“Scalped” kicks off the new year with the end of its second year and the conclusion to “The Gravel in Your Guts,” a story that has focused on Dino Poor Bear and Chief Red Crow, culminating in some unknown events in bar. Well, now we know what happens and Jason Aaron and RM Guera do not disappoint.
This issue is the end result of two years of build-up as we finally see what kind of man Red Crow really is: “An honorable man, sure, but that doesn’t make me a nice guy.” That sentence sums up the character so completely that it’s surprising that Aaron could put it so well. Actually, it would be surprising if other writers could put it so well, but Aaron has been nothing less than brilliant in his writing on “Scalped.”
Red Crow is honorable in his way, in his intentions, in his dreams, but the reality of realizing those dreams makes him do horrible, ugly, monstrous things. And, any time we may want to cheer for Red Crow — to side with him — Aaron pulls the rug out and reveals something awful about him. He does that masterfully here after Red Crow goes into the bar guns blazing, defending his people from outsiders, only to jump back 17 years into the past and reveal one of his tactics in getting a spot on the tribal council.
The real highlight of the issue is the final four pages where we get a montage of images that act as a wrap-up for this story while Red Crow narrates. The narration is chilling and complex. It’s not just Aaron’s words that make this ending so powerful, but Guera’s depiction of Red Crow: a thick, large man with a brutal, well-lived face, a man who we know is capable of murder and anything else to meet his ends, but also a man who looks broken. It is rare that the look of a character can match the complexity of his inner self, but Guera manages to do so here.
Before that, Guera’s combination of realism and caricature makes for a unique showdown in the bar, full of swift action, vicious results, and fluid motion. One panel, in which Asian gangster Mr. Brass has his men attempt to remove a character’s eye, is haunting and disturbing.
Two years of “Scalped” comics have come out and each builds on what came before to tell an intricate and complex story, this issue is no exception. While he my have began as an easy-to-hate villain, Red Crow is now a complex man who stirs up conflicted responses. Is he hero or villain? He’s neither, because that’s not the way things work. Jason Aaron and RM Guera simply present him as a man who tries to do what he thinks right even if those things are wrong. Simply brilliant.