The first trade I read ages ago, and didn't make much of an impression. But Ed Brubaker wrote a glowing introduction to the one called Gravel In Your Guts, so I had to pick it up. Good decision.

Scalped is noir at its purest. It's triple distilled evil and hopelessness in funnybook form. The Rez -- the setting of the series -- is as near to the state of nature as modern America can get. It's a prehistoric, eternal place. It's what society would be like with all the society taken out -- all you have are individuals in a free-for-all fight for survival. There's no mercy here. No redemption or salvation. No. Way. Out.

Jason Aaron's genius is in capturing the way people react to this hellish situation. In the trade's first story, we have two lovers who have had their 'sociability', or humanity, almost entirely eroded away. They can't deal with being together, because they have forgotten how to deal with people. Their lives are only made bearable through numbing drugs and passionate, cathartic sex. The final scene in their story is heartbreaking. The two sit on the edge of the mattress, naked, one showing the other how to smoke heroin. The panel presents them with their backs to us, small, surrounded by a mess of a room, in a mess of a world. They almost look like innocent children playing some secret game, becoming best friends. They are learning how to be around each other for the first time. But smoking heroin. Like I said: heartbreaking.

The next story is all about the compromises you make to survive, and how you justify them to others and yourself. The portrait of Red Crow, the Godfather-like figure in the Rez, is powerful and moving. The only misfire I would point out is the way one of the characters' aspiration is expressed through his 'dream of being an astronaut', which was corny and unnessesary. Then again, I didn't grow up in America, nor have I lived there, so astronauts aren't a particularly important or emotive idea for me. So, you know, maybe let that pass...

Back to the point: Scalped is great! All I really wanted to say.

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