Up front, I’ll be honest: I had been dying to read this book. For one, Devon had spoken very highly of it, but even more importantly, Jason Aaron once commented on this blog, which is pretty freaking cool.
So here goes…
a) In your assessment, could a non-comics reader pick this up cold and enjoy it? Why or why not?
Honestly, for this issue, knowledge or love of comics is less important than a love of crime stories. Though the visual aspects of the medium are well-leveraged, this is definitely a dialogue-driven comic, which I find are the easiest ones for non-comic fans to digest.
Additionally, issue 21 seems to be kicking off a new plot arc and introducing some new threads. I definitely understood enough to want to keep reading. Of course, I did keep reading and soon discovered that the main character doesn’t even appear in issue 21, so it speaks to the creative ability behind this book that I was still drawn in.
b) What age group(s) would it be appropriate for?
Adults only. Sex and graphic violence abound… which I suppose could describe an issue of Teen Titans these days… but still, this is definitely a book for grownups.
c) Are there any aspects that don't make sense to the new reader (or, conversely, are there any that do?)
This book, like a lot of crime stories, has a specific lexicon. Prior to reading Scalped, I just assumed it took place in the old west, so it took me a few pages to get my bearings. But I picked up enough that by the end a lot of the narrative dynamics had some clarity around them. Though I will say that it does help to know that this story takes place on an Indian reservation… once I figured that out, it all made a lot more sense.
It also seems that this issue is potentially introducing some new plot threads, so from that perspective, the things that don’t make sense fall into the category of things that will be revealed rather than things that a reader should already know.
d) What is your overall perceived quality of the book, and could you see the quality being perceived differently if read long-term?
As I hinted at earlier, this is a great read. The harshness of the dialogue is poignant, but it doesn’t feel forced. R.M. Guera’s art is fairly minimalist, but also fairly visceral when the pace of the action demands it. Characters are often in shadow, which I think is a good effect given the complexities at play in a crime story.
This issue seems dense enough that my guess is the trades (the first and second of which I have already purchased) would probably be a good long read, unlike some other more ‘adult’ comics where reading the series in monthlies could just be maddening (i.e. Y: The Last Man, Walking Dead). I am going to start reading this book on the regular, and my plan is to get the trades of the issues I missed and then start collecting the monthlies rather than waiting for the trades.
e) What was your overall enjoyment of the single issue?
Obviously, I enjoyed it, but it’s not self-contained. My enjoyment was certainly enough to get me interested in the series. I put down issue 21 and said out loud, ‘That was like ‘The Wire’ on an Indian Reservation,’ and I consider that pretty high praise.