Scarlet #1 Review

Bendis Is Not Fooling Me

Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis (Click to enlarge)

My bookshelves prove that I am a fan of Brian Michael Bendis’ work. His creator-owned titles (Torso, Jinx, Fire, Alias, and the much-lauded Powers) rest in their place of honor at eye-level and have cemented firmly in my brain the fact that the man is a true wordsmith. While I can appreciate the work he has done over the years on certain large commercial books (Avengers, Daredevil, and scores of others), nothing compares to his creator-owned titles. Imagine my surprise then, when I excitedly picked up his newest title, Scarlet, created with artist Alex Maleev (the man responsible for the gorgeous artwork on Spider-Woman) and found it to be mediocre at best.

I am not saying it’s a bad comic; it isn’t. What I am saying is I think it’s far below what Bendis is capable of. His past foray into the realm of creator-owned titles has shown that the man has writing chops. This current story he’s publishing suggests that he may have burned out writing a plethora of Marvel titles without a break for so long, as it is nothing more than a sad reinvention of the same character Bendis readers have seen over and again. The prevalence of dirty cops and crappy people in everyday society is not a new concept to those readers familiar with his work and frankly, I expected something better from him.

His main character, Scarlet, is your typical girl-with-a-chip-on-her-shoulder. Her very appearance, though wonderfully rendered by the talented Maleev, is a typical alt-comic chick: messy red hair, punk clothes, and an almost anorexic frame. Yawn. In an attempt to break the fourth wall (the imaginary barrier between the audience and the stage), she speaks directly to the reader; a feat that only works if the reader connects with the characters. The problem with this tactic is that in speaking directly to the reader, all the nuances of the character’s actions are lost. There is no opportunity for the reader to try and figure out why she kills a cop and kicks the crap out of a would-be bike thief. She tells you why. Previous Bendis stories would run the reader in circles trying to figure out why the main character is acting the way they are. In this comic though, the biggest mystery is why her favorite thing in the world is the Hawthorne Bridge and even though the art is gorgeous, I still do not care.

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I realize that a lot people will bristle while reading this and that’s fine. As I stated, it isn’t a bad comic. It’s a bad comic that has Brian Michael Bendis’ name on it. As a long-time fan of his writing, I am personally disappointed that he considers this title to be his next great creator-owned title. Although I love comics and will almost always give new endeavours by favorite writers and artists an opportunity to prove me wrong, I will not budge on this one. It won’t be on my bookshelf as I don’t think it’s good enough to stand with his previous works.

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