The fourth volume of the critically acclaimed Scalped series was full of powerful turning points and reversals in the story-line. Jason Aaron’s Indian Reservation-centric thriller is THE comic that all other noir comics are measured against. There honestly could not have been a more perfect title for this chapter of the story, because it’s gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. Before launching into an analysis of what I felt the most important aspects of this volume, I would like to say that it was nearly impossible to locate in the first place. I checked amazon.com and they were sold out, when placing the order they said that it would ship within 2-3 months. Additionally, they had NO OTHER sellers at the time that were providing this comic in its used state or otherwise. So I located a completely separate online comic book seller that had one issue left in stock and I purchased it again. That’s right, I purchased it from amazon (expecting to wait) and from the separate seller I had found who guaranteed delivery within 3-5 business days. Well, 3 weeks later I had still not received the comic, and all of my queries to both amazon and the other seller were going unanswered. At this point, the most infuriating thing was the fact that I had the fifth and sixth volume sitting on my shelf, but I didn’t want to skip a section of the story. Eventually, at the beginning of the fourth week it finally came, and I was able to dive in hungrily (and then the other copy came a week later).
There were essentially five events that I found to be extremely significant in this noir comic. I’ll give you a brief overview of each.
First, we found out why Carol Red Crow hates her father, and how his cronies caused the death of her baby. The father of the child had stolen money from the Chief, and was trying to leave the rez with Carol and his unborn grandchild. While they were on the road out of town, Red Crow’s men pulled alongside them and began raining bullets on them (not knowing that Carol was in the car). They eviscerated Carol’s beau, and a stray bullet plunged into her womb, instantly killing the child. Since then, Carol has had no interest in a relationship with her father, and has gone off the deep end in the drug world.
Second, Dashiell Bad Horse almost kills himself. He had been reminiscing about his childhood, and a time when his father had shown up at his house completely wasted. His dad proceeded to do cocaine in front of him, and said “I don’t ever wanna catch you doing this shit you hear?”
Third, Dashiell’s self destructive tendencies take their final plunge when he asks Carol (who he’s been sleeping with) to show him how to do heroin.
“Tapping into the heart of noir, Jason Aaron tells a story that is really many stories, and which all have the same ending. It doesn’t get much more inevitable than knowing the ending through most of the book – but here’s the key… you don’t care. You turn each page just as fast, maybe faster, wanting to know how each character winds their way toward that conclusion. And that’s why I love noir, and why Scalped is a work of art.” – Ed Brubaker, January 2009
Fourth, Dino Poor Bear starts doing shady deliveries for the police in order to make money for his family. This leads him to being in various horrible situations.
And finally, Chief Red Crow reaches a turning point and decides to take his reservation back.
Scalped: The Gravel in Your Guts is a very hard noir comic to read because every character is plunging deeper and deeper into their bad decisions and the consequences they are incurring appear to be overwhelming any possible hope for a brighter future. Jason Aaron refuses to pull any punches, and constantly brutalizes his characters. I’m reminded of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, he said of writing a story: “Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” Noir comics are written by sadists.
A parting note, R.M. Guera and Davide Furno deliver BIG TIME in every issue. I’m never disappointed.