Ok, today we’re reviewing Scalped, Vol. 5: High Lonesome, of Jason Aaron’s incredible Scalped series. If you’re not familiar with Scalped, check out my previous review of Vol. 4, where I offer some profound insights on this truly amazing story. 🙂
While working your way through High Lonesome, it will become more apparent than ever that this is in fact a bound edition of a serialized comic book. To be specific, it’s 5 separate issues of the comic book, and they are actually all quite different. So maybe I’ll address each issue individually…
In chapter 1, we meet a new (and ultimately fleeting – but critically important) character in the Scalped series, the con-man Wesley Willeford – if that is his real name… Wesley is quickly shown to be a very bad man, but his true impact on our favorite anti-hero (and star of the show) Dashiel Bad Horse will be revealed later, in chapter 5.
In chapter 2 we get some back story on the psychopathic FBI undercover agent, Diesel.
In chapter 3 we get some back story on the psychopathic FBI field director, Nitz.
I’ll take a moment here to admit that I didn’t find the back stories on Diesel or Nitz all that interesting or entertaining. I was frankly content to accept that Diesel and Nitz were simply psychopathic assholes, without really needing to know why. While Diesel’s history was believable enough, Nitz’s seemed a little contrived, and corny for that matter. Anyway…
Chapter 4 brings us some enlightening back story on the killing of the 2 FBI agents in 1975, which really is the thread that binds all the individual story lines of our major characters. This is interesting enough on its own, but even more fascinatingly, Gina Bad Horse’s true killer is revealed, and I’ll bet it’s not who you think it is!
But, without a doubt, the coup de grace, the chapter that makes this whole volume way worth the read, regardless of what happened in the previous 4 chapters, is the final chapter, “Rock Bottom, Pop. 1”. This is where shit truly gets insane. When I read this chapter on the bus, I was literally grinning ear to ear and shaking my head in disbelief, and probably making the other button-down stiffs a little uneasy.
I really don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that in chapter 5 our new friend Wesley Willeford returns. Wesley apparently knows Dashiel from back in the day (and consequently knows his true allegiances), and uses this knowledge to put the now-drug-addled Dash in a very dangerous situation. Perhaps the most danger he’s been in this far, and that’s saying something. I’d like to say more, but it will be so much better for you to discover the horrifying details in your own good time.
One last note about Jason Aaron’s writing: at times there is some brilliant dialogue at play here. Perhaps my favorite line of this book is towards the end, when a naked Carol offers Dash a foily of black tar heroin, to which Dash replies, “I should be dead.” Carol’s response: “We will be soon enough, baby.” Delicious, dark stuff, and endlessly entertaining!
As I said, in Vol. 5 the serialized nature of this comic is especially evident, and without a doubt the greatest indicator is the mix of different contributing artists.
As stated previously, I am a fan of R.M. Guera‘s work, and he handles the illustration of chapters 1, 4, and 5 beautifully. I am, however, less a fan of Scalped regulars Davide Furno (chapter 2 – Diesel’s back story) and Francesco Francavilla (chapter 3 – Nitz’s back story). I’m sure it doesn’t help that those are also the 2 most boring chapters (IMHO), but Furno and Francavilla just seem to lack something in the way of precision and style that Guera nails consistently. That being said, neither Furno or Francavilla do a terrible job; and those lacking chapters aren’t bad enough to really hurt the book as a whole.
While the middle part of Scalped, Vol. 5 may have left something to be desired, the ending more than makes up for it. Truth be told, I think I’m more amped than ever for the next volume – which I fortunately have waiting for me in my room, buried beneath a pile of clean clothes on top my dresser. 🙂 So while I’m giving this particular volume of Scalped an 8 out of 10, the series overall rates even higher than that. Seriously – do yourself a favor and visit the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation ASAP, and try not to get yourself killed, because shit be CRAZY over there…