Archive for the Comics Category

Post-Apocalyptic Amazing

Posted in Comics, Videogames on February 14, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

First let me preface this review of two absolutely amazing things by saying that I hate “the man.”  I will not be watching the Oscars this weekend.  I think Greenday’s new album will be absolute garbage and their transformation into the next U2 is nearly complete.  I have never watched a single episode of House.  I fucking hate nearly 99% of the things that other people like.

That being said, here are two things that cost me a total of 5 dollars and have brought me no end of enjoyment.

The first is Weapon Brown, brought to my attention at Comicon by the noticably-absent-from-this-blog Mr. Jordan Hue.  Here is Weapon Brown:

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Yep.  Tha’td be Charlie Brown, with a robotic arm, shooting the fuck out of Lucy’s Therapy Stand.  This comic, by genius and all-around nice guy Jason Yungbluth, collects the chapters of his Nuclear Holocaust vision of the Peanuts characters into one niftly little comic.  Everybody’s present, from Pigpen’s desperate offers of a blowjob for crack, to Linus’ worship of the great pumpkin, to Snoopy gnawing on the lifeless body of Woodstock.  And all for five dollars.  God bless you indie comics.

And now for something similar, and even less than 5 dollars.  This pretty baby cost me nothing but a quick download on my computer, and its already impressed me even more than Jason Yungbluth’s masterpiece.

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“CHEF BOYARDEE’S BARKLEY, SHUT UP AND JAM, GAIDEN”

Yep.  You play Charles Barkley.  The last known baller.  Originator of the “Chaos Dunk,” which killed thousands, leading to the goverments ban of the sport of Basketball which gave birth to the great B-Ball purge.  Barkley’s living his life out in shame, just trying to quietly raise his son, Hoopz.  His friends are all either dead, or have given up their baller lifestyles (Larry Bird is a minister, Michael Jordan works for the government, tracking down suspicions of balling activity). 

On a pure storytelling level, this is amazing.  It even ties in Charles Barkley’s adventurs in Space Jam, and Barkley’s serious bemoaning over the “destruction of slams and jams,” is enough to make even this reviewer, who has gotten most of his information about the sport of baksetball from the film Space Jam, passionate about balling.

As a game, however…this fucking thing is still fantastic.  It’s a straight RPG, with numerous references to other RPG’s, particularly those made by Square-Enix.  It adds in several action scenes with timed-button pressing, ala God of War, and the battles are always engaging, and it’s fun to level up and see what new Slams and Jams you can add to your destructive repertoire.  Currently I have the great grandson of Lebron James and a Cyborg version of Vince Carter in my party.  I love it.

Indie things make me happy.  I will be having a much better time playing “CHEF BOYARDEE’S BARKLEY, SHUT UP AND JAM, GAIDEN,” and re-reading “WEAPON BROWN,” then I would ever have watching the Oscars.

 

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100 Bullets: A Reflection

Posted in Comics on February 12, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

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On March 18th 2009, 100 BULLETS will conclude its nearly decade long run off of DC’s Vertigo imprint.  The series itself will have run for exactly 100 issues.  I thought that I would take some time to reflect on the sheer brilliance of this series.  If all comics were as funny, violent, depraved, touching, mysterious, and riveting as 100 BULLETS, I would probably have no time to do much of anything else except sit in my room and read them.  Alas, this is not to be, because BULLETS has been so above everything else ever since it began that it will truly leave a gaping void of creativity in the comic book world.

So, first things first, let’s go over some of the things that have made this series such a joy to read from beginning to end, starting with the basic premise to the landmark issues of the series.  A note to fans: I’ll only be focusing on the series up to issue 88 for now.  I’ll review the final arc, consisting of 11 issues, when it concludes in March.  This is not merely because the final arc is yet to complete, but mainly because the final arc has been so dense that I could write a novel about it.

