Vol. 2, Issue #1 Feb. 2nd - Feb. 15th, 2007

Comic Book Review:
Scalped #1 by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guéra (Vertigo Comics)
By: Wilhelm Murg

“Scalped” is a great story about modern Native American politics, and it has two counts going against it; the creators are not Native, and it’s a comic book. Sadly, it was probably necessary that the story had to come from outside of the Native American world; a lot of the tribes are adapting socialism for their governments in an attempt to control their people. By doling out casino money out on social programs, you can keep the people on the payroll and thus control their actions, be it monitoring their drug addiction or keeping them from speaking out against tribal corruption. Because of that philosophy, a lot of Native artists are in danger of losing their voices as they become more dependent on tribal financing.

Out of the blue comes this continuing series, “Scalped.” The story revolves around Dashiell “Dash” Bad Horse, a Native American who was raised in poverty on a Lakota Reservation. He escaped the rez, but ends up sucked back into it and a world of crime perpetuated by the tribe’s chief, who runs a goon squad and exploits his own people through the tribe’s new casino. Bad Horse is fulfilling prophecy while he kicks ass in the name of karmic retribution.

The details of the characters are dead-on accurate for life on a reservation, including the tribal policeman who will turn on his own mother and the power mad chief who uses the police to harass his enemies. I worked in the Native American journalism world for four years, specializing in tribal corruption, and I have yet to meet a chief or tribal cop that I would turn my back on. This all plays out against a backdrop of a drunken and crank addicted tribe out on the reservation with no financial hope for their future.

What makes the comic stand out is not only does it show Native Americans as people living and breathing in the contemporary world (which is a rarity) but it also represent the viewpoint of a lot of native people; especially the radical intelligentsia that never get interviewed in the local paper. While tribal leaders go on about such trivial matters as the mascot issue (it’s a knee-jerk issue that turns attention away from their lack of leadership) the more profound story is here in a comic book.

A friend of mine worked for a gambling machine company and described the chiefs as Mafioso bosses. Ironically, writer Jason Aaron’s concept was to create a Native version of “The Sopranos,” and he has succeeded brilliantly, with the story enhanced by the gritty vision by ‘Heavy Metal” artist R.M. Guéra. It’s highly recommended for people who want to see a story where Indians are portrayed as something other than happy hobbits out on the prairie.

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