Comics: JD reviews Scarlet #1

Title: Scarlet #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: Icon
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo (JD)

The world is broken. You know this. I know this. Scarlet knows this. We all have this knowledge in common.
Me? I’m sitting here writing reviews about comics.
You? You’re sitting here reading reviews about comics.
Scarlet? Well, Scarlet is doing something about it.

..and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Bendis, for all of his snark, still seems to wonder how he is where he is in the comics industry. It’s because of his fearlessness with experimentation. He never seems content to just write comics a certain way, but is always flexing the medium to see what sticks. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s ok. The guy gets a lot of flak from this corner of the internet, even from me (see my Avengers #1 review) and I’m sure this book will be no exception. I can see that it’s not going to be many people’s particular brand of tea, but me? I’m drinkin’ it up.

There are a couple different narrative themes going on. One, in the word balloons is Scarlet’s dialogue. The stuff that the fictional people around her can hear. Two, in the rectangular word balloons are her words to us, the readers. Then there are the quick cut scenes catching us up on her life, which, in my head play like something out of Snatch or Requiem For A Dream. And then there’s the inclusion of a newspaper article about the story she’s telling us. And it all works perfectly. People new to the comics medium may need to study Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud first, but to the seasoned comics reader, these all blend together well.

At first, when Scarlet starts talking about the broken world and how her parents should have warned her and blahblahblah, it felt a little whiny and immature. Like high school I’m-gonna-paint-my-nails-black-and-rage-against-the-machine (what machine?) I-dunno,-any machine (like a vending machine?) I-dunno,-man! A-machine-that-I’m-gonna-rage-against! Stop-harshing-my-buzz! kind of angst. And I had my doubts. But then she tells her story. And it’s difficult not to put myself in her place and feel what she’s feeling, and understand exactly what it is she wants to do. Cause I think a lot of us want to do the exact same thing.

As for the art, I wish Maleev would convey something besides the static, motionless, traced-over-a-photograph sort of feel. It’s not bad, it’s just that most of the panels feel “staged”. And the Photoshop textures are a bit much. It pulled me out of the story time and time again. Also, a quick note regarding the variant cover by Mike Deodato. There are characters that need to be in sexy poses, in tight clothes. Scarlet doesn’t feel like one of those and seeing her portrayed that way takes something away from the character. Leave that sort of pin-up for Velocity or Lady Death or something.

Overall, a great first issue that I’m really looking forward to continuing. Scarlet has some stuff she wants to tell me, and I can’t wait to hear it.

When not hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam here, JD is graphically designing/illustrating/inking for a living, hanging with the @$$holes over at and Booking his Face off over here.

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