It’s funny. I’ve been a fiction/lit guy for well over a year now. Other than the latest China Mieville book I’ve been unable to read anything that breaches into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy realm at all. Which makes sense to some degree, because I’ve always had a hard time with the hardcore genre stuff. However, as anyone who’s done their homework knows there’s some really good stuff in the genre section at the bookstore, but it’s like good heavy metal – you gotta look for it to find it. Lately though, I’ve not been looking.
Unfortunately one of the side effects of this current reading streak has been a distancing from comics as well. I’ve read comics monthly since I first bought a copy of GI JOE #49 off a douche bag named Chas Perez back in fourth grade – he saw the lust in my eyes when I discovered my favorite figures occupied a monthly comic book and he sold me his ripped and tattered copy of the origin of Serpentor for $1 – $.25 over the cover price when condition alone would have embarrassed even the most cutthroat comics dealer from charging more than a dime for it.
But fuck Chaz. I read that comic probably a hundred times the first week I had it and shortly afterward it helped me figure out where my local comic shop was, which needless to say, was love at first sight.
Somewhere around 1995 I began frequenting a shop named High Five Comics in the Palos Hills area of Illinois. The owner Barry was a good guy whose love of the trade kept me bullshitting in his store for hours once or twice a week. Looking back on it now I owe Barry a great deal. He was, in a lot of ways, the man who saved my love of comics.
At the time I was still mainly reading intolerable dross like the post Claremont X-titles (yes, all ten or so of them) and being taken in by ‘Major Crossover Events’ every year or so. I figured out later that I hadn’t really liked any of those books in a while and even though I hadn’t realized it yet in my conscious mind my frustration was perhaps beginning to manifest as I took more and more suggestions from others on what to read. A guy I had a ‘band’ with at school* had recently turned me on to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and it was perhaps this that had me looking for something similar. One day I saw an ad in one of the Sandman’s (it was still monthly at the time) for something called Preacher by a guy named Garth Ennis. The ad had a quote by someone who compared the book to David Lynch (still don’t really get that one but thank god ‘cuz it caught my attention). I asked Barry and he gave me the thumbs up on it and another book that had just started called Stray Bullets. I bought those books and probably within six months finally cast off the baggage of the X-books, falling head over heels in love with the absolute bad-assery of Jesse Custer, Virginia Applejack and Spanish Scott.
Since Preacher I have always had at least one book that each month, as soon as I get the motherfucker in my hand I stop EVERYTHING and read it. It’s been Preacher, it’s been Stray Bullets (never really monthly but…) it’s been Grant Morrison’s New X-Men** and for the last four years or so it’s been The Walking Dead. The shame of late has been that although I yearn for TWD every month there’s not too many other books that really spike the blood on so consistant a basis. Warren Ellis’ DOKTOR SLEEPLESS and GRAVEL are freaking amazing, but DS is hardly even bi-monthly in a good year*** and Gravel just goes by too fast. Then there’s Mark Millar’s KICK ASS, which is another pound-your-shot-and-whip-your-glass-against the-waller but again, not monthly. These are books you don’t look forward to because you’d be disappointed when they took a few months off. No, instead they’re like happy little accidents that arrive in your lap once in a great while. And with all this irregularity, coupled with the fact that my comic shop (Amazing Fantasy!!! Represent!) is 2000 miles away and as such I get all my books only once a month, well, I’ve felt lately like maybe my love of comics is dissipating. But as I learned before with Jesse Custer, sometimes it just takes one unexpected book to re-ignite that fire in your belly. And this week, I found that book.
This week I found SCALPED.
Holy shit was that a long way to wrap around and get to the point but now that I’m here I want to sing it from the fucking mountain tops. SCALPED is awesome!!! It’s dirty, filthy crime in a dirty, filthy location. It’s violent as hell, but not in that gratuitous, trying too hard way. It’s like Deadwood, Stray Bullets and State of Grace rolled into a cigarette and sucked down like a Camel in the boys room just before 7th hour – all hotbox cherry and no pointless chemical filler.
The folks we have responsible for this book are mainly Jason Aaron, a relative newcomer to comics and R.M. Guera. Part of my love for this book is the HBO/Cinematic approach, and a huge part of that is Guera’s work, which is so reminiscent of my oft-pined for ‘Vertigo of Olde’ I have fucking flashbacks to old Hellblazers and maybe something like The Invisibles while reading it. Definitely Preacher too, because Guera is like Steve Dillon, not in the overall style but in the fact that both men must have spent extensive time touring this country’s deserts because they know how to capture the dirty, itchy frustration of unrelenting sun on paper.
I’ve ingested the first four trades in just about as many days and even though it is going to throw off my bookshelf for a while I’m hooking this one up monthly, partly because I can’t wait to find out what happens next and I want another book to do that to me each month but also because, as Mr. Ennis points out in the introduction to Vol. #2, the more people that buy it monthly the better chance it has in making it to its natural conclusion and not suffering the same fate most Vertigo books I love do****.
Scalped is the shit. ‘Nuff said.
* That band’s name was PERVERSION and if that doesn’t tell you what godawful delusions of being the next Skinny Puppy we had well then I just don’t know. The other guy, since I’m dissing people from my past openly today, went from cool Vertigo/Industrial guru to Dave Matthews/MGD frat boy. Burn in hell Bradley, burn in hell…
** Which arguably is its own entity and has nothing to do with the failure of the other X-books after CC left.
*** Not a complaint Mr. Ellis, just a truth I’m happy to accept being the stuff is so bloody awesome!!!
**** For like the thousandth time here, RIP Young Liars.