Friday, August 24, 2012
Scalped has now finished up. What a satisfying, complex story.
Most of the time, when discussing or suggesting Scalped to somebody else, the comparisons to 100 Bullets come up. To me, it is something of a spiritual successor in some regard to that earlier Vertigo epic. After having read the conclusion (but with a lot of thought left to put into the overall character arcs) I have to admit it is a very different kind of a story.
Where 100 Bullets was a clever, dark crime story full of unique, eclectic characters and a massively dense plotline, Scalped is far more obvious and far more real. The characters which Jason Aaron have written are so interestingly crafted and the emotional stakes are so very resonant that any further comparison is difficult.
The darkness of the story doesn't come from a gun, although there are plenty of those (what good crime story couldn't use a few more anyway?) but from the deep separations of the protagonists. At times, during the years which Scalped rolled out methodically, it was hard to tell just exactly who it was that we were supposed to be rooting for.
Scalped is about life on a seedy, impoverished reservation, sometimes through the eyes of the corrupt members of the crime family which ultimately run the place, and sometimes through the eyes of the poor people who have no choice but to live there. The "main character" Dashiel starts out as something of a bastard, goes through some small peaks and some very low valleys in his development, and eventually becomes merely a more experienced and wiser version of himself.
In the end, I'm not sure that there is really any redemption for him at all. He seems to have simply turned into his father, in many ways. One major character does undergo a massive redeeming transformation, and if you had asked me at the start of the story, she wouldn't have even been on my radar as a character to invest yourself in deeply.
There was a single moment during the series, a few years ago, when I put down an episode and thought to myself, "Geez, this could be the final issue. That pretty much wraps up all the plotlines except the deeply emotional ones (which seemed to be too distant and inward to be dealt with)."
I was wrong. The themes and emotional depths to which this tale went after that stand on their own.