Never before has a comic book ever been praised by critics and TRUE, REAL comic book fans alike until Brian Michael Bendis‘ and Alex Maleev‘s “Scarlet”. The first issue was inventive, original and exciting that provoked a lot of fans to flood Bendis with a lot of fan mail that he hasn’t seen before (and this guy killed Hawkeye in Avengers: Disassembled). Issue number two goes deeper into the psyche of our protagonist (it is premature to say that she is an anti-hero after issue # 1) and her origins as to how she became this way. We saw the “why” with the first issue, now we begin to see the “how”.
The main protagonist is modeled by IVA. Now as with my review of issue number one, I’ll let her describe issue two in her own words:
“…about the 27th time it came up, I just decided to stop trying to explain. But…here’s the truth…I didn’t have an answer to the bigger question. I didn’t know how the fuck this happened. So I went and found out. The revenge part ended here and this is when it became a revolution.”
Keeping with the first issue’s style of breaking through the “fourth wall”, Scarlet tells her story in the form of narration and flashbacks as we see through the scenes that happened after she recovered from her gunshot wound, being shunned by family and friends who didn’t believe she didn’t do anything. We see the sequences as if the reader experiences the actual events while the protagonist talks to the reader. I loved the way the passage of time was marked with one shot of Scarlet standing with her head shaved until she grew a full head of hair. Maleev’s art is fantastic as always and maintains a seedy, dark atmosphere. I like the way the art expresses the emotions through the character’s eyes, and body language.
This second issue reveals a lot about the cops who had almost killed our protagonist. True, crooked cops and people who walk away are stereotypical devices in stories such as this; but one has to remember that while this issue is indeed about revenge, this series is about staging a revolution against established society and how people’s eyes need to be opened to the brutal realities of the world. I wonder if Bendis is somehow preaching his own social viewpoints, but this is exactly what gives Scarlet its charm and thought-provoking themes. In having the reader observe and feel like he is a part of the story and it the story flows as if the reader himself is being groomed to be more involved. The world is a piece of work, people are aware that there is corruption in the world but they try to ignore the bad things and just go with the flow. It reminds me of a verse I’ve read before which reads as “the greatest evil is when good men do nothing in the face of evil.”
Much as the comic suggests brutality and violence, this issue is a little toned down from the visual brutality in issue # 1. The reader witnesses Scarlet’s resolve to exact revenge as she also finds out that the dirt and filth goes beyond one man. I really enjoyed the scene in the bathroom as Scarlet tries to convince herself and the reader that she didn’t want to kill her target and that she looked for reasons not to. Much of the issue is about dialogue (which remained sharp-tongued) and about surveillance that lasted weeks. The killer cop’s development (his habits, family and secret schemes) is seen through a rear-view mirror which is once again an inventive touch on the parts of the creators.
I know what you are thinking…is issue two as great as issue one? That question would be unfair since this is a comic-series meant for an epic run and it has hardly begun. Let me just tell you that Icon/Marvel‘s “Scarlet” is now a part of my monthly collection and I am part of the SCARLET Revolution. It is as close to an excellent Indie film as one can possibly get with all the blood, sweat and tears laid out from page to page.
“I needed to know that I could trade my place in heaven for what needs to happen. Because now I know names…and I know where to start.”