Scalped Vol. 1

SCALPED Volume 1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: R.M. Guera
Vertigo | graphic novel | $14.99
Scalped was a 60 issue series created by Jason Aaron and published by Vertigo. It follows the story of Bad Horse who left the reservation fifteen years ago as a child. While passing back through the reservation to supposedly wait out some heat brought down on him by the white man, he gets pressed into service as a reservation peace officer ahead of the opening of the reservation’s first casino.
You may know Aaron as the longtime writer of Wolverine and the X-Men or as the writer of the second series of Punisher MAXR.M. Guera is a Serbian comic book writer and artist who lives in Spain but has few credits to his name.
You don’t have to be a bleeding heart to feel bad about how the Native Americans live. In the heart of America, Bad Horse’s reservation suffers from rampant alcoholism, poverty, crime, and meth-heads looking to cook up a batch in one of the many abandoned shacks on this wasteland. Although set in current time and in a world largely unchanged from our own, a quick skimming of the book would lead you to believe it’s set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future.
Fortunately for the reservation, Bad Horse is more than he seems. He is actually an FBI agent sent to infiltrate the reservation and get close to Lincoln Red Crow, President of the Oglala Tribal Council and Sheriff of the Tribal Police, to try to tie him to the thirty year old murder of two FBI agents. As Red Crow grows suspicious of Bad Horse, his tough job gets even tougher.  In addition to that, Bad Horse must also deal with his mother, an old radical for Indian rights, and his childhood love who is now a worn out drunk who goes home with the last man to buy her a beer.
The writing in this book doesn’t shy away from the ugly details of this community wracked by alcoholism and crime or how the generational poverty removes all hope for a better life. While Red Crow and his cronies get rich from direct payments from the government, most of the society is relegated to permanent underclass status. The implication that the casino will not change this is all the more reason to get something to pin on Red Crow so as to destroy the corrupt power structure he has built there.
The art of the book matches the somber tone of the reservation. The backgrounds show cracked mortar and people sleeping in the street with a bottle still clutched in their hands. Flophouses flank the casino construction site.  The art is heavily shadowed and hash-marked. The flat tones of the reservation clash with the bright and gaudy colors in the casino.
After the first trade, I’m hooked on this book. The story has elements of a classic western in a way I’ve never seen before in a comic. The universe is realistic but it still feels like anything can happen. I highly recommend this book.
Final rating (out of 5): 5_Star


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