Ok, I have mixed feelings about this comic. As a comic book it's decent. Actually, it's pretty good.The comic is written by Brian Michael Bendis and the art is by Alex Maleev. The dialogue is solid and the art is GREAT, but as a piece of art that is part of the zeitgeist, I have some questions about it.
The story is set in modern day Portland,OR. Scarlet is a young woman who's has just killed an corrupt policeman. She turns to the reader and tells us her story. She explains that the system is rigged to favor the corrupt and the rich. The system is broken she informs us and she means to fix it. Here Bendis does well in what is really his forte, introspective character driven pieces. We learn a little about Scarlet's background and we completely understand her perspective. We understand her doubts and questions, we understand her ambitions. All in all it's a decent set up for future issues.
The art by Maleev is FANTASTIC. It is really wonderful to look at. It is gritty and "realistic" yet at the same impressionistic. I don't know to what extent Maleev uses modern tools like photo refs,computers or photoshop, but it seems he uses them extremely well. As a reader I'm pulled into the visual world he's created. I don't think, "where'd he trace that from". I'm going to embarrass myself with this comparison, but it it's like old school hip-hop. The best DJs and producers were able to take samples you knew and make something fresh and unique out of them. That's how I feel looking at Maleev's pages. I know that's a model and there's a city scape he pulled from somewhere, but he makes it work and I buy it for the duration of the story.
Here's where I have issues. In the back matter, the interview with Brian Bendis where he talks about the inspiration for the story, he talks about what volatile times we live in. He mentions revolution. He mentions political protests that occur in Portland and says something like "yeah, what if some of these people instead of protesting peacefully took up arms?" My question is "what do you mean WHAT IF? People do that NOW! On the left and the right. What about the protests at the G-8 summits where police have to be called in because of anarchists vandalizing property? What about those "christians" who wanted to kill policemen and then kill more at the funeral because they wanted to strike at the government? Don't tell me you've forgotten about Tim McVeigh...But he story on the pages could be any vigilante action movie superhero origin story from the last 30 years. It seems that Bendis wants to have his revolution icing and eat his non-political cake at the same time. On the one hand I can understand not wanting to do a comic that's a preachy manifesto, but why talk up your story as if it's got something important to say about the times we live in if you don't have some point you're trying to make? Hell, 40 years ago Stan Lee had no problem addressing social concerns in Marvel comics. Whether it was fighting the communists, dealing with racism or drugs, or acknowledging Viet Nam in his stories. Some of those stories may have been naive, but at least Stan was willing to present a point of view.
So, yeah...as a comic book, Scarlet #1 is a good solid set up to an urban action thriller. I'll probably pick up the next few issues to see where it's going. As a work of art that reflect the times it was created in...meh.