“Scalped” manages to keep the intensity and quality at a peak no matter what issue it is dropping; this is why it is so incredibly good. Jason Aaron has proved he can use this vast landscape to tell tales on any scale. This issue is the penultimate chapter of the penultimate arc, and it is a perfect example of the level of magnificence you are guaranteed no matter which issue you pick up. If it has “Scalped” on the cover, it is a grand comic.
Violence litters every page with blood, bullets, bodies, and brutality. Every plot arc is being severed or toe-tagged. Aaron weaves meaning of progression into every character’s arc while still keeping the overall narrative tight with the velocity of a missile. The relationships and scenarios are like fireworks shooting into the sky and colliding with spectacular spray and intense force. You never know which two elements are going to hit next, when or where, and yet you wait and you get your moments of existential understanding through the destruction.
The shootout in the first half of this issue is incredibly poignant. It builds with a slow bass line and one simple drum beat ends it all. That’s how simple death is in this world. Death haunts so many characters and yet it is so rarely a solution or a release. Death is just another path to walk down and all roads lead down. Death is just a cheap currency no one cares about, not even the dead. The final bloodbath of this issue is a casual build to a more personal showdown.
Guera’s art can always be dissected positively. It almost gets boring hearing how great it is each month. Luckily, it never gets boring seeing his work on the page. There are silent panels of reckoning that hold worlds of meaning and minutes of terrible bleakness. The world is giving up, the center is collapsing, and nothing can ever be pure. There are also some brilliant reaction shots of characters. Guera knows how to show a person affected by their situation.
“Scalped” packs more story and genius into single issues than most comics manage in a full year. If this isn’t the year “Scalped” takes home an Eisner then I’ll eat my hat. Aaron and Guera have always been brilliant but now they have enough rope to hang themselves and the horizon is peppered with bodies swinging in the whistling breeze. And it’s gloriously mesmerizing.