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The series began in 1999 with a seemingly simple, yet startlingly original premise.  What if you had been wronged by somebody in life, be it an enemy, co-worker, friend, or even a lover, and somebody gave you the chance to get even? And not just to get even, but to suffer no consequences from your actions.  Specifically, what if you were given 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition and told that no law enforcement agency could touch you?  Would you forget about whatever moral code you may have and even the score?

It is with this question that writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso begin their masterpiece.  In issue 1, we are introduced to Dizzy, a tough as nails girl from a Chicago ghetto, as she is being released from prison.  Her husband and young son were killed while she was inside, presumably by a rival gang.  Riding the train home, Dizzy feels nothing; her world has crumbled and she has no place in it anymore.  Then she meets a man who calls himself Agent Graves.  Graves provides her with an attache case that tells her who really murdered her family and provides her with the oppurtunity for some payback.  Graves also tells her that it is entirely up to her what she does with this information.  He is only there to present her with an opportunity. 

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This is a hell of a way to start a series.  Who does not think about revenge on a daily basis? Even for slight offenses, such as wanting to blow the guy away who cut you off on the highway.  As a matter of fact, that’s just how Azzarello came up with the idea for the series.  Someone cut him off on the road and he began to wonder what he would do to the person if he could get away with it.  What elevates the material beyond a fascinating moral question is that Azzarello and Risso never make it easy for their characters to decide how to act.  And when they do act, they generally make the wrong decision.  The law might not be able to catch up with them, but there’s always something else lurking around the corner.

For a good long while, the series follows several different characters and how they react to being given Agent Grave’s attache case.  We meet a gambler, a lowly bartender, an ice cream man, a reporter, and a waitress, among others.  It may sound trite, but Azzarello makes each story unique and there is always the question of why and how this man Graves is able to give them this oppurtunity.  Some cryptic answers are provided by an even more mysterious character than Graves: Mr. Sheperd.  Sheperd thrives on living in the shadows, and as one character remarks, ‘He likes things cloudy.’  With his brown trenchcoat and a cigarette always in his mouth, Mr. Sheperd is right out of a classic film noir.  Sheperd spends a good portion of the series talking to the recipients of the attache and nudging them in the right direction.  Or not.

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At first glance, the series may seem like nothing more than variations on a theme.  But Azzarello lays down clue after clue that he is playing at something much larger here.  For example, several of the recipients seem to know Graves and uncover lost memories as they carry out his dirty work.  Upon hearing a strange word (CROATOA), these characters start to remember who they really are and refer to themselves as ‘Minutemen’.  There are hints at a global conspiracy, but Azzarello does not let us in on the full story until issue 50. 

Azzarello and Risso are a sensational team.  Easily the best pairing between artist and writer in years, perhaps ever.  Azzarello has an ear for dialogue that is unparalleled.  Whether its a character from the street or from the business world, everything they say rings true.  Risso’s artwork may seem a bit cartoony at first, but he is a master of shadows and often maninpulates you into looking at the wrong thing, even when it’s right in front of your eyes.  Action is constantly happening in the background and if you don’t read carefully, you’ll miss it.   Also, no other artist is better at telling a story without any words.  Risso is as confident as they come and he can break your heart with a few simple panels.

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The series is heavily influenced by Frank Miller’s SIN CITY and, of course, Film Noir.  However, 100 BULLETS is infinitely better than SIN CITY for several reasons.  First: Azzarello is a much better storyteller and writer than Frank Miller.  Miller only writes about himself.  Alright, all writers do that, but Miller never tries to hide it.  Azzarello writes original characters that are as diverse as can be. Also, in SIN CITY, Miller isn’t doing anything new.  He is paying homage to Raymond Chandler and all the private eye films he’s seen in his life.  He wears his influences on his sleeve, which may be noble, but he adds nothing new to what has come before. 

