It’s been close to two years since the last issue of Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s “Scarlet” hit shelves. Originally the story of a woman forgotten by the system, it ended with the promise that having drawn the attention of those running it, she was now going to bring it down. “Scarlet” #6 picks up where the original story left off.
Thoughts that the book might have lost momentum are dispelled on the first page. Rather than coyly acknowledging and apologising for its absence (as many late comics do), “Scarlet” is actively on the offensive. If anything, this book has become more angry, more fired-up about the injustices it addresses. It reads, in all ways, like the first work of young upstarts — not two creators with a huge body of work behind them.
There’s definitely a tone in “Scarlet” #6 that isn’t found in the Bendis’ other books. It appears to have a point to make — not just a general point about injustice, but a specific commentary about the city it’s set (Portland), which nonetheless translates across geographical boundaries.
While that metatext is intriguing, in terms of text, the book is actually a little less interesting. After issuing her call-to-arms in the previous issue, Scarlet sets about assembling her revolution, which largely consists of a series of conversations about what she’s going to do next, and the introduction of a new supporting character who takes up a large chunk of the issue. While the earliest issues seemed to suggest that Scarlet might just be having a mental breakdown, this issue displays no hint of that. Events are hyper-real, but not ambiguous.
Maleev’s work means that even when readers aren’t won over by the plot mechanics, everything does at least look good. The introduction to Isis’ backstory takes place over three fantastic double-page spreads. It’s hard to say from looking whether he’s purely photo-referencing or drawing in some kind of hybrid style, but it doesn’t matter because whichever it is, he’s doing it right. The story is enhanced by the realism, rather than eroded.
Still, it’s a book filed under “interesting” rather than “great.” Bendis and Maleev are a creative team always worth reading and it’s clear that the scale of this series is about to change dramatically, which is compelling in itself — but right now, it feels a little like “Scarlet” #6 was a more attractive idea than it is a physical comic.