In re-posting my enthusiasm for American Vampire from the old blog, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the one Vertigo series that I’m reading besides AV: Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra.
The very first thing I ever wrote on the internet (link defunct, sorry) was prosletyzing for the then-recent first trade paperback of the series, and with its sixth collection, “The Gnawing”, it has reclaimed its spot as the ongoing series I look forward to the most.
Scalped is a noir-western mashup telling the story of Dashiell Bad Horse, who returns to the fictional Prairie Rose reservation in modern-day South Dakota after a long absence, and immediately becomes embroiled with Lincoln Red Crow, the tribal chief and head of organized crime on the rez. To tell you where he’s been and why he’s back would spoil some of the specific pleasures of the first story arc. Suffice it to say, it’s worth your time and money.
In a March interview with Comic Book Resources, Aaron revealed that when he initially pitched the series to the editors at DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, he had an outline for the first three years of stories and that “The Gnawing” covers the end of that outline. It certainly has the breakneck pace and high stakes of an ending, even if it’s not the end of the series as a whole. A lot of long-simmering plots come to fruition and it sets new bars for tension, bloodshed and “holy shit!” moments in general.
No discussion of Scalped would be complete without mentioning R.M. Guéra’s artwork. He gets a lot of obvious praise for his meticulous world-building and incredible style, but I am also blown away by his character work. I have never, ever read a comic with plainclothes characters (i.e. not superheroes) done in a realistic style in which every character was instantly recognizable. His design-sense and visual consistency are stunning. (I loved this interview at Newsarama. I don’t know why, but European artists–particularly those whose English is imperfect–have an ironic tendency to speak more clearly and interestingly about art. Still, my favourite part had to be his statement that this is the work of his career, and that he will go on with Aaron until the end.)
In years to come, I’m sure that Scalped will be a perennial backlist seller for Vertigo, just like Sandman, Preacher and Transmetropolitan.
But why wait.