Page 45 Review by Stephen
It's an unfortunate truth than in this line of work, in these days with so many graphic novels needing to be read then reviewed, you're sometimes just desperate to reach the end of a book so that you can type up your thoughts, edit them when sober, then move on to the next in the stack. That's not what happened this afternoon when I started fretting two full chapters before the end that there'd soon be no more pages to read, and when that happened it was like reaching the end of CEREBUS: CHURCH AND STATE volume one with no second volume in print at the time!
Gura's quickly becoming one of my favourite artists at work these days - I think it's the humanity in the faces. As always with SCALPED, for me it's the combination of the story structure and the art in its telling. The opening scene in the main story takes place in three weeks time, at night, as Chief Red Crow pulls up outside the Badlands Cafe, apologises to the cloth pouch on the back seat, then enters under the bar's distinctive neon sign before there's a final four-panel page as the sign goes out, shots are fired, and the neon reignites. It's so visually distinctive that it will lurk in your head throughout the next several issues until, having since witnessed the events leading up to that scene and knowing now exactly who's in the cafe, when the bar front reappears your heart will sink.
This is a key turning point in the Indian Reservation power struggle, but it's also the story of how young, silk-haired Dino, father to a toddler, through one encounter with a speeding ticket descends into running with bent cops, selling drugs, collecting debts and inadvertently stabbing an old guy through his lower jaw. There's an arresting panel after he's dropped off at home - the house owned by Granny and from which she has sworn to eject him if ever he got in trouble with the police again - when, having sneaked past his baby, his forearms splattered with blood, he makes it back to his room... and it's still full of remote-controlled cars and Tonker Toys, reminding you just how young he is.
The first two issues here, meanwhile, explore the words unsaid between Red Crow's estranged daughter and Dash Bad Horse ostensibly working for her father but who in truth is an undercover federal agent. Their sex is intense but the second their memories return to them unobliterated by alcohol or drugs, they swiftly part company for fear of verbal intimacy. And then one night, Dash runs out of beer
I love 100 BULLETS but the characters here are more than ciphers for Azzarello's witty wordplay: they're individual, breathing human beings broken by their environment then damned by their decisions. Very highly recommended.