My friend Kathryn recommended the Scalped series to me about a year ago, and I just got around to finishing the first volume. As a writer of text, I h...moreMy friend Kathryn recommended the Scalped series to me about a year ago, and I just got around to finishing the first volume. As a writer of text, I have to get this out of the way – the text is horrible, and not horrible, as I’ve heard some people complain, as in offensive, unless you find clichés and cyclic repetition of “surprise” plot twists offensive. It seems to me a pure genre exercise, as there’s not one character who separates himself or herself from the rest of the characters (I didn’t just cover both genders to be politically correct – the women all talk like the male characters, who all talk like they belong in a Nick Cave song). They all cuss exorbitantly and interchangeably, they all spout one-liners that aren’t funny, and they all take their turns saying something vaguely native American in a way that feels like Aaron is really trying to convince himself he’s writing some sort of cultural commentary.
But graphically, it’s stunning. The arrangement of panels is interestingly non-linear, and some of the images themselves are gut-punchingly effective. So I guess that leaves me at the same place I was after finishing Black Hole – I find Scalped, after one volume, graphically amazing, but ultimately pretty boring and empty in terms of textual narrative and character development. I have, though, bought the next two volumes already, and at least graphic stuff reads quickly. We’ll see if it gets any better. (less)
One might question my decision to continue reading a series of which I so thoroughly disliked the first volume, but it came so heavily recommended tha...moreOne might question my decision to continue reading a series of which I so thoroughly disliked the first volume, but it came so heavily recommended that I’d already bought the first four volumes, and it is a quick read. This volume, for whatever reason, actually worked more for me — maybe it was the fact that the narrative was actually told with a keen eye, keeping the main plot (with plenty of flashbacks) centered on one day, the opening of Chief Red Crow’s casino.
The characters themselves are still pretty boring, especially Dash Bad Horse, who, incidentally, is supposed to be the ostensible protagonist but spends an inordinate amount of frames having bored sex with Red Crow’s daughter, and Diesel, the antagonist who comes off as so laughable he’s hardly dislikable. (Until he kills the dogs. That was thoroughly dislikable.) A couple exceptions: the emergence of Catcher, whose visions of the peoples’ animal likenesses alongside said people works beautifully, and Dino, whose desperate bid to get off the rez by fixing his old broken down car is sadly ironic — we all know that car ain’t getting fixed – and straight out of a Springsteen tune.
The overarching plot with the older folks — the FBI guy, Red Crow, Dash’s mother, and the guy who was falsely imprisoned — is tantalizing, but doesn’t seem to have quite caught hold yet. This may be because the volume ends with the exact same cliffhanger as the first volume, which I didn’t actually mind as it felt like Aaron was telling that story the way it perhaps should have been told in Indian Country. This is all to say that, what the hell, I have two more volumes so I’ll keep reading.(less)
I have to say that, until this volume, I've been reading the Scott Pilgrim series just to tell my students I'd read them, and maybe also to make fun o...moreI have to say that, until this volume, I've been reading the Scott Pilgrim series just to tell my students I'd read them, and maybe also to make fun of them. But I'll give props - I really enjoyed The Infinite Sadness. Maybe I just bought into the whole video game-as-graphic novel thing, or maybe it's that there were more fun fight scenes (which are, after all, the best part of any video game), or maybe, for the first time, O'Malley spent some time trying to make some of the characters believable. And when I say "believable" I don't mean believably human - I understand they're not supposed to be human but characters in a game - but I mean believable in the context of the game/story. In other words, a character doesn't do one thing on one page, then turn into a completely different personality in the next chapter. Funny thing, though - I thought the most convincing characters in this volume were the bad guys, Envy Adams and Todd Ingram (Evil Boyfriend #2 [or was it #3?]) - their motives were most developed, as were their personalities. Also, the humor of the series is finally getting, well, funny - I LOVED the conclusion of the Todd vs. Scott death match. I think, unfortunately, that the central problem I've had from the beginning, that Scott Pilgrim himself is probably the least likable - perhaps because he's the least real (he's a hopeless sad sack, the other he's a clueless douchebag with not an ounce of introspection or consideration for any of his friends) - is still intact. But maybe that's my own imposition as a reader. Anyway, I'm now much more enthusiastic about continuing the series.(less)
This volume felt like a bit of a regression to me. I say that perhaps because it took me over a month to get through it, which may be entirely attribu...moreThis volume felt like a bit of a regression to me. I say that perhaps because it took me over a month to get through it, which may be entirely attributable to my more pressing reading, but I barely remembered anything by the time I got to the concluding fight scene with Ex-Boyfriend (Ex-Girlfriend) #4(?), kind of double-death-match also involving Knives Chau's samurai sword-wielding father. The fight scenes were, as with previous volumes, the most entertaining, with the most thorough and least self-congratulatory splicing of gaming/manga/music-nerdness/self-conscious humor. I think I need a break from S. Pilgrim for a month before the final 2 volumes.(less)
