Chain Reactions | <i>Scarlet</i> #1

Since details of the new Icon series by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev were revealed in April, fans have wondered what to expect from the reunion of these frequent collaborators -- they previously worked together on such titles as Daredevil, Halo: Uprising and Spider-Woman -- and from a storytelling approach that promised to smash the fourth wall.

With the release this week of Scarlet #1, we were introduced to a hard-boiled protagonist who addresses her readers, drawing them into the story's ultra-violence and, in the words of one reviewer, making them complicit in it.

Some see the first issue of Scarlet as a return to form for Bendis and an example of Maleev at his best. Others, however, aren't so certain. Here's just a sampling of the reactions:

Dan Phillips, IGN.com: "For those of us who haven't been all that fond of Brian Bendis' ongoing Avengers saga but loved his earlier work on books like Jinx, Goldfish, Alias and Daredevil, reading his and Alex Maleev's Scarlet #1 feels like reuniting with an old friend, or, to put it another way, rediscovering a bold storytelling voice that's been sadly and inexplicably dormant for the past half decade."

Jim Martin, Comics And ... Other Imaginary Tales: "I’m very conflicted about this book and I’m not sure if this is just incredible pretentious crap or whether this is the beginning of a unique book that could turn into a very strong series."

Pepsibones Krueger, Omega-Level.net: "The art in Scarlet blends photorealism with the staples of graphic-storytelling. The figures – the people, the settings, all of the objects viewable by human eye – appear to be outlined with realistic detail. But Maleev’s colors prevent the book from being mistaken for a photo-journal. They are vibrant, otherworldly, seemingly filtered. In a word: stunning."

Cal Cleary, read/RANT!: "Maleev’s art is spectacular and underwhelming in almost equal measure, though his work here is never bad.  Given how much of the book is dedicated to either Scarlet’s monologue or to conversation, I might have hoped for an artist with a stronger handle on conveying emotion through body language and facial expressions, but Maleev’s command of the atmosphere and colors often makes up for it. "

Chris Murphy, Comics Alliance: "What we do get, though, is remarkable insight into Scarlet's personality, because she spends most of the issue engaging in a one sided dialogue with us, the reader. That's right, for what I believe is the first time, Bendis is engaging in verbose witty banter in the second person. I felt almost as though I should be writing down equally witty banter of my own, in response. And I must admit that in this way, Bendis does make the reader invested in the character in a way I've never experienced in a comic book before. Scarlet herself claims that, whatever she's going to do, she's not going to do it alone. We're not only watching, we're complicit in whatever she's doing."

Lee Rodriguez, Panels on Pages: "Scarlet’s world views are easy to glean from the issue because she flat-out tells us. Sure, caption boxes on occasion speak 'to' the reader, but Scarlet speaks directly to the readers here in a technique I personally have never seen before.  At first, it’s a little unnerving, but it grew on me pretty quickly. It’s an interesting way to present the character, her world, and her mission of anarchy and destruction. For as much as she talks about how broken the world is, it’s clear early on that it’s Scarlet who’s broken."

Gilbert Short, Multiversity Comics: "If I were to describe this comic in four words, it would be 'Scarlet Explains it All,' and she would be played by Melissa Joan Hart. That’s how pervasive the usage of the broken fourth wall is. Not that I’m necessarily complaining."

What did you think about Scarlet #1?

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