April 11, 2007

Review of SCALPED #3

SCALPED #3 opens with Dashiell Bad Horse and his partner about to bust a den of criminals. The comic spends four pages showing Bad Horse as a child contemplating an Indian with his brains blown out. This is supposed to teach him the horrors of violence. The comic spends the next four pages showing Bad Horse shooting the criminals into a bloody pulp. There's no dialog; it's essentially a killing field, a massacre.

That's a third of the comic down the drain. There is a superficial touch of Native culture when an owl serves as an omen of death. But this is negated by a shot of a totem pole leaning against the criminals' hideout. Huh?!

Critics have compared SCALPED to The Sopranos, but that's an insult to The Sopranos. I'm not up on my ultra-violent movie thrillers, but SCALPED is comparable to something like Kill Bill or Scarface. It has little or nothing to do with genuine Indian life and everything to do with its faux hip attitude.

As I said before, SCALPED could be set anywhere with a high crime quotient. In fact, here's how you too can create an issue of SCALPED. Take a gangster shoot-'em-up with lots of blood 'n' guts violence, posturing heroes and villains, and sneering swear words. Give the characters Indian rather than Italian or Irish names. Throw in one or two Indian words and images.

There you have it. You don't need to know anything about Indian culture because the story could take place anywhere. The Indians are only a pretext for the lovingly rendered thug life--i.e., the killing and beating and cursing.

I can see why critics have raved about SCALPED and why fans are reading it. The art is moody and stylish and the story sweeps you along with a rat-a-tat series of shootouts, slugfests, car chases, and in-your-face confronations. You have to remind yourself that you're paying $3.00 a shot for SCALPED's style even though the substance is lacking.

P.S. Remember the chief on the cover of SCALPED #1? No such chief appeared in the comic, so the cover used a stereotype to convey SCALPED's content. Now we have a cover image (from SCALPED #4) with a totem pole and a Monument Valley-style spire from the American Southwest.

Both items are far removed from the comic's South Dakota setting. Memo to DC/Vertigo and Jason Aaron: How stereotypical can you get?

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