Scalped Volume 1: Indian Country
created & written by Jason Aaron
illustrated by R.M. Guerra
Vertigo Comics (2007)
I was looking for recommendations from folks a while back for graphic novels they loved and that I should read. I believe it was Dustin Ashe who told me I ought to check out this series called Scalped from Vertigo Comics. I checked it out and saw it was a crime series with a cast of Native Americans. Now in Canada, it's a far cry from utopia for the First Nations, but at least their on the map. If television and film were true reflections of American society, Native Americans wouldn't exist.
In Scalped, Dashiel Bad Horse returns to the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation after fifteen years with little more than a set of nunchucks and a real bad attitude. When the corrupt Tribal Leader, Lincoln Red Crow, catches word that Bad Horse has returned--and has been kicking the holy hell out of his thugs--he offers Bad Horse a job as a deputy for the reservation. It helps focus Bad Horse's energy to more productive matters, and manages to piss off Bad Horse's estranged activist mother who is protesting the brand new casino. But it's unclear just why Bad Horse has returned to Prairie Rose. Is he back to reunite with Red Crow's daughter, settle some old scores, maybe even make amends for youthful transgressions, or does he simply want a piece of the action?
If there is a bright side to the Prairie Rose Reservation, there's no sign of it in this first volume. What few characters who are not either detestable or pathetic are given only passing glances. This story is about the crooks, thugs, and hustlers--and in classic crime story fashion, even the cops are crooked or on their way. Jason Aaron does a helluva job in transposing a story about casino mobsters onto an under-utilized landscape. As for Guerra's artwork, there's an explicitness to even the mundane, and the fury of the characters comes through at palpable levels.
Dashiel, or Dash, was a pretty tough character for me to rally behind. Hell, at the start of the story I thought he was the villain. Incrementally, his motivations and personality come through, and even those aren't exactly heroic, there was enough there to at least root for the guy. Or maybe the other characters like Lincoln Red Crow were just so unlikable, I had an easier time sympathizing with Dash.
Indian Country is a strong start in this series, but it's obvious that there is a whole lot more to read before the big picture is revealed. The new casino is the symbol or what's threatening the reservation, but there are the more personal stories--Dash's childhood turns out to be inexorably linked to what's going on now--and this first volume has only scratched the surface. I'll be interested to see how things play out in the second volume.