Review – Scarlet #1: A Nation At War

Comic Books DC This Week
Scarlet #1 variant cover, credit to DC Comics.

Scarlet #1 – Brian Michael Bendis, Writer; Alex Maleev, Artist

Ray – 3/10

Ray: Scarlet is the second title to debut under Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld line for DC, and it was always the most troubled series under the original line at Marvel. Besides the massive, sometimes years-long delays, the series as a whole was an odd duck. Preceding the Black Lives Matter movement but becoming incredibly tied to it by the time it was over, Scarlet is the story of a girl who had her life shattered by a corrupt policeman. In a conflict over a minor crime, her boyfriend was murdered and she was shot in the head and framed. Coming out of a coma more than a little unhinged and bent on revenge, she went on to form a one-woman resistance that executed corrupt cops and agitated for a revolution. Others joined, and by the time the series left off, she had become the face of a movement. Obviously, things have changed a lot since, and the subject of a revolution is high on many people’s minds. The issue is, the book that Scarlet was when it left isn’t the book it is when it comes back. Alex Maleev’s art is excellent as always, but much of what he’s asked to draw seems static. Too much of the issue seems like a monologue, not a story, and Scarlet herself is a bizarrely narcissistic lead character whose revolution began out of personal pain and seems oddly disconnected from the reality on the ground.

Portland isn’t looking too good. Credit to DC Comics.

There’s been a big time jump, and Scarlet has somehow now become a war leader. Portland is under the occupation of revolutionary leaders and has been cut off from the mainland by a US government that treats it like an enemy territory. It reminds me a lot of the long-running Vertigo series DMZ, only with a lot less of the world explained. Scarlet still spends most of the issue talking to the reader, explaining her worldview. I don’t know if this is Bendis venting or Bendis writing a crazy revolutionary leader, but her rant about Lincoln felt like something you’d hear in the most annoying east village hipster bookstore around. Very little seems to happen in this issue, with lots of Scarlet monologues punctuated by the occasional bombing. The context of the original series is no less awkward, in that it casts a white girl as the messiah of the revolution and puts marginalized groups in smaller, supporting roles. Bendis did a great job introducing us to a new female antihero in Pearl, but nothing about Scarlet inspires me to follow her – either her beliefs or her story. I’m not sure if this is a comic where we’re supposed to agree with the protagonist or think she’s gone off the deep end, but it’s clear that in Scarlet #1, the revolution will be gentrified.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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