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Scarlet vol 1 s/c

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Scarlet vol 1 s/c back

Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev


Page 45 Review by Stephen

Few things anger most people I know more than the abuse of power.

Racism is one of them, so South Africa under Apartheid was a double whammy, and original Civil Rights activist Congressman John Lewis has some arresting history for you in his MARCH graphic memoir trilogy when it comes to policing in America. (Please pop "John Lewis" into our search engine then click covers for our extensive reviews of each.)

Because when individuals, corporations or entire state institutions abuse their power and successfully get away with it through powerful connections, political indifference, mass-media collusion or wholesale capitulation, most of us get pretty steamed.

Welcome to Scarlet's world: it's just come crashing down around her.

A bent cop, high on drugs, stops and searches Scarlet and co. who are doing nothing more untoward than laughing and drinking coffee in an urban park in Portland. Wisely they attempt to deflect their own sense of violation and diffuse a volatile situation with humour, until the cop frisks Scarlet way too personally and her boyfriend Gabriel smacks him one.

They run, and it’s the most romantic moment in Scarlet’s life. Unfortunately by that point the cop has Gabriel's wallet.

“Oh my God. He – he knows your name.”
"I'm in a lot of trouble."

And that lone cop shoots defenceless Gabriel dead.

Days later when Scarlet wakes up in hospital, she reads the Portland Press front page. It’s complete fabrication.

“Teen Druglord Gunned Down
“Police Say Bloody Showdown Saved Lives”

A hostage situation...? I don’t think so.

“Deputy Commissioner Ashley offered this statement to the press: “I applaud the outstanding and brave work of the officers involved and promise the people of the city that this is only the first of many moves made by us to keep the city clean from any and all predators that think that this city is their playground.”

Imagine reading that after your boyfriend’s being murdered by a cop in cold blood.

"Everything is broken. Everything.
“Good people are victims. Bad people are heroes. Dumb is virtue, food is poison. Corruption is a national pastime. Rapists rape. The poor are left to rot. Religion is business. No one is safe, and everyone thinks that it's funny.

"Why is the world allowed to be this way? Why doesn't anyone do anything? Why don't we fight back? Why is it like this? Why did it happen?
“And then it hit me. It doesn't matter why.
“"Why" is the cloud. The redirect. The shell game. "Why" is bullshit. "Why" makes you feel better for just thinking the question. The question is... what am I going to do about it?"

Calmly and methodically Scarlet sets about rectifying the situation. We're not just talking revenge; we're talking flash-mob revolution, which will indeed be televised.

Public opinion must be courted and won. That public most emphatically includes you, for Scarlet breaks off from time to time to talk directly, conversationally, to camera, with a calm, open honesty which is endearing, evaluating her progress and emotional involvement as she goes along. She won’t be alone in that.

Bendis and Maleev provide some additional, exceptional start-stop, flash-title timing which wrings humour from even the direst of circumstances. The first one focussing on a compressed history of Scarlet is the one I have for you here. But there’s also the pivotal moment when she meets up with Brandon, Gabriel’s best friend, for the first time since she left hospital and Gabriel died.

“Now I know everyone has to automatically tolerate their best friend’s girlfriends. That is an unwritten rule of the world,” she confides in us.
“So I’m not entirely sure if Brandon likes me of just tolerated me.... because that’s what you do.
“I’m about to find out.”

The sweet thing is this:

“As for Brandon here, he was in love with Gabriel too.
“Not romantically, or maybe he was a little, who can say...”

What follows is that second compressed history reminding us just how romantic true friendships can be.

The art from Maleev is exceptional. That initial urban park with its pedestrians and skaters throwing long, long shadows is lit and coloured to perfection, whilst the watercolour washes round the Hawthorne highway lift bridge melted my heart. You’ll find that it at the bottom of Scarlet’s three-page bullet-point background.

The expressions are subtle and subdued, and the faces are full of humanity (or inhumanity) with unexpected, mottled flesh tones both warm and cold. When our bent cop sweats under pressure it’s almost as if he’s submerged in an aquarium.

The urban street fashions are immaculate, which is ever so important because as tensions rise and civilians take to the street it is their very individuality and vulnerability which stands out – even en masse – against the uniform wall of uniformed police in black-Kevlar riot-gear.

You'll be satisfyingly surprised at the schisms within the system as the vested-interest powers-that-wish-to-perpetually-be wake up to the scale of Scarlet's challenge and the public's reaction both to it and to her, and Maleev rises to that challenge with half a dozen eye-dazzling, double-page spreads which celebrate those oh so brave folks opposing the phalanx.

For earlier Bendis crime please see JESSICA JONES: ALIAS, my favourite comic ever published by Marvel, each of the four books reviewed without spoilers, as long as you’re over 18. I'm delighted to announce that Brubaker and Phillips now have some serious competition when it comes to crime, and if you crave more CRIMINAL then this one's for you.

Extras include Bendis' script to issue #1 with its covering note to Maleev and the script to #2 with Maleev's exploratory doodles upon it.

Final quote (because who doesn’t love an encore?):

"I've been watching so much internet porn I think I learned German."