Second: Azzarello is not merely paying homage to noir comics and films.  He is writing about the world we live in and placing it in a film noir context.  He is advancing noir; continuing the tradition and making it feel new.  For all you folks who ask what happened to true film noir, look no further than the pages of 100 BULLETS.  True noir was always about the little people that society forgot, be they private eyes, two bit criminals, or foolish gamblers.  Azzarello asks who these people are today.  He searches in the darkest corners of our world and tells the stories of the naive gang members, the junkies, the gas station attendants, and the private eyes.  This is what noir has become. 

Now, lets take a look at the standout issues and story arcs of the series shall we? If you want many of the series questions to remain unanswered until you get off your ass and pick up the trade paperbacks, you might want to stop reading now.

ISSUE 8: DAY, HOUR, MINUTEMAN

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This was the first issue that showed us Graves doing something else besides giving people the opportunityto get away with murder.  It also introduced us to the series chief villain, a hulking Hawaiian monster named Lono.  We watch Graves and Lono having a quiet lunch, while they discuss business and answer a few of our questions, while raising even more.  Right off the bat, Lono comes off as the exact opposite of Graves.  Calm, cool, and efficient, Graves is annoyed with Lono for botching a job.  Loud, obnoxious, and arrogant, Lono defends himself and remarks to Graves that he wants revenge on Mr. Sheperd for being responsible for the demise of the Minuteman.  We are able to conclude that the Minutemen work for Graves, that Lono is one of them, and that Graves works for a very powerful organization known as The Trust.  The motivations of The Trust and of Graves remain unclear, though Lono refers to his giving out the attache as a stupid  ‘Game’.  Grave’s response: ‘It’s never a game Lono.  Never.’  This issue is a beautiful example of Azzarello and Risso’s ability to reveal secrets without coming right out and smacking you in the face with them.  Graves and Lono do not simply announce who they are and who they work for; we have to deduce the information for ourselves from their skillfully written conversation. 

ISSUE #11: HEARTBREAK, SUNNYSIDE UP

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Arguably, the series’ saddest issue.  We are introduced to a a middle-aged waitress named Sally and her husband Phil.  Sally goes to work and is unfortunate enough to find Agent Graves as one of her customers.  He tells her the story of her daughter, who has been missing for three years.  As she cries her poor little heart out, Graves is relentless in telling her how her daughter got into drugs, was forced into prostitution and ultimately died of AIDS in an all night porno theater.  She is beside herself and asks what she can do.  That’s when Graves pulls out the attache.  She opens it and Risso does not let us see what she is looking at, but we see the rage on her face.  We follow her home as she serves her husband dinner.   Without warning, she pulls the gun from the case and blows him to hell, emptying the weapon into him like a maniac.  Azzarello then reveals that good old Phil had been raping their daughter for years before she ran away.  The final image of the issue is of Graves standing outside the house listening to the gunfire.  This image defined Graves more than any previous issue.  Stoic, silent, but somehow pleased with the violence that he is responsible for. We can imagine how many times he’s stood outside houses just like that.  Also, this is the only occasion where the violence that Graves creates is truly, absolutely, 100 percent deserved.

ISSUES 12-14: PARLEZ KUNG VOUS

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After picking Dizzy up upon the completion of her ‘mission’, Mr. Sheperd sends her to France.  There she meets the chubby reporter, Mr. Branch.  Like her, Branch was given an attache by Graves and encouragement by Sheperd.  Branch never tells us what was in his briefcase, but he does provide a lot of information.  We learn that he found people across the country who had been given attaches and when he got too close to the truth, Lono paid him a not-so-friendly visit.  He tells Dizzy about The Trust, a secret organization that has been around for centuries and is more powerful than anything else in the world.  He also tells Dizzy that neither Graves, nor Sheperd are men who can be trusted.  Amidst all this information is a wonderful view of France, quite refreshing considering every fucking moronic thing that has been said about the country in recent years.   And Branch is a delightful character.  The scruffy reporter is a fat oaf, petrified of his own shadow and yet he exhibits a wit and intelligence reminescent of Falstaff .  The French romp culminates in a  visit from Minuteman Cole Burns (another recipient of the attache) who frightens the hell out of Branch and warns them both that Graves and the Trust are now at war.  And Graves needs new recruits.  No extra points for guessing who he has in mind.

