by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (art & colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Scarlet finds a new ally and declares war on Portland’s police department, taking on its chief.

What’s Good: I really feel as though the ball got rolling with this issue.  The story moves at a decent pace and, finally, I’ve gotten an overall impression of what this series is going to end up feeling like and what the overall concept is.  It’s great to get an understanding of the series as a whole and the type of story it’ll be pursuing.

More than anything, we get a little bit more of Scarlet as a central character and protagonist in action, an actual character, as opposed to someone relegated to flashbacks, or someone attempting to sell us on the comic in the present.  She truly feels like an action hero this month, and that makes the comic feel more solid in its being anchored around her.  There’s a mix of insanity, vulnerability, gleefulness, and sadness to the character, but unlike past issues, all of this is shown as opposed to simply told to us by Scarlet herself.  We’re able to observe a little more.

Much of this is due to Bendis’ reigning in the breaking of the fourth wall a bit.  While the narration still often speaks to the reader, we don’t get anywhere near as many panels of Scarlet staring at the reader and talking to him/her.  While it’s a cool concept, it took up valuable page-space and slowed the comic down far too much.  I’m glad to see it under control.

This also means fewer panels of Scarlet talking against a bare background, which allows Alex Maleev to do some solid work here.  Great scenery, a fun sniper sequence, and another of those great montages spice up the goodness we’ve come to expect from Maleev.

All told, the comic got across its “one against many” theme and feel a bit more than it has in previous months, mostly because there was less talking and more doing.  I’ve always been a sucker for that old story, and thanks to that, this issue gave me something good to grab a hold of.

What’s Not So Good: Sadly, I’m not buying what Scarlet is preaching.  Bendis seems to expect the reader to relate to what Scarlet is saying about society and corruption.  We’re supposed to join in, be active readers, and grin and nod vigorously to what she’s saying.

The problem is that what Scarlet is saying remains vague and overly general, to the point of seeing simplistic and even juvenile.  There’s just not enough nuance or complexity behind Scarlet’s message for readers to really sympathize with.  As a result, some of Scarlet’s dialogue feels hollow and occasionally forced.

I really hope that in future issues, Scarlet’s message becomes better refined, or I could see this becoming a major problem for the series as it moves forward, particularly given how central Bendis has made Scarlet’s discussions with the reader.  For now though, it’ll do.

Conclusion: Scarlet finally gives me something to grab onto.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans