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Scarlet, Book 1 (Scarlet, #1)
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Group Monthly Discussions > Official 13th Book Club Discussion: Scarlet, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev - January 2013 (may contain spoilers)

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message 1: by Sérgio (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:03AM) (new)

Sérgio | 459 comments Hi everybody. This is the topic for our Official 13th Book Club Discussion, which is Scarlet Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.

The discussion will occur during this whole month of January.

If your post will contain spoilers, then please type SPOILERS in capital letters at the top of your post (or use the html code for spoilers) so that members who are still reading or have not yet read the book can avoid critical details that can spoil their reading.

Enjoy our official book club discussion everyone.

(If anyone wants to lead this discussion the job is available.)

message 2: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Quixote (samquixote) Happy to get the ball rolling. Here's most of my review of the book:

"A corrupt cop kills a teen boy over drugs the boy didn't have. The boy's girlfriend is also hit but survives. This is her story.

"Scarlet" is a very timely story of a general malaise in most peoples' outlooks on life. They look around and see corruption in institutions which were once sacred, and the apathy that allows this way of life to continue. Recently this took the form of the Occupy movements but in this book writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev take things further with Scarlet picking up a gun and starting a revolution that will kill the bad guys and show that good people will not take it anymore.

That said, don't look at the cover and think you know this book. Yes it's sexy and eye-catching but it's not a one note comic book of a chick with a gun, there is that, but Scarlet as a character is much more interesting than that. Like Rob Gordon in High Fidelity, Scarlet addresses you, the reader, as she explains her worldview, how she came to these conclusions, and asks you to follow her on her journey to change the world. She's not got super powers or martial arts training, or anything really, she's a kid with a mission who wants to make the world better by stamping out evil - a hero rather than a super one.

Also it's not pro-anarchy or anti-establishment, rather it's a nuanced look at a complex problem with lots of action thrown in. It's a comic book with brains and heart, the best kind of comic book in fact, that deserves a crossover audience made up of people who read books and shy away from comics, because "Scarlet" is comics at their best."


Having re-read it recently, my view hasn't changed. I love this book! It's got this energy to it because it's dealing with 21st century issues of corrupt Western institutions. Maleev's realistic artwork lends the more or less grounded story further weight too.

But what did everyone else think?

Did you like Scarlet, the heroine?
What was your opinion of the story - what did you like and dislike?
Did you feel there was a message to the book?
What did you think were the themes?
What scenes stuck out for you and why?
Have you read other books by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev and how did this compare to those books?

Those are just some questions to ignite discussion, feel free to ignore them and say whatever you want instead.


message 3: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Quixote (samquixote) Bendis be a busy boy. His and Maleev's Moon Knight was enjoyable.

Brent | 3 comments Hey all, first time participant so let me jump right in!

I've only read #1 so I'll be holding off on reading the above before the rest of the trade to avoid potential spoilers. I was worried when viewing the cover that this would be a "sexy women with guns!" type of comic but the first issue seems to set the theme elsewhere thankfully. I like where the comic is heading even if I wasn't completely grabbed by the introduction. I'm not completely on board with the 4th wall breaking in the talking to the audience and showing us her "backstory" but perhaps it will grow on me as the comic continues. I do like how it ended and where the comic seems to be going but I haven't made up my mind if I enjoy Scarlet as a character. The artwork is fantastic as should be expected as I was a huge fan of Maleev on Daredevil. Definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes, and as I begin to ramble here I'll cut it short and update again after finishing!

Fun Fact: #6 is stated to come out early-ish this month despite numerous delays with Bendis and his Icon titles. It's been pushed back forever, best not to get our hopes up, but I always hate it when a writer can't finish the story he obviously had planned according to the interviews in the last few pages of #1.

'kris Pung | 135 comments It was an enjoyable read but I'm a sci-fi kind of guy so it wasn't really my thing. Also I'm not a fan of books that talk directly to the reader, so it had that working against it too.

message 6: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Quixote (samquixote) What was it about breaking the fourth wall - did it take you out of the story?

Anna (Bananas) The way she spoke to the reader pulled me into the story completely. I really liked it.

My one issue with this first trade is that it feels like not much happens. Or not that's a lot of set-up, a lot of promise, and the power of the story hasn't been delivered yet. And I wait. And wait.

Sam, regarding your earlier questions...

The themes for me were standing up for what's right, regardless of the consequences; defending yourself and yours; taking control of your own life.

One scene that stuck out for me was Scarlet seeing her mother. She seemed a heartless woman.

The pages showing Scarlet and Gabriel's lives in snapshots were funny, touching, and very well done.

message 8: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Quixote (samquixote) "The way she spoke to the reader pulled me into the story completely."

And that's how it felt to me too, so that approach can have two opposite effects which is interesting.