ISSUE 27: IDOL CHATTER

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This issue reveals that Graves has been playing his ‘Game’ since the early 60’s and is also a wickedly funny piece of revisionist history.  Graves runs into an old man in a hospital who remembers him from another time.  The two begin to talk and it’s discovered that this old man is none other than Joe DiMaggio.  Flashbacks tell of how Graves met him after Marilyn Monroe’s death and provided him with an attache that told him the real story of his loved one’s demise.  JFK was the man responsible for her murder and DiMaggio took a shot at the bastard on a grassy knoll in Dallas on November 22, 1963.  A great read, capitalizing on two of the most controversial conspiracy theories of our time.

ISSUES 31-36: THE COUNTERFIFTH DETECTIVE

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The best complete story arc of the entire series.  This tale follows Milo Garret, a private eye who was wounded in a car crash and now has to walk around with bandages all over his face.  Graves gives him an attache and we watch as he finds himself caught in a classic noir mystery, complete with femme fatales, crooked cops, and monstrous villains.  Garret is one of Azzarello’s finest characters.  He recalls every private eye from every movie, from Humphrey Bogart in THE MALTESE FALCON to Jack Nicholson in CHINATOWN.  The bandages are a terrific device as well; we keep waiting to see what’s underneath.  When Risso finally does show us, it’s a hell of a surprise. The bandages change Garret into a stranger, an unkowable entity in a world where knowledge is power.  We learn that Garret was one of Graves’ Minutemen, but he makes a choice in the final issue that puts him permanently out of a job.  The best thing about this arc is that it tells a very classic story in a modern world and never feels like it’s merely paying homage. Take a cue from this Miller.

ISSUE 50: PREY FOR REIGN

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The issue that finally told us the complete backstory of The Trust and of Graves and his Minutemen.  We meet three thieves hiding out in a bar and one of them has a story to tell.  He talks about when America was first discovered and of 13 fiendish European families who wanted to take control of the land as a whole.  They were a crew of theives who made a deal or ‘Trust’ with each other in order to achieve this goal. Honor Among Thieves.  They made an offer to the Queen of England, but she refused.  The original Trust responded by sending seven Minutemen to the small community on Roanoke Island.  The Minutemen butchered everyone there and left a message: CROATOA.  Translation: This Belongs To Us.  And there you have it, The Trust has been in control of America since before it began and the Minutemen are their enforcers, but are mainly there to make sure no one member of the Trust becomes too powerful. Checks and Balances folks.  This revelation doesn’t come as a complete surpirse (Azzarello drops hints all the time) but it allows Azzarello to start telling much wider stories.  By mixing historic mysteries with conspiracy theories, he is able to create a world that is a twisted mirror image of our own: where revenge can be free and everything is up for grabs.  The tale is told by my personal favorite character, Minuteman Victor Ray, who makes his first appearance here.  And BTW, he tells most of the story while in the midst of a fucking mad as hell gunfight.  When Risso does action, its better than the movies.

ISSUE 58: CODA SMOKE

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 After being fatally wounded, the enigmatic Mr. Sheperd makes a frantic drive to tie up loose ends.  By this point in the series, it has been revealed that Sheperd is the warlord for The Trust, acting as their advisor in all things having to do with violence and death.  He surprises the hell out of the reader by making the psychotic Lono his replacement.  This makes us wonder about Sheperd’s motivations all along and if he has been working for Graves, the Trust, or just himself.  His last line before succumbing to his wounds is absolutely heartbreaking.   Azzarello made him so mysterious, but so likable and human at the same time.  Risso’s final image of Sheperd’s body being torn apart by wild dogs will haunt your dreams and  drives the point home that Azzarello is not at all interested in happy endings.

