A Study of Scarlet

“I’m sorry to be right in your face like this. I know you were looking for a little diversionary fun. I know you were subconsciously hoping you could just watch without any of it actually directly involving you.”
–Scarlet talking to the reader.

Scarlet was a young woman in love, with her whole life ahead of her. Then a dirty cop killed her boyfriend and shot her in the head. Surprisingly, she survived. Now Scarlet is a woman on a mission — to put an end to the wrong things in the world . . . starting with the cop who shot her.

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Book cover for Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Alex Maleev

TITLE:

SCARLET

WRITER:

by Brian Michael Bendis

ARTIST:

Alex Maleev

PUBLISHER:

Marvel Comics/Icon Comics Imprint

SERIES:

Scarlet: Book #1
(Collects the comic book format Scarlet issues 1-5)

GENRE:

Crime Fiction,

DESCRIPTORS:

Dystopian Society, Our Society, Social Commentary, Crime Story, Revenge, Assassination, Criminal Activities, Justice, Dirty Police Officers, Corrupt Politicians, Freedom Fighters, Coming of Age, Terrorism, Flashmob, Protest,

SUMMARY:

Scarlet Rue watched a crooked cop kill her boyfriend right before he shot her in the head. Miraculously she survived but when she regained consciousness, she discovered that the world believes her boyfriend was a drug dealer and the cop was now a detective. Angry, Scarlet looks for justice and when she can’t find any — she decides to make her own.

However, even after dealing with the crooked cop turned detective, the world remained broken. It is up to Scarlet to do what is necessary to make it right — even if it means waking up every citizen and pointing out the dangers festering in our society . . . even if it mean starting a revolution.

WHY I LIKED IT:

I couldn’t put this graphic novel down. No super powers here, only one woman, whose life was shattered by a bad cop. Now she is on a one woman campaign to address everything that is wrong with the world — even if it means starting a revolution.

Scarlet breaks the fourth wall repeatedly to talk to the reader. She tells her story. perhaps in an effort to recruit us to her cause. Later in the book, one of the detectives hunting her down, Detective Angela Going, also breaks the fourth wall to talk to us. It is unnerving and helps to force you to think about what you’re reading.

After she kills a bad cop in front of you, here is what she says about her, otherwise wonderful, parents:

“the only thing they did wrong is not sit me down when i was seven and tell me that people do indeed, on every level . . . suck. And that the world was broken and no one was doing anything about it.”

This seems to sum up what motivates her to continue her fight against corrupt authority, even after getting her own revenge:

“Good people are victims. Bad people are heroes. Dumb is a virtue. Food is poison. Corruption is a national past time. Rapists rape. The poor are left to rot. religion is a business. No one is safe and everyone thinks it’s funny.”

This may well be Brian Michael Bendis’ magnum opus — an East of Eden for the comic set. Alex Maleev is doing his best work yet — powerful expressive illustrations that enhance Brian’s dialog. It’s an exciting book.

Beyond this there is the question about her being shot in the head. Severe brain trauma can alter your personality — turn a gentle man into an aggressive one for example — and Scarlet may have suffered a similar alteration. Or she may no longer be a reliable narrator. Is the story she’s telling true? Are her moments of self-reflection accurate? All of these things — and none of these things — may come into play in future volumes.

If you love mature comics or crime stories or stories that make you question of personal beliefs, you should give Scarlet a try. Then you can join me on tenterhooks as we wait for Book 2 due out December 2014.

READALIKES:

This is the part where I suggest other books to read if you enjoyed this one. The problem is, that I can’t think of any. I believe that there are books which give a clear call to action within the framework of a story but nothing leaps to mind — yet.

As far as writing style, I’d recommend Goldfish: A Crime Graphic Novel (also titled: AKA Goldfish), Jinx and Torso: A True Crime Graphic Novel written and illustrated by Brian Michael Bendis. These graphic novels highlight Brian’s writing and storytelling skills but without the superheroes found in most of his recent work.

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