by Jason Aaron (writer), Davide Furno (art), Giulia Brusco (colors), and Steve Wands (letters)
The Story: Shunka settles a score, only to learn that things are never that simple.
What’s Good: I’m not sure I remember the last time that it was a good thing when a book disappointed me, but that’s the situation Scalped #37 confronts me with. What at first looked worryingly like a filler arc has ended up being perhaps the bravest material Aaron has ever written.
So, what exactly am I going on about? Well, it’s a giant spoiler, so I can’t really say. Essentially, this issue’s latter half will slap you across the face. It’ll make you feel like a fool for ever believing, even for just a moment, that there was ever a truly, 100% good and innocent character in the world of Scalped. There’s a giant twist that’s sure to shock and make you feel all the dumber for being shocked. It’s a brutal reminder of just how nasty Jason Aaron’s world is in Scalped.
Big twist aside, this is another strong outing for Shunka. Early in the issue, he unleashes his rage, creating a bloodbath that is wince-inducingly visceral. Yet, the sheer efficiency of his attack and his wordlessness throughout make it clear that this is more than simple comic violence and the swift dispatching of faceless goons. Shunka is more than Shunka and this scene is more than it appears to be; at least for a moment, Shunka is rage incarnate and his violence is a railing against an institution steeped in prejudice, hatred, ignorance, and homophobia. Shunka’s being a “one man army” makes it clear that he’s more than just a man and Furno helps to lend the scene a kind of surrealness. Every action is full of anger and it’s clear that Shunka isn’t doing this for Crane; he’s doing it because he, and the closeted homosexual he represents, has had enough of the system. The violence is, in many ways, anarchic in its abandon.
Aaron weaves his story expertly, with the unreliable (and now deceased) narration by Joseph Crane continuing to be effective. Crane’s voice is clear in its limitations, adding to Shunka’s mystique and lending a sense of tense unknowing throughout. Basically, despite the narrator, you’re relied on to catch what’s implied. That and, let’s face it, the idea of a deceased narrator, particularly one that’s so winding, is always cool.
Davide Furno continues to do a great job in making this all possible while remaining true to Scalped’s look. Many times, Aaron leaves Shunka silent, letting Furno’s depictions of Shunka’s facial expressions get the message, and emotional weight, across. That I was able to feel out each of these scenes perfectly is a testament to Furno’s ability as an artist.
What’s Not So Good: An absolutely bold read, there’s really nothing to complain about here. I imagine that many readers will be disappointed by the big twist, but they need to remember that this disappointment isn’t a bad thing; if you feel disappointed, it’s more a statement regarding your own expectations than the book itself, which might call for some self-examination.
Perhaps the only real quibble I have is with a slight issue in Furno’s art during a conversation between Shunka and Chief Greenwood. Some of the panels are, understandably, close-ups of their faces. Unfortunately, there are a couple where it’s easy to mistake Greenwood for Shunka.
Conclusion: A heady mix of anger and sadness, this is the sort of piss-and-vinegar blend that is Scalped at its very best.