I also like that this seems like a story that could happen in the real world but that making it seem real isn't necessarily a priority. I mean it seems like Bendis is just telling the story as he sees it.

"My one issue with this first trade is that it feels like not much happens."

That's what I liked best about this book. It didn't rush, it took the time to develop character, maybe the most important aspect of any story. And while I too look forward to the second book looking to see how the story develops, I hope Bendis doesn't fall prey to that trope in some series where the action and plot overwhelm the characters so we lose that sense of individuality and purposefulness of the story upon them. So the pacing was just right - for me anyway.

'kris Pung | 135 comments Sam wrote: "What was it about breaking the fourth wall - did it take you out of the story?"

I like to read GN's to escape reality so breaking the forth wall isn't something I look for. That's also why I lean towards crazier unbelievable storylines (i.e. Saga, Sweet Tooth, etc.).

Anna (Bananas) I did like the focus on character.
What does everyone think of the side characters?
Do you see anyone in the police force stepping up to ally with Scarlet?

message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul | 286 comments Trey wrote: "So I'm three issues into to my re-read and I have to say I'm not digging the art. I'm not a fan of heavy photo referencing. This isn't Greg Land bad but it's just a bit bland and hard to understa..."

I actually like this art, it stands out from most everything else on the stand. I think that photo-referencing in this matter gives it a realistic twist, it matches well with busting the 4th wall we see in this. Some scenes are overly busy, but I think the coloring adds to the effect by putting the backgrounds in gray tones and letting the foreground action shine.

I did like the focus on character.
What does everyone think of the side characters?
Do you see anyone in the police force stepping up to ally with Scarlet?

Although I don't see the "good" cops actually siding with Scarlet, after all, she is pretty much preaching anarchy, I do see them taking action against the corupted ones once the movement takes more steam.
After all, paraphrasing here: all that evil needs to win, is for good to take no action.

"My one issue with this first trade is that it feels like not much happens."

Although I would generally agree that stretching a good story is a good thing, I'd be more apt to agree if the issues (then the trade) came at a more consistent rate. As it is, I know that once the 2nd trade comes out, I'll have to re-read the 1st just so I can put it all back in context.

Meran | 115 comments I accept the art of most of these GNs, simply because it's there.. some is more objectionable, to be sure, and can make the book hard to read. I didn't find this art to be that bad at all.

I liked this book in a previous read and still do.

Please read my spoilerish review below. It contains recent facts (off the news last night) which are current to our gun situation here in Portland.
(view spoiler)

I wish the writer WOULD continue this important GN. I've looked for it consistently.

message 13: by Peter (last edited Jan 09, 2013 06:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter | 150 comments I thought the artwork worked well with this story. It creates a gritty realism that fits the story well. I can't imaging telling this story with more cartoon-ish imagery.

I must say, it seems pretty bold to make a protagonist out of a (view spoiler), even if justified. This book was surprising to me, I came to it with basically no expectations. It poses some pretty tough moral and ethical questions.
What do you do when the justice system fails you?

It will be interesting to see the woman detective's character, and how her role plays out in the story, as she seems to empathize with Scarlet.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing (mhollyrosing) | 20 comments Finished it last night and I must say having a cover with a sexy girl and gun does it a disservice. The story is much more than that as it delves right into some of today's issues with a vengence (no pun intended).

I liked it over all and though I didn't love the art, I think it worked well for the story and subject matter.

What did take a little getting used to was the device of "breaking the 4th wall." If you don't know what that means, in film terms it's when a character speaks directly to the camera/audience. It worked for the story, but I keep wondering how her character would have developed without using that device.

Lindsey.parks | 50 comments I just finished the first two issues and so far, based on the issue number one cover, this is not what I thought it would be about, but its good, so far.

Lindsey.parks | 50 comments alright just finished this, pretty alright. loved the art. the thing that bothers me is, the police totally would have caught her, come on.

message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul | 286 comments If they caught her and put her on trial, then a few inconvenient truths might come to light.
Catching her and killing her while in custody would most likely cause violent riots.
Having a sniper shoot her would again cause major riots.
Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to do.
I think the police are deliberating their options at this point.

message 18: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Quixote (samquixote) @Peter: Good point about the artwork, Maleev’s style is well suited to the story. But not all cops are good and just – I think it does make a difference killing a corrupt official abusing their power than a police officer who is doing their jobs well and truly protecting and serving. One is less sympathetic than the other. It is a morality tale

@Madeleine: I agree the cover does give you the wrong impression of what to expect between the covers – but it is eye-catching and this is the comics market. Maybe a few superhero-only comics fans were exposed to this book and ended up converted? Do you think there should have been another image from the book that would’ve served as a better front cover? I think if she wasn’t directly addressing the reader by facing them, there would’ve been the usual inner monologue with narrative boxes at the top of panels like so many other comics stories.

