Hi, kids. It’s been a minute – thanks for hanging in there. Today I bring you my review of Scalped, Vol. 7: Rez Blues. This was an interesting one, and somewhat of a departure from recent volumes of the Scalped series. Jason Aaron spends a lot of time fleshing out the back stories of some well-known Prairie Rose characters, and even introduces us to a couple new ones. Shall we?
Volume 7 is really kind of broken into 4 distinct parts, so I think I’ll summarize each of those, and then give you my insightful and fascinating opinion on the book as a whole. Sound good? Great.
Chapter 1, a.k.a. “Listening to the Earth Turn”, is a self-contained tale that introduces us to two elderly residents of the rez that we haven’t met before. It remains to be seen whether or not they will play a role in the larger story, but even if they don’t, this moving and emotional episode is pretty riveting and expertly crafted. Even if we never see Mance & Hazel again, this chapter helps to paint a more rounded picture of the Prairie Rose reservation, and reminds us that not all its people are participants in the shocking crime that this series is generally focused on. Some of these folks are struggling just to live an honest life and put food on the table…
Chapters 2 & 3, a.k.a. “A Fine Action of an Honorable and Catholic Spaniard”, focuses on our old friend Shunka, the fearsome enforcer of Chief Red Crow. Well, just like most other character in this series, Shunka is not as one-dimensional as he may seem. I won’t say much more for fear of spoiling the surprise, but suffice to say this story contains one of the more eye-popping reveals of Scalped so far! Plus of course there’s lots of violence. A lot of people get shot. And, even though this also seems to be a self-contained sub-plot, I have little doubt that the secrets that are revealed in these chapters will come into play later on. They are, simply, too juicy…
Chapter 4, a.k.a. “Family Tradition”, was quite a surprise to me. I will reveal that it is the back story of Wade, Dashiell Bad Horse’s father! Now, my memory may be faulty, but I swear early in the series we learned that Dash’s father had been murdered when Dash was just a kid – shot in the head against a garage or something like that. I’m not sure if Jason Aaron is changing the canon or if I’m mistaken, but at any rate – as we will soon discover – Wade is alive and well and has a “charmed” history, so to speak. He will be intricately weaved into the main plot line before this book is finished…
The rest of Rez Blues pretty much takes place in the modern day, with a few brief flashbacks that shed some light on Carol’s mother and how Carol came to be so fucked up. Also, Red Crow finally sees fit to step in and do something about Dashiell’s spiraling drug problem – which results in an … interesting situation. I’m not sure why Red Crow – who seems quick to dispatch any perceived threats – continues to put up with Dash’s bullshit, but I have a feeling Jason Aaron has something big in store for us that will explain all this inexplicable leniency.
In the second half of this book we also witness a pivotal moment in Dashiell and Carol’s relationship – a moment where it seems everything could be different from the miserable, inextricable situation our favorite couple seems to find themselves in. Naturally, they fail to do the right thing that we hope they would (or do we?), and life continues to fall apart. But that is why we keep reading after all, isn’t it? 🙂
In summary, Scalped, Vol. 7: Rez Blues’s major focus is on character development, and is not quite as action-packed as previous chapters. I think that was maybe a good move though, and probably necessary for whatever future events Jason Aaron’s demented mind has planned for the residents of Prairie Rose. It wasn’t the most mind-blowing book so far (although it had its moments), but it was very interesting, and a great read.
Three different artists – familiar artists, if you’ve been following the series – had a hand in this production, and I’ll address them in the same way I addressed the different plot lines.
“Listening to the Earth Turn” was illustrated by Danijel Zezelj (your guess is as good as mine), and frankly he did a fine job of illustrating that story. He has a dramatic pen which suited the chapter well, and really captured the despair in the old couple’s faces.
“A Fine Action of an Honorable and Catholic Spaniard” was drawn by Davide Furno, a frequent contributor to Scalped. With apologies to Davide, his drawings aren’t bad, I just don’t like his style that much. His characters are just a bit too exaggerated for me – not lifelike enough. Their proportions wander dangerously close to the “cartoony” zone, which is just out of sync with the rest of the series.
The remainder of the book is illustrated by R.M. Guera, and I’ve made no secret that I’m a big fan of his work. He has drawn most of Scalped, and in my mind his style has come to embody the spirit of the story. When it’s not Guera, it just doesn’t feel quite right. His dramatic framing, excellent capture of emotion, and raw grittiness is just a perfect match for the narrative. I guess if I had to come up with one gripe, his perspective is sometimes a little off, but for all the good he does, it’s easy to look past.
I think I basically said all this above, but to reiterate, Scalped, Vol. 7: Rez Blues is an enjoyable, highly informative (if somewhat lower-key) addition to the Scalped saga. I’m giving it a 7 out of 10. It has certainly primed me for volume 8, “You Gotta Sin to be Saved”, which just came out last month, and is already on my request list down at the local library. And fear not, I will be rambling on about that one just as soon as I can.
Happy reading, folks…