After an almost two year break between issues, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Scarlet #6 has finally been published. Scarlet is the story of a young girl in Portland, Oregon, whose boyfriend was killed by corrupt cops. Her righteous anger against corruption in public institutions fuels her drive to change things for the better, inadvertently becoming the icon of a burgeoning new American Revolution.
The story of an indignant public fed up with institutionalised injustice and abuse of power was first conceived as a dystopian future back in 09/10, but Bendis and Maleev found their book becoming reality with the Occupy Movements emerging across the Western world while Arab nations everywhere began revolting in earnest. Scarlet’s world was now our world. It was no longer darkly futuristic, it was eerily prescient and timely.
As Bendis explains in his afterword to the issue, he was shocked that the story he was writing was coming to life and that, coupled with changes in his personal life (he became a dad, as did Maleev), led to putting the series on hiatus while he figured out where to go next.
So where does Scarlet go now that she’s become a figurehead of a movement and wanted fugitive (after the murders of two police officers)?
Scarlet’s gotten followers since we saw her last, and not the Twitter kind. They are similarly disenchanted young people hell bent on changing the world. We’re introduced to Isis whose father was beaten to death by police after a case of mistaken identity. She is another Scarlet, a victim of police brutality whose unjust actions changed her life for the worse. Scarlet and her followers take over a morning cooking show being broadcast on live TV, announcing a gathering later that week where Scarlet will address her followers in person – and who knows what will ensue?
And that’s basically it for this issue. It seems deliberately slow-moving as if Bendis wants to re-introduce Scarlet and her world to the audience before making big changes to the story while also laying the groundwork for the second story arc. I wasn’t as impressed with this issue as I’d hoped and maybe it was because of the TV station takeover scene.
In an age of social media where Youtube videos are shown regularly on television and Facebook and Twitter are similarly ubiquitous, was taking over a TV station for a live broadcast really necessary? Why not post a video on Youtube so it’s message is readily accessible for anyone, anytime? Or make a Facebook page or tweet? I realise none of these alternatives are as dramatic as the TV station takeover but it would make more sense, while making the exchange between Scarlet and the TV show host feel a lot less forced.
That said, this exchange was my favourite part of the issue – the host asking Scarlet if she really shot two police officers and Scarlet answering that she did no such thing – “I killed men dressed as police officers. A police officer has taken an oath to protect us. To serve us. Once that oath is broken, and these men broke that oath… they are no longer police officers – they just dress up as them”. It’s a great moment.
Scarlet feels like she’s really grown up since Issue #5 and her voice in this issue is very strong and assertive. It’s especially noticeable in the issue’s opening two pages, her white captions against completely black pages speaking directly to the reader – “Oh that’s right… you’ve been occupying… How did that work out for you? You tried your way. Now I’m going to try mine”.
I think if Bendis had taken advantage of the social media angle he could’ve gotten more into this issue. Like if Scarlet made a Youtube video, she could be both speaking directly to the reader and the people in her world, clearly outlining her rationales for her actions and calling everyone to join her for the gathering. With the extra space this choice frees up, maybe introduce some more of the new characters by telling their backstories. It’s just with the guns/hostages thing, the story feels like the kind of comic book story we’ve all read before (albeit without the superheroes) and loses some of its freshness as a result.
Scarlet #6 is a promising return from one of mainstream comics’ most consistent creative teams, Bendis and Maleev. For all Scarlet fans, like myself, it’s great to have this series back with a (hopefully) regular release schedule so we can see where Scarlet’s story is headed. Here’s hoping Issue #7 isn’t 2 years away and is full of energy and ideas. The Revolution returned – continues!
This article was first posted on February 14, 2013