by Jason Aaron (writer), R.M. Guera (art), Giulia Brusco (colors), and Steve Wands (letters)

The Story: Dash tries to save a murder witness from Red Crow and Carol’s life continues its tailspin.

What’s Good: The high-paced chase sequence that results from the conclusion of last month’s issue was certainly a lot of fun.  Aaron has successfully made the murder witness a ridiculously irritating character.   It’s a great in a stressful sort of way, as most of Dash’s FBI-related actions are.  The whole scene also shows just how easily Aaron is able to toy with his readers.  How many times has he made us despise Nitz and like Red Crow?  Yet in this issue, it’s hard not to root for Nitz and pray that Red Crow gets caught out, if only for Dash’s sake.  The ease and speed with which Aaron is able to turn the tables is astounding.

Meanwhile, Catcher continues to be an interesting character in as much as he’s always so damned ominous.  This month definitely makes him seem even darker .  There’s a strong sense of foreboding and danger whenever he appears on the page.

The best thing about this issue by far, however, is the traditional, noir tone the book takes on in its latter half.  These are miserable conversations/monologues with miserable people.  The sadness is palpable, powerful, and brooding.  Guera’s artwork certainly helps in that regard.  While the first half of the book is that rough, dusty look we’ve gotten used to, these later scenes make expert use of darkness, shadow, and negative space.  The character positioning is also fantastic.  You really get that combined feeling of smoky mystery and tragedy that you’d normally only find in classic noir.

What’s Not So Good: The biggest problem with this issue is that it’s pretty much all set-up.  As such, there’s really only so high a grade I can give it.  Everything is a prelude, a lead-in, or a glimpse of danger on the horizon.  We are dead centre in the middle of the story-arc, and it definitely feels that way.  This is an almost purely transitional issue that often is intent merely to provide updates or consolidate.

I also didn’t like how Aaron acts as though last month’s massive cliffhanger never even happened.  At the end of that issue, it looked as though Carol may very well be dead.  This month, the very first time we see Carol, she’s up and about as though this collapse never occurred.  Sure she’s sick, and these blackouts will be regular occurrences, but Aaron could at least have provided a couple of images of her getting up off the floor from where we last saw her.  Perhaps page count was an issue here, but it was very strange and a bit irritating to see the high drama of her collapse last issue be completely written off and disregarded.

Conclusion: While it isn’t the most earth-shattering installment of the series, Scalped has never had a bad issue and this month doesn’t see a buck in that trend.

Grade: B

Alex Evans