As regular readers of Ich Liebe Comics! already know, I've been a big cheerleader of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's Scarlet since it started last year. Scarlet is a creator owned title by Bendis and Maleev in which the title character, Scarlet, witnesses something bad happening to a friend by crooked police officers, so she decides to be proactive and sets upon a course so that this doesn't continue to happen to other people. Scarlet is set in Portland, where Bendis lives and is based on things he's seen happen. What I liked about this title was that it took place in the world we live in, nothing fantastical happens (none of the characters have super powers) and Bendis employs one of my favorite story telling devices, breaking the fourth wall, in which the character (or characters) speak to the reader, in this case Scarlet is trying to engage us to participate in what she's doing, which is to start a revolution.
Up until the newest issue of Scarlet (#5, which came out today), I was totally engrossed with this series, which is unlike anything else being done in comics today. The set up of this series was done really well and we've gotten to know what makes Scarlet tick. Issues #3 and #4 really got turned things up and it looked like issue #5 was going to really advance this narrative, but then....
Issue #5 of Scarlet is basically just a rehash of what happens in issue #4, there's NO advancement of the storyline. Basically, I think that this issue could have been three or four pages tops added upon issue #4 and this issue definitely doesn't work as the end of the first arc (which I didn't know or remember that this issue was going to be the end of the first arc). So while I think that Scarlet is still a well done, different kind of comic book and that it could still become a book that people will talk about as being a pinnacle of this medium, right now we have a book (Scarlet) that is still very stillborn and in my opinion will not work as a first volume, rather it feels like the first half (at most) of a first collected volume.
I'd have to say that it's possible that my expectations for Scarlet were too high and that I wish Scarlet (Bendis) would have by now provided some answers for us, the readers, in how to change the world around us. This is of course an unrealistic expectation, but I really did buy into Bendis' text in the back of Scarlet #1 that this was going to be a really charged narrative that was going to push the boundaries of what is possible if people got involved. I'd also have to admit that my frustration with Scarlet #5 (and I guess Scarlet as a whole thus far) is also similar with my frustration with the current state of affairs in the U.S. and the world.
Call me naive, but I really thought that we would be entering a new world, with new ways of thinking about how to make the U.S. work better for more people with the election of Barack Obama as President of the U.S. While I am still an Obama supporter, and definitely think things would be worse for more people if he wasn't elected, right now I'm discouraged by how much he has to compromise to get anything done and how much shit he had on his plate from the previous administration that is impairing his ability to enact what he would like to do. There's also the discouraging presence of lobbying groups in the U.S. which seem to really drive what gets passed and what doesn't get passed here in the U.S. and the insane amounts it takes to fund political campaigns. I realize that we are living in a world in which change (especially in terms of technology and globalization) are ever increasing and that many countries are going through very volatile political times. I also realize that it's going to take some time before the U.S. and the world adjusts to these changes, but I'm seeing no evidence of new ways of thinking happening that will get us on the path to dealing with these changes. I voted, I take part in protests, I try to dialogue with others about my ideologies, but I'm increasingly feeling like I'm speaking to the wind and wish there was someone or someones who would point me in a direction in which I could better, more constructively contribute to making "things" better.
I thought Brian Michael Bendis with Scarlet was going to be one of these people. I still think he (and Scarlet) may become a guiding light, but with the "end" of book one of Scarlet, I'm beginning to think that Bendis may just be treading his liberal wheels like the rest of us hippies that want a better world, but don't know how to make it happen. On the Scarlet front, we're not going to see another issue until June at the earliest and with Bendis and Maleeve starting a new Moon Knight series in May, I'm going to guess that we'll see less and less issues of Scarlet (and even fear that it will be abandoned altogether). They've said that they're going to do Scarlet and Moon Knight on alternating months, but the cynic in me thinks that that's what they'd like to see happen, but I don't think will happen. As I was so disappointed by Scarlet #5 being a rerun of #4, I'm also thinking that what Bendis is trying to do with this book is too big for him, just as President Obama's tasks are too much for his idealism.
I don't know if others who have read Scarlet #5 feel the same as I do or if I'm just bringing in some crazy expectations of what I'd like Scarlet to be, so I hope others will share with me their take after reading this issue either here or on my personal facebook page (Ralph Mathieu) or my store facebook page (Alternate Reality Comics, Las Vegas).
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