Six long years ago a little comic by the name of Scarlet first hit the shelves. I picked it up without ever having heard about it for two simple reasons. First, it was written by the tried and true Brian Michael Bendis, arguably one of the best, and hardest working writers in the business today. Second, it was illustrated by Alex Maleev, whose simultaneously raw yet refined style is undeniably top notch. As an added bonus, Bendis & Maleev have a history of working together, and their synergistic capabilities had proven to be stellar. So I picked up the book, and it instantly became one of my favorites…and then, five issues in…it ended. Fans were understandably disappointed, until 2013 when the duo served up two more issues, no worse for the time off, and that seemed to be well and truly it for Scarlet. So when I recently walked into the comic shop and saw the cover declaring itself on the shelf: “Scarlet is Back!” my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out. After having read it, I’m here to tell you, this book is better than ever.
For any who never read the first seven issues, I’d love to tell you not to worry about it, that it’d be easy enough to just jump in with this fresh 8th issue, but that’d be doing you a disservice. Though it’ll cost you some cash to catch up, you can conveniently purchase the first five issues in trade paperback. Issues six and seven should still be available at comic shops, especially now, considering the title’s resurgence, and it’s absolutely worth it.
Scarlet has been, and continues to be an electrifying book bursting with social commentary and pertinence in the chaotic world we find ourselves living in. Bendis, who can write an unbelievably vast array of genres without sacrificing quality, displays more fire and heart in this book than any of his other titles I can think of, and it’s not thinly veiled in the least. Because of its unabashedly direct, and strong messages regarding government corruption and the imbalance of power for the general populace, Scarlet has stirred up some controversy. A friend of mine was taking a course at SF State University, and Scarlet was required reading. This book is so good it gets people outside of the comic community talking, and it deserves all the attention it gets.
I won’t go into detail for fear of spoiling the story so far for those who haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it’s safe to say that the book is centered around a girl named Scarlet, living in Portland, Oregon (which also happens to be were Bendis resides, giving the book an air of authenticity). She might have been any average girl, but events throughout her life developed her bit by bit into the radical political activist and lighting rod she ultimately becomes. In this role, she’s able to become a voice for the people, and a galvanizing force for the disparate, dissatisfied masses. There’s just something about Scarlet. She’s young, ambitious, sharp as a razor, inspired and inspiring. She’s a bit punk or goth, but she’s not radical to be fashionable. Her convictions are sincere, and she doesn’t care whether people rally behind her or not. She’s on a mission, and she’s unwavering. Scarlet, to my mind, is more of a super hero than Superman.
It would seem that there are only two more issues slated to come out in this story arc. Whether that’ll be the end for the comic Scarlet, or just this chapter, it promises to be a great read regardless. I’ll gladly take these three new issues, no question. If there’s more, I’ll be snapping them up, if not, I trust Bendis knows when to roll credits.
When considering how I’d rate the book, I’m thinking about the emotional power and drive behind the writing. I’m thinking about the art, which compliments the narrative perfectly. The grittiness, the near genius use of color contrast, the clear ability Maleev has to interpret Bendis’ scripts, add up to perfection. On top of all of that, I have to think about how amazing it was just finding out that Scarlet is in fact back. All things considered, I give this book 6 out of 5 fists in the air. Bear in mind, the book might not be for everybody, but it wouldn’t be any good if it were. It may offend, it may upset, but it just might be the best thing you read this year.