Jason Aaron has slowly laid out the world of the Prairie Rose reservation, building tension between characters, introducing layers of conflict which spiral around the almost-Shakespearean villain Chief Red Crow, and generally making it seem like it can’t get much worse for the “hero” Dash Bad Horse.
Things are getting a whole lot worse.
Every time I review this series, I keep dropping the phrase, “Best Vertigo Monthly,” and “Scalped” certainly is. And every month — or every month in which I take a close look at this comic for CBR — I justify that description by writing about what makes it so great, and I tend to talk about something different every time. And that’s the point. That’s the point of this very comic. It’s about so many things, all wrapped up inside this insular world of crime and corruption.
That “almost-Shakespearean” tag in my first paragraph refers not to Red Crow’s larger-than-life, overly dramatic status on the Rez — though that’s certainly true of the character, who wields power like a savage tyrant — but to the way in which Red Crow has been imbued with depth and range. This monster of a man isn’t a monolithic force of evil. He’s a man — a man with humanity and sorrow and pain and selfishness. A man Jason Aaron has examined throughout the past three years in such a way that it hasn’t seemed like a dry character study. It’s been a character study awash in blood, and now that Red Crow has to deal with the repercussions of the murder he’s just committed — a murder committed in full view of everyone inside the police station — it’s going to get a whole lot bloodier.
And on the other side, we have Dash Bad Horse, equally human, equally sorrowful, equally in pain, and equally selfish. Perhaps the only thing that separates him from Red Crow is a generation gap and the corrupting influence of opportunity. And while Red Crow seizes what’s in front of him, Bad Horse runs away. But Red Crow has taken too much, and Bad Horse has turned away from his troubles too often, and “Scalped” #31 sets these two characters up for a showdown.
Yet with all the other spinning wheels rolling toward them in this story, the two of them may end up on the same side of the wall, propping up their combined defenses before they’re knocked down from the outside.
With this series, there’s no guarantee that the plot will go in an expected direction. The only guarantee is that you’ll get an excellent read.