By: Jason Aaron (writer), R.M. Guera (artist), Giulia Brusco (colors), Sal Cipriano (letters), Mark Doyle (associate editor) & Will Dennis (editor)

The Story: Only 10 issues to go!  Red Crow is trying to go straight, but will his criminal underlings let that happen?

What’s Good: This issue starts a new story cycle and sets up a lot of potential conflicts.  That’s pretty much what you’d expect out of Scalped and Jason Aaron at this point.  Now that Aaron has announced that Scalped will end with issue 60, all long time readers know that we’re headed for some seriously nasty situations and it’s fun to guess what those might be.

The central theme of this issue will probably run though the remainder of the series: Red Crow trying to rein in his criminal enterprise and go semi-legit.  That’s not a new theme in an organized crime story like Scalped, but it sets up some wonderful conflicts among characters that we’ve really grown to love/loathe over the course of the previous 50 issues.  Run through the list of major characters in Scalped: Red Crow, Dash, Carol, Shunka, Falls Down, Dino, Agent Nitz, Granny Poor Bear, etc. and try to find one that you don’t have a strong opinion on!  Will Red Crow be able to go legit?  Will Shunka let him?  What happens when we get the inevitable Shunka-Dash throw down?

Even now, Aaron is just cranking up the character development.  For example, we’ve come to know Shunka as the loyal, but conflicted and bottled-up, enforcer for Red Crow.  He naturally doesn’t react all that positively when Red Crow starts busting his own meth labs, but when told to fall into line, Shunka beats the CRAP out of one of the meth dealers.  It’s one of those situations where Shunka had every right to hit the dude the first time, but then he just pours it on in brutal, Scalped fashion and you can just tell that he is letting out all of his frustrations out on this guy.  Scalped is beautifully brutal at times like this because Aaron and Guera always push the scene for a panel or two beyond the point of good taste.  And I love Scalped for that.

You know who Guera draws well?  Red Crow!  There are some wonky characters elsewhere in this issue (more below), but he just nails Red Crow in every panel.  He draws Red Crow as this bear of an man.  We never question why all these other unsavory characters flinch when Red Crow speaks.  He just exudes power and violence and looks like he could beat the snot out of anyone else in the room.  And it isn’t all about the overstated panels either…. Guera has a small panel on the first page showing Red Crow overlooking a scene from on high.  You can only see him in silhouette but you know instantly who it is.  THAT’s when you know you’ve created an iconic character.

What’s Not So Good: Two little things…  One relates to the art.  As much as I enjoy most of Guera’s storytelling and depiction of Red Crow, there are some really screwy faces on other characters in this issue.  The drug dealers at the beginning are all kinds of weird looking and Shunka is funny looking too.  Guera confounds me a little bit.  For such an outstanding artist, he does do some odd faces sometimes.  He’s learned to nail Red Crow, Dash, Carol, Dino and a few others, some characters just seem to elude him.

And, speaking of Carol, I’m really not going to be happy with this final arc of Scalped if Carol isn’t involved.  I’ve always thought she was the heart of the series and the totem for squandered opportunity and optimism, but she’s nowhere to be found in this issue.  Boo!

Conclusion: Classic Scalped.  There are about 10 ways the action can explode from this issue and I expect at least 9 of them will pay off.

Grade: B+

– Dean Stell

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