Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Scarlet #1

By Zak Edwards
July 13, 2010 - 13:43

I feel like sometimes I only like Brian Michael Bendis for about three titles, which is saying something considering Amazon comes up with over three hundred and fifty hits.  Admittedly, a lot of those are reprints and multiple volumes of the same series, but that is still a lot of work for a single person.  He is extremely prolific, pumping out a ton of Marvel books each month, most of which, let’s face it, are pretty good for what they are.  As much fun as it is to harass Marvel for their books, the choice to keep Bendis happy and working is one that has paid off and continues to do so.  But personally, I mostly follow Bendis for his really, really good dialogue and his awesome noir, which has been lacking lately.  It makes me feel like I jump onto new Bendis projects just to see if Alias will happen again and, of course, it hasn’t; even when I did get my hopes up with Spider-Woman, which turned into a big disappointment.  This love of Alias (go get it, read it, you’re welcome) was right at the forefront of this issue for me and I have to say, Bendis may be onto something here, but he’s made a lot of promises.

Guns pointed at the camera, or reader, accentuates the fourth wall breaking of the issue.
First thing to note: it takes place in Portland.  Not New York or L.A, just his hometown of Portland, and despite him claiming the book has no political leanings in the interview provided in the back, this is most certainly of the political persuasion.  Perhaps not in the generic ‘I hate the president’ sort of leanings, but more of a systemically political way, which is probably more difficult and certainly more mature.  The end of the book reinforces this focus, arguing the ‘why’ is the easy question and the ‘what are you going to do’ is the hard one.  This is a book of action, Bendis has made this clear through not only the more overt violent sequences (the book opens with the main character strangling a police officer to death), but also the various calls to arms addressed directly at the reader.  Yes, the book has corrupt cops backed by a propaganda system, and the issue is an origin story typical of first issues, but even the protagonist admits to these in her own apologetic way.  This is the first promise: political to the point of militancy.  The book is also a hearkening back to Bendis’s days before Marvel, his Goldfish and Jinx days, when he was trying to be stylish and succeeding in noir, one of the most cliche and overwritten genres available.  The setting is a dead give away, Goldfish takes place in Cleveland, and the style is there.  Bendis’s trademark word filled pages are everywhere, blocking up Maleev’s incredible art, and for Bendis to come back to his roots like this is very, very exciting.  This return is the second big promise.  Bendis is playing with his own history here.  The setting, the style, the genre, and the quasi-independent status are all a sign of Bendis returning to where he started, and he has quite the back catalogue there to compete with.  Finally, the narration openly acknowledging the reader, is one thing and certainly something done before, especially by Bendis, but the final line of the book, the “You’re going to help me” as she looks right off the page and at the reader, is a much more exciting deal.  To be fair, a writer like Bendis, who pumps out an obscene amount of material, must want to try something else, and I hope this book is it.  The open narration is cool and never tires despite it continuing throughout the whole book.  The book is a little experimental in its own ways, nothing too extreme, but is still enough to sit up and pay attention to, and this experimentalism moves right into the art.

Alex Maleev, Bendis’ longtime cohort, reunites with Bendis after the less than stellar Spider-Woman.  But this book contains some of the minor moments of experiment the script does, mostly through a series of snapshots giving the main character an origin of sorts.  The three page sequence consists of a bunch of pictures with various captions underneath, from “Birth,” following through a variety of major moments like boyfriends, sexual experience, and achievement.  While not incredibly different, the break in form, coupled with the scripts fourth wall nature, is a strong declaration.  As for the art in general, Maleev’s style is as strong and powerful as ever, and this book does not disappoint.  Maleev’s gritty, fairly realistic style, coupled with a darker colour scheme coupled with splashes of stronger colours, makes this book look exactly like it should.  His avoidance of creating particularly beautiful or disproportionate bodies helps as well, keeping a focus on the ‘real world’ setting Bendis is striving for.  The city itself is firmly Portland as well, having fairly famous landmarks show up occasionally.  Overall, Bendis and Maleev’s continuing professional relationship is over the Spider-Woman mix-up and is on to something much better and bolder.

Grade: A    This a very strong debut, I’m in.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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