterday, along with bendis’ and maleev’s spider woman, and I wil say this: first read through, kind of wary on book as a whole; it was the story and the dialogue that threw me off, because I know too many people like scarlet. The difference is when I read it again, seeing if I missed anything, and boy did I.

    The fact that she reminds me of those too many people I know makes her all the more real, makes the story more believable, and the art more in tune with everything else. Nothing feels left out, which is good.

    @Neb: ditto on the three page spread of her life, loved those profound realization panels. 

  67. All of this worry and bother for a silly little comic book.

    Aww Ron you are so cute πŸ™‚ …dorky but very cute. I love your picks, you would totally be my Pick of the Week.

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