ISSUE 75: AMORALITY PLAY

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The last issue of the series that shows Graves playing his ‘Game’.  Throughout the series, he’s used his attaches as a way to amuse himself, to recruit people and simply to see just what the hell people will do with a little bit of power.  Here, he gives the attache to a poor waiter who sits on a park bench, wondering just what the hell he should do.  In comes Lono, wearing a familiar brown trenchcoat and smoking a cigar, to provide some encouragement.  Seeing Lono act as a deranged Mr. Sheperd is a hoot and Azzarello makes this a very thoughtful goodbye to the convention that has served him so well throughout much of the series.

ISSUE 86: RAIN IN VAIN

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Victor Ray’s moment to shine.  The steady Minuteman completes a job for Graves, but lingers in the area for longer than expected because of something he heard on the news.  He learns of a couple who killed a pregnant woman, ripped the baby from her stomach, and took it for their own.  They also took her five year old son in the process.  Victor Ray tracks them down and buries an ax in the man’s head and drowns the woman in a toilet.  Graves picks him up, dissapointed by his behavior.  Victor simply says, “Fuck you. And Fuck Your Attache.” Sometimes bad people just deserve to be killed.  And sometimes you don’t need a personal reason or 100 untraceable bullets to do it.  You just need an ax and a toilet and one righteously badass Minuteman. 

Honestly folks, I could go over every single issue in this series and talk about them for hours.  The ones above are simply my absolute favorites, but there are so many more dark alleys, femme fatales, impossible choices,  corrupt cities, and morally ambiguous characters in the world of 100 BULLETS for you to discover if you haven’t so already.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.  Get off the computer now, buy the paperbacks and see for yourself.

 

SCALPED: The Saving Grace

Posted in Comics, Uncategorized on January 16, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

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It takes a lot for me to read a comic these days. There was a time, not too long ago, when I was reading more comics than I could account for. If I wasn’t reading at least three new comics a night, I was doing something wrong. Each one I read seemed original and exciting. The art form itself was what kept me coming back for more. I discovered comics late in life and when I finally did, I was like a six-year old kid in a candy store. I wanted everything.

Time has passed and the novelty has worn off.  I also ran out of exciting series to read.  Don’t get me wrong, I treasure comic books.  But for me to read a comic these days I need it to be on the level of SANDMAN or PREACHER or 100 BULLETS.  Unfortunately, those truly great series are few and far between and I just can’t get myself as excited about comics as I used to be.

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Also, super-hero comics don’t really interest me at all.  Sure, I’ll read the occasional Batman book, but only if I like the writer or if it elevates the material (Loeb’s THE LONG HALLOWEEN, Azzarello’s JOKER, Morrison’s ARKHAM ASYLUM) and I loved every PUNISHER comic that Garth Ennis wrote, particularly the MAX series.  But after Ennis left the PUNISHER, I found myself giving the first non-Ennis issue a try and being able to stomach no more than two pages.

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In my humble opinion, super-hero comics are outdated.  These characters are better suited to the big screen these days (and they frequently don’t even work there).  The problem with the super-hero comics is that they are completely self-contained and self-referential.  They are not connected to the real world in any way and are basically soap operas with lots of elaborate fights.  I mean, who really cares what X-MEN character secretly had a child or was really another character’s father all along?  That stuff isn’t interesting.  It’s just cheesy, cartoon melodrama. 

Super-hero comics also generally ignore the importance of good artwork and the crucial relationship between artist and writer.  Too often, the artwork is bland and obvious and the story (Dr. Doom invades Reed Richard’s wedding to Susan Storm!) can rarely support it.  I have no interest in Marvel’s Civil War or any of the D.C. crossovers.  If I want to see if  Iron Man could kick Captain America’s ass, I’ll pull out some of my old action figures and answer the question myself.  That’s what super-hero comics have become: Action Figure Games for Unimaginative Children.

18078-106040-1-new-x-men-vol-2_400Who the fuck cares?

