March 03, 2007


Scalped #2Scalped is still very new but to be brief, I like it. I like it a lot. We’ve all read and heard stories about Native Americans, stories which explore groups of people who still value and practice their deep-rooted culture. Put frankly, you can forget about all of that because it won’t be found here. What is presented instead is a story which looks at the problems of organized crime and the amount of power these groups have over others. Through Aaron’s finely crafted story and Guéra’s well matched gritty illustrations, a dark, grimy and seemingly lost world is painted before our eyes.

One of the best things about the comic is the chemistry between Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra. These two are a perfect team, and this really makes it go the extra mile. The artwork is very successful in portraying the story's dark and vivid images, and it is very easy for readers to find themselves completely trapped in the comic. Although not of Native American descent, Jason Aaron has quite obviously done his research. Highly controversial and moral issues such as the operation of casinos and creation of methamphetamine laboratories are just a few of the matters he explores. Aaron unfolds a world which displays a very dark side of Reservation life and although fictitious, it displays a number of ongoing problems.

I do have one issue with Scalped: it seems to play off a common stereotype that Native Americans are drunk, corrupt and uncontrollable people with very little potential. Most of the characters who have been introduced in this story have adhered to these stereotypes and it leaves me wondering if this is a message that should be sent out to readers. Or is it maybe that Aaron is simply trying to reveal many of the problems and social issues which have been left out of the spotlight?
Comment:  Even though he likes the series, this critic nailed the fundamental problems with SCALPED.

One, if you expect to find Native culture here, you can forget it. As I said before, this series could be set anywhere. It's all about the thug life, the bodies getting pulped, and most of all the boundary-pushing language. Aaron must chortle with glee as he writes lines that have never appeared in a comic book before.

Two, the characters adhere to stereotypes. They're corrupt, drunk, vicious, evil. There's apparently only one good cop on the rez, and he's targeted for termination at the end of issue #2.

SCALPED #2 gives us a raid on a meth lab; a conversation with Boss Red Crow's daughter, who acts like a prostitute and may well be one; and a "tribal council" meeting with Red Crow addressing his cronies like a Buddha on a throne. You can bet they aren't following Robert's Rules of Order here. I wonder how fast the BIA would shut down an actual tribal government if it operated like this.

I believe Aaron has researched meth labs because that scene rings true. I don't believe he's researched Indian gaming, tribal politics, or anything that doesn't add to his Tarantino-style tale. His coverage of such topics is either extremely superficial or flat-out wrong.

When will the critics learn? As far as I could tell, the first issue of SCALPED was representative of the series as a whole. The second issue proves it.

Conclusion: If you like The Sopranos, you may well like SCALPED. But don't look to SCALPED for a credible portrayal of today's Indians.

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