Scalped

Scalped

[skalp]
Scalped is a comic series written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by R. M. Guéra, published monthly by Vertigo Comics. Issue #1 was published on January 3, 2007.

The series' style can fairly be described as an amalgamation of the film noir and western genres, being as it concerns organised crime and is set on the (fictional) Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Plot

Dashiell Bad Horse returns to the 'rez' after fifteen years of absence, celebrating the fact by picking a fight with whomever crosses his path. Chief Lincoln Red Crow, head of the Oglala tribe and all-round local bigwig, notices our hero's enthusiasm for getting his hands dirty and hires him for the tribal police, of which he is the chief as well. Bad Horse's primary duties are the taking out of meth labs - Red Crow is about to open a $97m casino, the 'Crazy Horse', and needs to clean up the reservation's public image.

What few people know is that Bad Horse is an undercover FBI agent, whose immediate superior still means to bring Red Crow to justice for the murder of two FBI agents, thirty years ago, back when Red Crow and a few others, including Gina Bad Horse, Dashiell's estranged mother, were militant Indian-Rights activists.

Dashiell develops an obsession with Red Crow's estranged daughter, Carol, who rebels against her father and the gaping boredom on the rez by sleeping with as many men as she can.

The first story arc, 'Hoka Hey', ends with the murder of Gina Bad Horse, seen scalped and lying on the ground outside the rez. She had previously tried, frantically, to speak to her son, always narrowly missing him.

Characters

Dashiell Bad Horse: In his late twenties, he is the prodigal son, returning home with a vengeance. It is unclear exactly why he hates the place so much, although we can understand why he won't talk to his mother, after she sent him to live with relatives when he was thirteen. He spent the subsequent years running as far away from home as possible, getting as far as Kosovo, where he served for the army in 1999. He is exceptionally skilled in hand-to-hand combat; his expertise with Jeet Kune Do and nunchucks allows him to take on an entire bar at a time. He is bald; he does not smile; he has no friends; if he has a sense of humour, it is rather a kind of dry cynicism. He is described by his superior, Special Agent Nitz, as "a borderline sociopath". What exactly his personal motivation for returning is remains unclear.

Chief Lincoln Red Crow: In his fifties, with the kind of bullish appearance of a man once in excellent shape. He has his fingers in many unappealing pies, drugs, prostitution, whatnot. His main preoccupation is ensuring the smooth opening of the 'Crazy Horse', the casino he planned and built (with some other people's help) and by means of which he wants to turn the rez into something other than the alcohol- and drug-fuelled cesspool it really is. He's your typical Al Capone figure, though whether he is a complete bastard, out to enrich his already-rich self or whether he actually means to ease the squalid lives of his 'subjects' remains unclear. He and Gina Bad Horse share a troubled past, with overtones of a love-hate relationship. He is extremely sensitive to all matters concerning his daughter, even though they no longer talk (although she does sometimes scream at him).

Gina Bad Horse: Dashiell's estranged mother, and a longtime activist pushing for the rights of Native Americans. With Lincoln Red Crow and Lawrence Belcourt, she participated in the ambush and murder of two FBI agents who entered the reservation one night in 1975. While she initially held the wounded agents under the gun, Red Crow took the pistol from her and executed them himself, saying that she didn't want to have the killing on her conscience. In the present time, she and her band of protesters now oppose Red Crow's plans to open the casino.

Diesel: Gina Bad Horse's boyfriend/companion, a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, with a reputation for violence and erratic, near-sociopathic behavior. It is often remarked (generally contemptuosly) that he is white, although he reacts badly to this, claiming to be 1/16th Kickapoo. In Gina's absence, he breaks into Red Crow's office at the casino, steals something critical (which he later hands off to FBI agent Nitz), trashes the office and kills Red Crow's dogs. After a long, drawn-out fight with Dashiell he is arrested, only to escape before Red Crow and his men can take any action against him.

FBI Agent Nitz: A vengeful, unscrupulus and amoral FBI Agent who was present at Dashiel's birth and had had his eye on him for some time, insisiting that he be made an FBI Field Agent when it seemed his mother's record would prevent that. He is driven by a desire to see Red Crow behind bars for murder, something that has eluded him since the seventies when Red Crow and Gina got away Scott Free from the murder of two FBI Agents. He will do anything to get what he wants, even if it means sacreficing Dadhiel.

Carol Ellroy: Married to someone called Ellroy, although she doesn't much care about the fact. Probably married him (a non-Indian) just to spite her father. Pretty much exactly Dashiell's age, the two shared their first erotic experience at the age of thirteen, when she let him watch her urinate. Now that Dashiell has returned, he is repelled by her promiscuity yet attracted by her beauty. It is unclear whether she is a femme fatale or a damsel in distress; so far, her influence on the plot has been limited, however her relationships to both Dashiell and her father will probably be explored further as the series progresses.

Catcher: A man of Red Crow's generation; he was present when the federal agents died, but he never says a word then. He makes up for it by talking to himself (or, rather, his horse named Festus) as present events progress, providing us with a running commentary.

Style

The artist, R. M. Guéra, uses the colour brown predominantly, aiming for a grimy, dirty look. Shadows, the desert and the glaring sun are used to emphasise a sort of stifling atmosphere.

It would appear that some of the characters' names are homages to noir prose authors, such as Dashiell himself standing for The Maltese Falcon’s Dashiell Hammett as well as Carol Ellroy borrowing her last name from LA Confidential’s James Ellroy.

Collected editions

Vertigo are releasing trade paperback collections on an ongoing basis.

# Title ISBN Release date Collected material
1 Indian Country ISBN 1401213170 August, 2007 Scalped #1-5
2 Casino Boogie ISBN 1401216544 February, 2008 Scalped #6–11
3 Dead Mothers ISBN 1401219195 October, 2008 Scalped #12-18
4 The Gravel in Your Gut ISBN 1401219195 April, 2009 Scalped #19-24

References

External links

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