With the final issue of Scalped in the books, I can now safely say that Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s series is the greatest character-driven Vertigo epic since Preacher.
That said, let’s take a look the finale to their brilliant series.
In a brilliant fiftieth issue of Scalped that was set mostly in the past, Jason Aaron did a great job examining the cyclical nature of life. The idea of the sins of the father being visiting on the son is a powerful one in Scalped and it is definitely present in the finale of the series.
Honestly, as far as single issues go, Scalped #60 was more than a bit disjointed, but read as a prologue to our more than five year journey, it was stunning.
As I noted in the first sentence, Scalped was a character-driven work, and one of the ways Scalped let the characters drive the narrative was continually playing various characters against each other and in and out of various roles. Does character A belong in this box or this box? Where each of the characters end up from the start of the series is at first glance quite surprising, but the more you learn about these people the more their final decisions make sense. It is a great testament to Aaron’s skills as a writer that he naturally evolved all of these characters and gave them such great depths that all of their decisions were well within their respective character arcs.
Clearly, the most important relationship in the series is that between Lincoln Red Crow and Dashiell Bad Horse. As shown in this scene from the issue, Red Crow’s obsession with Dashiell as his heir (presumably tied to Lincoln’s love for Dash’s mother, Gina) clouds Red Crow’s judgment throughout the series.
It was a stroke of genius that the piece of information that actually drove Red Crow to temporarily work against Dash was news that Dash impregnated Red Crow’s daughter, Carol, who then aborted the fetus. Red Crow had an opportunity for a “real” heir, and he thinks Dash took it away from him (of course, Carol never told Dash about the abortion, which Red Crow discovers far too late).
It is certainly no coincidence that you could trace Dino Poor Bear’s descent into villainy back to the moment where Carol rebuffed his advances awhile back (unknowingly to her, of course). Just like how Gina Bad Horse choosing another set Lincoln Red Crow on his path, so too does a similar situation send Dino on his road to being the new crime boss of the reservation. Guera’s depiction of Dino is chilling. He is essentially a new (much scarier) man. Guera’s art in this final issue period is excellent. He can pull off the power of the early violent scenes with a ferocity that must be seen to be believed….
while also pulling off the quiet sadness of Maggie and the resigned nature of Sheriff Falls Down (and we even get a great reaction shot of Carol).
Red Crow and his daughter Carol find themselves taking on unexpected new roles, but both of them fit them well, especially Carol. If there is a “feel good” aspect of Scalped, it is Carol’s journey. As for Red Crow, I can’t get over the fact that he named the dog Shunka. Classic.
As for the lead of the series, Dashiell Bad Horse is a man who couldn’t wait to get off the reservation when he was a young man. He is a man whose father abandoned him when he was young. And now, in the end of his story in this series, he is a man who is finally at home at the reservation but must leave (as he is wanted for murder) and in doing so, he is also abandoning his unborn child. The sins of the father are repeating.
And it is beautifully and wonderfully tragic.
Just like Scalped.