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

The Story: Someone dies, Dash still can’t talk and there’s a lot of double-crossing going on at the Prairie Rose Reservation.

Five Things: 

1. Beginning to thin out the supporting characters. You could think of Scalped as being like a balloon: Jason Aaron has to make it big and expansive, with lots of supporting characters to make in interesting to look at (like blowing up the balloon), but the POP won’t happen without losing something.  We’ve had so many supporting characters in recent issues….almost too many sometimes….but that begins to take care of itself here.  What’s cool is that the deaths aren’t just done for shock value: Each dies in a way that either enhances a central theme of the series or propels another character further along their own arc.

2. You can be either strong or good, but not both.  The single honest man is a pretty common trope in gritty crime fiction.  Throughout the run of Scalped, Officer Falls Down has been the “honest man”, but he’s also kinda weak and knows his place.  It’s a very different scenario with Sheriff Karnow who has gone from being a slime-bag to being “born again”.  And….that’s the problem.  Not only is Karnow now an “honest man”, but he’s attacking his new self-identity with the vigor of the “born again” and that isn’t going to fly in the world of Scalped.

3.  Double crosses! Of course, Red Crow is smack in the middle of everything as he is playing Shunka and Dash against each other.  There isn’t much more to say about it, but the triangle formed by those three men is pretty explosive.  I’ve always said that I really miss Carol (Red Crow’s daughter) over the last ~10 issues, but she would detract from this trio by reentering right now.

4. Grimy art! I remember when I first read Scalped, not being able to really warm up to the art right away mostly because Guera’s faces alternate between being realistic and very expressive.  But, man…..can the guy nail something like a shoot-out in a cell block (much like he nailed the Dash-Catcher shootout in the truck cab a few months ago).  I mean….you’ve got men blazing away from 10 feet….Guera somehow sells how claustrophobic the scene is.  You just look at it and know that everyone is catching a bullet somewhere.  He gets this effect by having the characters arms and legs blocking the edges of the panel, so it almost looks like there’s nowhere else for the bullets to go: they have to HIT people.

5. Man, Shunka! What a great and tortured character Shunka has become.  He’s simultaneously a closeted gay man, a teenage boy with a HUGE crush on his teacher and a mastro of violence.  The latter two identities come into play here.  [SPOILER]  The scene where Red Crow tells Shunka to get lost and Shunka runs into the room and kisses Red Crow on the lips was just this totally cathartic moment for the guy.  And….it signals a tipping point for Shunka.  The guy suddenly has nothing left to live for and he’s going to settle some scores.  Just to remind us how vicious Shunka is, he destroys the meth-heads who had turned him against Red Crow in the first place and then goes looking for Dash.  Man….next issue should be bad ass!

Conclusion: THIS was the issue we’d been waiting for.  We’ve been in a much slower mode for Scalped for so long, but this issue called back those frenetic early issues dealing with Dash and Diesel.  I am counting the days until the next one comes out.

Jumping on point?:  Hahaha.  No.  You really need to start this series at the beginning or you won’t appreciate what is going on.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell

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