@Lindsey.parks: As Paul’s noted, it wouldn’t have been as simple as “catching Scarlet”, there were complications that would have made the direct approach moot. What’s interesting is Scarlet’s becoming the leader of a social movement – and she’s alive. That’s what makes the second book so tantalising, seeing what her next actions will be with this new found “power”.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing (mhollyrosing) | 20 comments @Sam You've made some great points. And I agree she should be facing the reader on the front cover. I'm not sure what she should be doing, but holding guns is the easy way out in my book. I'd have to think on what she would be doing.

message 20: by Sam (last edited Jan 18, 2013 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Quixote (samquixote) I think the cover to #4 is more like what the book is about - an ordinary girl against scary looking police dudes:


Madeleine Holly-Rosing (mhollyrosing) | 20 comments @Sam I hadn't seen that yet. I totally agree. That's her and the story. :)

Meran | 115 comments So, did y'all pick up on the "based on a true story" part?

How would that change your opinion of the book?

Madeleine Holly-Rosing (mhollyrosing) | 20 comments @Meran No, I didn't get that. And yes, I think it would change my opinion. And not for the better, unfortunately.

Peter | 150 comments Sam wrote: "@Peter: Good point about the artwork, Maleev’s style is well suited to the story. But not all cops are good and just – I think it does make a difference killing a corrupt official abusing their pow..."

I agree 100%. I didn't think I implied other wise. I was just commenting on the controversial subject matter.

Brent | 3 comments So I just finished this story and I ended up not enjoying it as much as the first issue may have led me to believe. The wall breaking narration did not grow on me as much as I had hoped. In fact I was even more disappointed when another character began doing it as this is Scarlet's story and having someone else bring their story into the mix didn't meld well at all, especially considering that Scarlet's own actions could be brought into question. I liked the book more when we knew we were getting Scarlet's version of the story, in which her own personal gain or naivety could have been brought into question.

I also found it difficult to believe that that she would have such a large following after shooting two cops in cold blood and torturing another. Mobs get started for all sort of purposes but when human beings are being slaughtered on the streets, I'd imagine people wouldn't gather in such a large number in Oregon, even if they did believe the police force to be corrupted. (when it was stated earlier that most people believed the system was clean)

This is a very difficult first book as it's hard to tell where the story is going to go from here. There was no clear goal in this book other than getting her name out there and she hasn't done much since the shooting except for handing out food and supplies apparently. Other nitpicks like the detective not noticing a bright red VW Bug following him around for months and some conversations not quite reaching what I expect from Bendis, led this to be a wash for me at 3/5. I did love the art with every issue. There is definitely potential here in future books and stories, but honestly I started to dislike the book the more I read it.

Meran | 115 comments Actually, living in Oregon, I'm surprised how many crowd up over such things.. they did and do about every cop shooting of innocent people. Every time.

It depends on how well the knowledge travels. With the Internet, it's easier. Also, phones with photo apps enable actual movies to promote.

I've seen a difference in opinions between the inner city (true Portland) and the suburbs ... it all really depends on the situation. People of color get shot often by cops, as do the mentally ill. I moved here in 2004; saw some short films on a naked 19 yr old (I believe).. The cops were afraid he'd hurt them. They didn't wing him. Also, suspicious deaths of manacled prisoners between putting them in the car and getting them to the station. As a child of the 60s, I saw this stuff IN ACTION. The spin is better now, but the parents of the people injured raise a heck of a fuss!

It's why I'm so irked at the writer... he dropped this ball. Makes it fiction (which I'm sure most of it is.. it's wish fulfillment in print); I'd like to know more about facts. (I'm sure they can't be reporting it truly. The publisher would be sued big time by the city ;) )

Brent | 3 comments Scarlet #6 hit shelves today everyone! Just thought I'd let you all know that it has started up again. It'll probably be a long while before we get the next trade and even longer if the schedule gets screwed up again.

Meran | 115 comments Actually Trey, because of what's been happening here in Portland, there's a "new" policy. The police are being trained to "wing them" now.

I know they've been trained, for years, to kill any threat. And I understand why. But having grown up in a "projects", I've been party to the door breaking down with cops behind, because of loud music, or domestic problems; I've seen A LOT of misguided cop action, watched big takedowns over rumor; I even had to complain to a special policeman about being accosted by those very same cops.. Why! "Because you people on this side of town are garbage" etc.

For the record, I'm not a POC, though most of my friends, coworkers and classmates were. I know how the cops can go bad.

To Portland's credit, they have seen the problem, and are taking steps..

Brent, I'm glad to know Scarlet is back!

Anna (Bananas) Finally, about time! I just happened to see the new issue at the comics store.

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