Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Scarlet, Book 2 Review (Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev)


In my March 2012 review of Scarlet Book 1 I optimistically mentioned that Book 2 would soon be out - over four and a bit years later and the second five-issue arc has finally completed! And Brian Michael Bendis isn’t a slow writer either, this guy cranks out scores of comics each year! Anyway, good things come to those who wait and Scarlet Book 2 is very good.

Scarlet’s boyfriend was executed in the Portland streets for drugs he didn’t have by corrupt cops who suffered no repercussions. Dismayed at the injustice she began a fight back against institutional corruption, inadvertently becoming the iconic leader of a movement whose numbers grow and grow. In this book her group instigate a daring plan to take the Portland Mayor hostage all while evading the FBI that’s hunting Scarlet. 

There was a gap of nearly three years between the publication of Scarlet #7 and #8 with issues #8, #9, and #10 being published within a month. It’s easy to see why creators Bendis and Alex Maleev were suddenly re-focused on Scarlet as it was recently announced it would be adapted into a TV show. 

And it’s equally easy to see why TV execs would see this as prime material because of the out-of-control American police force whose motto “To Protect and Serve” is a joke. How many news stories have you heard in the last few years where yet another black man was killed by police over absolutely nothing without the police being punished? Scarlet is a very timely story with widespread disenfranchisement of the increasingly fascistic US police. 

It sounds a bit like Occupy Wall Street except Bendis ratchets up the stakes by making Scarlet and her group willing to kill to make the changes they want to see. This isn’t some useless hippy bullshit protesting, this is more like Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight from the Joker’s perspective if the Joker were good and a girl with Batman as FBI Agent Goings - seriously, the story structure and heightened dramatic tone is VERY similar. 

I liked that Bendis gave the supporting characters some pages for the reader to get to know Scarlet’s gang better. Isis, Lowe, Buddy and Going’s “origin stories” all highlight different injustices to show how they got to the point where they’re staging an armed coup against the government. I also liked that Maleev drew all of the backstories in a different art style to show their individuality. 

I only had a couple of nitpicky points about the story like how bizarre it is that the FBI can’t catch a civilian with no military training, and the scene where a guard out front gives out detailed information of the police’s plan to move Scarlet seemed contrived - why would a lowly guard have this info? - but they don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. 

Scarlet remains the best thing Bendis has written and that dude has written a lot! It’s fresh, exciting, current, relevant, socially conscious, and unpredictable - it’s a great, entertaining and moving read. The last page has “To Be Continued Next Year” on it but I’ve learned my lesson with this series and won’t be holding my breath again! In the meantime we have two excellent books to enjoy - if you haven’t read Scarlet yet, I highly recommend it.

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