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Ever wonder what would happen if you shot Chatty Cathy’s boyfriend dead in front of her… and then left her for dead? Many parents in the 1960’s did. Well, according to Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers, Siege) she’d become a fourth-wall shattering revolutionary named Scarlet who dreams of ending the broken world she lives in. But nobody buys a toy whose tragic life experiences cause them to beckon comic readers to join them in violent anarchy. They just don’t sell.
Scarlet is the brainchild of Bendis and Alex Maleev (Daredevil) who have previously been celebrated for their work in comic-noir and gritty crime stories. This time the reader is welcomed by the main character as she sifts through the pockets of the cop she has just killed. Friendly and up front, her narration is told in box-shaped word balloons, creating a more intimate feel as she looks the reader in the eye to communicate what the world around her can’t hear. Certainly, it’s an effective tool considering Scarlet’s warning that the story requires the audience’s involvement.
Though her fourth-wall-breaking approach makes her somewhat relatable she fails to bring the reader on board. Her mission is one of assassination and destruction, yet she fails to travel too far beyond the “life is unfair” realization in her personal development. “Why is the world allowed to be this way?” she asks and in doing so realizes sort of a juvenile mindset that there is a greater, parental authority who should be protecting us at all times.
Her complaints about the world seem adolescent. If, given her age, that’s something that is a part of the story then that’s great. The idea of a simplistic solution, in this case bringing a rifle up to a city rooftop, is the kind of thing teenagers and madmen think improve the world and maybe this story will help Scarlet see that violence begets violence. If that’s not the case, she is mostly only accessible to the teenage-madman demographic (which is still a good demographic for comic books).
Meanwhile, the pencils of Maleev give excellent insight into Scarlet, capturing the subtleties of her expression as she processes having just strangled a man to death. The stylized tendency to create pictures with so many lines that it was hard to differentiate what was being depicted has fortunately lessened. The use of cool, muted blues during her introspection held to create a world removed from what’s going on around her that she shares with the reader.
It’s hard to complain that the book is too wordy considering the author. Bendis excels at natural speech and dialogue and, when opening his first creator-owned book, it is safe to assume there may be far more said than done. Ultimately, though, the edgy and engaging feel the book seems to want to create with character may have been more effective if something of substance had actually happened in the present rather only in a flashback. To get Scarlet moving in a good direction the next issue needs a more clearly defined goal, specific opposition and hopefully something happening and it needs these things quickly.
To find these issues find your closest San Diego comic store now.
Keep an eye out this September to discover Andy Schmidt’s 5 Days to Die!
Check to find out the latest news on the San Diego Comic-Con 2010 and remember the San Diego Quarterly Con is coming up in a few months.