OK, it took me a good nine months to get back to Pilgrim, and I must say the break worked wonders. I found myself accepting the whole "Protagonist as...moreOK, it took me a good nine months to get back to Pilgrim, and I must say the break worked wonders. I found myself accepting the whole "Protagonist as Video Game Hero" thing without questioning the total vapidity of Msr. Pilgrim as a human character, which helped me enjoy the clever one liners while waiting for the next rock 'em sock 'em fight scene, most of which were primarily with robots in this volume, a definite plus. And yes, the ending with the disappearance of Ramona Flowers was actually a bit haunting. Looking forward to plowing through the final volume next week.(less)
OK, this one started to grow on me, if only for the hilarious fight scene between Knives Chau and Ramona Flowers. It's still hard to get by the teenag...moreOK, this one started to grow on me, if only for the hilarious fight scene between Knives Chau and Ramona Flowers. It's still hard to get by the teenage-chatter dialogue (SP is 23, right?) and the fact that there's not one truly likeable character in the bunch though.(less)
For this, the final volume, the Scott Pilgrim series abandons all pretense to character development and most of its social critique, and accepts its r...moreFor this, the final volume, the Scott Pilgrim series abandons all pretense to character development and most of its social critique, and accepts its role of Book as Video Game. And this is a beautiful thing. Scott dies twice (I think), once by bifurcation, and uses the 1-Up he gained (I think) in a previous volume. Ramona dies at least once and is redeemed by the Power of Love (in the video game sense), and they both have their final showdown with Gideon Graves, who of course transmogrifies into a giant demonic Final Boss. All this of course occurs at a nightclub where all the other characters watch, at least until they enter the mind-realm of Ramona Flowers for the final showdown. Hey, it made sense while I was reading it.(less)
The series now has its claws in me. After a horrible first volume that meanders along on racial stereotypes, an imminently dislikable protagonist, bad...moreThe series now has its claws in me. After a horrible first volume that meanders along on racial stereotypes, an imminently dislikable protagonist, bad dialogue, and periodically redeeming artwork and a second volume that deepens our understanding of the lesser characters but ends at the exact same climax of the first volume, this third volume finally gives us a reason to care about Dash Red Horse, the directionless skinhead with nunchucks and the body of a professional wrestler. It does this through the dead mothers of the title — a meth head mother of a sprawling brood whose care he attempts to provide after she's murdered ostensibly by Diesel, the villain of the series who is happily absent from most of this volume; and his own, whose violent death he avoids confronting until drunkenly ending on the doorstep of her empty house in one of the most visually affecting scenes of the series so far. The volume opens and closes with guest artists in brief sections that function similarly to the chapters of Volume Two, providing insights into peripheral characters and the parts they play in the larger story. All this isn’t to say the written word has gotten much better in the series, but it’s definitely easier to forgive now that I’m actually invested in the story.(less)
This volume starts with a guest artist, Davide Furno, illustrating a central 2-part story that finally gives some pathos to Lincoln Red Crow’s daughte...moreThis volume starts with a guest artist, Davide Furno, illustrating a central 2-part story that finally gives some pathos to Lincoln Red Crow’s daughter Carol, whose role until now has been that of prodigal daughter to Red Crow and spiteful fuck buddy to Dash Bad Horse. Aaron plays the mother card with her similarly to the last volume; it’ll get me every time. After that story, the camera zooms back out to the crime-ridden rez and all its scumbag denizens, with gore galore, including a powerfully bloody show down between Red Crow and the ever-creepy Mr. Brass, the last scene that’s predicated on Brass’s torture of probably my favorite character of the series (I won’t say who). I think my mistake when starting this series was hoping for something like HBO’s The Wire, where all the carnage and backbiting serves a complex and intense political statement. I’ve now come to think of this series much like another HBO series, Deadwood, and I just enjoy watching the bodies stack up in Aaron’s morally black vision.(less)
It took me forever to finish this volume, and it's not like it's difficult reading. I may stop reading the series, even though I've already bought the...moreIt took me forever to finish this volume, and it's not like it's difficult reading. I may stop reading the series, even though I've already bought the next volume. I do think High Lonesome revealed something to me though about the series: the true wellspring of most that has been good about it is the illustration of R.M. Guera, not the words of Jason Aaron.
Of the five issues collected in High Lonesome, two have "guest illustrators." These two issues are completely boring, lacking in anything that might differentiate them from any other graphic novel for boys. I found myself skimming them, completely uninterested in the characters, especially that dufus Diesel and his woe-begotten childhood. I actually stopped reading for a month or two after those two sections. Then I got back to the final two, which are finally back to Guera's work, and it came to me. Though I could care less about any of these characters or their stories or their fakey dialogue, I LOVE the interaction of the frames - the way a scene compounds on the page, not linearly but in a way I can only describe as cinematic, and almost every issue ends with an image that lingers with me.
Anyway, I'll probably give the series a break for awhile. Or maybe I'll just thumb through the next volume.(less)