by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (art & colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)
The Story: Scarlet’s video of her assassinating the police chief goes viral, causing a flash mob of Scarlet supporters to rally.
What’s Good: For all the critical buzz it’s been getting, I’ve still been a bit on the fence about Scarlet, and I’m a huge fan of Brian Bendis. The potential is definitely there and the art is great, but something wasn’t fully clicking for me. That changed this month, in a big way.
I think my issue has been that the comic has been in intro mode for the last three issues in that we weren’t getting a firm enough idea of what this comic was going to be like in the long run. With Scarlet #4, the picture is suddenly clear and much more developed, and I like what I’m seeing.
Scarlet #4 makes it clear that this comic, or at least a big part of it, is going to be about the intersection of myth and personhood. In other words, it’s about the relationship between Scarlet the public persona and Scarlet the actual human being. This is far, far more compelling, and not to mention smarter, than a comic that’s simply about revolution and saying no to the Man. In putting herself out there, Scarlet has made herself into myth and legend, a person that is more idea than person, an idea that Alan Moore touched upon so well in V for Vendetta. What Bendis does wonderfully, however, is also show how this myth coincides with Scarlet Rue the person; for all the signs, slogans, and rallies, Scarlet is still shown to be very human. We get scenes of her getting out of bed, chatting with her friend, and trying to rationalize her actions.
More than that though, Bendis also shows the toll the myth takes on the person. In becoming legend, Scarlet runs afoul of her family, leading to an encounter with her mother that makes clear the price of what she’s done, suggesting perhaps that being both person and legend may not be entirely possible.
With this issue, Scarlet becomes a phenomenon. Her presence resounds throughout the world of the comic. The public myth of Scarlet is less a person and more a symbol and idea, and that makes for engaging and exciting reading. The world in the comic has gone topsy-turvy and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
In presenting two very different sorts of Scarlet, Bendis ends up almost telling two stories that bounce off of one another: there’s the story of Scarlet getting out of bed and dealing with her mother, and there’s the story of protesters carrying signs bearing her name in front of police fearing a riot. Both stories are about Scarlet, both are related, but both are also very different. It’s really fun stuff.
Alex Maleev’s artwork is brilliant, as expected. He does an absolutely fantastic job of highlighting Scarlet’s humanity (that last splash in particular will stick with you) while also illustrating the brazen mayhem of the rally. He strikes the exact same balance regarding Scarlet as Bendis strives to in his script and so, as such, you couldn’t hope for much better compatibility between writer and artist.
For what it’s worth, Bendis’ dialogue is also bang-on this month. His trademark repetition is held in check, never coming close to overrunning the comic, allowing for dialogue that is sincere and affecting.
What’s Not So Good: Admittedly, that scene with Scarlet’s mother comes completely out of the blue. That said, the purpose it serves is so vital to Bendis’ overall theme, that I can forgive that.
Conclusion: Scarlet finally works for me. A fantastic comic.
Grade: A –