If I sound harsh towards comics, I apologize.  I do not mean to be.  Comic Books are wonderful, but I love movies too and that does not stop me from pissing all over them when they deserve it (Caligula).  For me, the best place for solid, thoughtful comic books is on D.C.’s Vertigo line.  Vertigo gave us SANDMAN, PREACHER, THE INVISIBLES, 100 BULLETS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN and countless others.  It is often referred to as the HBO of comics and that is fairly accurate.  Vertigo is always violent, sexy, disturbing, and imaginative.  Or at least, it always tries to be.

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I say that because recently even Vertigo has been disappointing me.  Certain series that I truly enjoyed when I began them have either grown stale (Y:THE LAST MAN) or been cancelled (THE EXTERMINATORS).   Also, Vertigo is trying far too hard these days to be topical.  There are more war and terrorism themed comics on the shelves than anyone has time for.  I have no problem with a comic trying to make a point, but when it beats you over the head, it becomes frustrating.  Especially when Movies and TV shows can makes the same points with much more subtlety.  Comics should be subversive and challenging when they try to reflect the world we live in.  PREACHER is a brilliant example of that.  Garth Ennis was so over the top with his critique of religion that every dig he gave to the Catholic Church felt more scathing than anything a Pulitzer-prize winning play could say.  Vertigo is just too eager to take the easy way out and as a result I have stopped reading a lot of their series.

Now, with all that being said, I am reading SCALPED.    It has all the violence, sex, tortured heroes, and sympathetic villains that we have come to expect from Vertigo, but it is so much more.  It’s a Shakespearean tragedy, a gritty crime story, a feast for the eyes, a touching drama, a harsh criticism of the world we live in and it has more devious twists and turns than the most crooked road.  SCALPED is a miracle.

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It took me awhile to actually pick up SCALPED.  Vertigo originally billed it as a ‘Sopranos style crime drama’.  That barely scratches the surface.  SCALPED is such a moral labyrinth it makes The Sopranos look like a sitcom.  As the series begins, we are introduced to Dashiell Bad Horse (pictured above), a troubled young man who has just returned home to the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation after years abroad.  Dash is lucky enough to get a job from the local crime boss, Lincoln Red Crow, as a deputy.  Red Crow is the de-facto ruler of  ‘The Rez’.  He owns the police department, runs whorehouses, controls the drug supply, and is preparing for the grand opening of a brand new Casino.  It doesn’t take long for the reader to discover that Dash is an undercover FBI agent whose chief job is to bring down Red Crow.  Chosen because of his connection to the Rez and his tough as nails demeanor, he is caught between a rock and a very hard place.

Contrived? You bet.  But it serves the story and allows for series creator Jason Aaron to place his protagonist in one terrible situation after another where whatever decision he makes will be a bad one.  If 100 BULLETS is traditional noir, then SCALPED can be described as a kind of Neo-Noir.  It’s characters live in the shadows and are constantly making that terrible mistake that causes everything to go wrong.  It feels new because of that wonderful location (The Rez) and because of its modern sensibilities.

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The Rez itself is a delightful and disgusting location.  Filled with cheap brothels, dirty bars, gangs with piercings on almost every part of their body, back-alleys, and a few good people scattered amongst the run down houses.  It reminds one of the worst ghetto, but I guarantee you, you’ve never seen a ghetto this filthy.  Everywhere.  The characters wear dirt like a second skin.  At the center of it all is that Casino, The Crazy Horse.  Massive, gorgeous, brand new, not a speck of dirt to be found on any of its slot machines or card tables.  A fresh cherry atop a pile of steaming shit.  Also, Aaron never lets us  forget the history of the place.  This is a land that has been fought over and shit on for centuries and it is a terror to see what it has become.   

However, the real strength of SCALPED is found in its characters.  Dash is a terrific morally ambiguous hero.  For much of the series, his true motivations remain unclear.  He hates the Rez with fiery passion, but feels drawn back to the place anyway.  He has never identified with his mother (Gina Bad Horse, another predominant figure on the Rez, but I’ll get to her in a little while) or with his heritage.  He’s such a bitter, angry soul that it is somewhat of a miracle that Aaron is able to makes us care about him as much as we do.  It helps that he is a righteous, fucking, bad-ass.  Sporting a pair of nun-chucks and an unbelievable persistence to keep on fighting, he would give Vic Mackey and Jack Bauer a nice kick in the ass.

Better still is Chief Lincoln Red Crow.  When we first meet him, he comes off as a horrific monster.  We cannot wait for Dash to bust his ass, but as the series moves forward, he is revealed to be a much more complex figure.  In the 60’s, he was an activist, working hand in hand with Dash’s mother, for the rights of their people.  But, of course, several terrible things happened and he ultimately chose to save his people in the only way he knew how: money.  His Casino became his dream and he did whatever was necessary to see that dream come to fruition.  When the Casino opens, he watches as the fights break out and as more and more blood is spilled he realizes that he has not saved anyone.  He is damned, and he knows it.  I hope as the series continues that this will make his actions more and more erratic because he is a man with a code, but if that code breaks down…well, who knows what Aaron will come up with?

 

A tangled web they weave

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Then there’s FBI Special Agent Nitz, Dash’s boss.  There is not a single panel that contains Nitz where he is not smoking a cigarette.  He has his own reasons for wanting to bring Red Crow down and could care less if Dash gets killed in the process.  Aaron makes it clear that he is the guy with all the secrets.  Another intriguing character is Catcher, also a former activist.  He worked with Red Crow and Gina Bad Horse too in the sixties but has since taken to liquor.  He narrates a good portion of the series and believes to be receiving messages from the spirit-world.  He also believes he can see people’s ‘animal totems’ and artist R.M. Guera makes most of them look simply terrifying.  He’s a drunk too, so this provides some good old-fashioned humor.

But even funnier is the character of Diesel Engine.  A seven-foot tall muscular lug who claims to be one-sixteenth Kickapoo.  He constantly refers to himself as a true ‘Native-American’, despite his very white skin and long blond hair.  Ridiculed as a boy, he has become a hulking monster to compensate and has thrust himself into the Rez’ drug community.  He and Dash fight throughout and Diesel is short on brains, but he (like everyone in this series) has more than a few secrets for us to discover.

Gina Bad Horse provides us with a lot of much needed insight into Dash.  She is the only one of the activists who remained true to her beliefs and she continues to fight the good fight despite being constantly pushed down by everyone around her.  Dash cannot stand the sight of her (we learn in flashbacks why) and it is one of those rare scenarios where both characters are wrong and both of them are right. 

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Aaron weaves all of these characters together brilliantly and has a lot of fun with creating cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger.  He has an excellent ear for dialogue and makes his foul-mouthed characters sound like astute poets.  His plot twists are as surprising as they are inevitable.  You’re shocked and then you smack yourself in the head for not realizing it sooner.  Aaron also has a lot to say and not just about Native Americans.  By focusing on a small community, he is able to delve deep into these characters, their dreams, hopes and fears, and present the reader with an Indian Reservation that is a microcosm of the worst aspects of America.  But don’t worry, Aaron’s not interested in beating you over the head with his messages.  This is violent as hell and yes there are more than two or three scalpings. 

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That is what I want out of a comic book.  I don’t want some pansy-ass guy in tights fighting another pansy-ass guys in tights while they argue over who gets the girl.  No.  Nor do I want message heavy nonsense that tries to be topical without being thoughtful.  I want SCALPED.  I want balls to the wall violence that looks fucking scary,  I want a world I haven’t seen before and I want it to repulse me and intrigue me, I want artwork that moves me with its realism while evoking a great sense of fantasy, I want characters that are forced to make impossible choices and always make the wrong choice. 

I want SCALPED.  So should you.