Because “Scalped” has been so consistently excellent for so many years, it might be easy to overlook this comic in the midst of all the Reigns of Darkness and Reborn Flashes and Black Nights. It’s a comic that sells well in trade paperback, but it’s not something that you tend to see a lot of promotion for. You won’t see giant “Scalped” banners at your local comic shop, and you’re unlikely to see Dash Bad Horse pop-up ads on CBR.
But if “Scalped” #30 does anything, it reinforces the idea that Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera are major talents and this comic book series is worthy of as much attention as you can possibly muster. This is the series that deserves media attention in Hall H at the San Diego Comic Con. “Fables” may get more outside attention, and that’s the one that may be seen as the heir to the “Sandman” legacy at Vertigo, but “Scalped” is a better series in almost every way. It’s a vicious, heart-rending, cruel, and beautiful crime comic, and it’s one of the best things that you’re likely to read in any given month.
In issue #30, Dash Bad Horse extradites Catcher from White Haven. Catcher, a central character in the series, has rarely shared the same stage as Dash — a point driven home by Aaron through the dialogue as Dash brings the deranged mystic back to the Rez. Aaron piles on the dramatic irony in this issue, as Dash has no idea about how closely Catcher’s fate has intertwined with his own. The reader knows, and we revel in it, as twisted as it may be.
This is also the issue in which Dash finds out how compromised his position on the Rez truly is. Not only does Catcher bluntly identify him as an “undercover agent for the FBI,” but Red Crow assigns Dash the task of rooting just such an agent. It’s not clear whether or not Red Crow suspects Dash as the undercover operative and put him on the case just to see how he handles it, or if Red Crow is merely testing Dash’s skills as an agent in his employ. Meanwhile Agent Nitz plays Dash from a different angle, setting things in motion, “helping to turn the heat” as he terms it, so that the Red Crow situation will boil over and he’ll be able to come in and clean up the mess.
Aaron has spent the previous 29 issues setting up these relationships, often showing these characters move at cross purposes, and in “The Gnawing” (a five-issue story arc which begins here), he stirs things up and lets us enjoy the frothy brew. And R. M. Guera is the perfect accomplice for just such a task.
With “100 Bullets” completed, “Scalped” is theVertigo book to read each month. It’s a deeply layered crime drama with a vicious edge and a mournful soul. There’s no excuse not to read it.