Scalped #18: Falls Down
June 21, 2008
Over the last year or so, during which time Scalped has made its way onto my essential reading list, Jason Aaron has given us murder, betrayal, manipulation, greed, revenge, violence, and general depravity and inhumanity. So one might not think there’s a lot left to shock readers with, but Aaron comes up with a good one: Hope.
The latest issue of Scalped is a standalone story about Officer Franklin Falls Down, the one good, honest cop on a crooked reservation. Falls Down is not having a good time lately: It’s bad enough trying to be a good cop when your boss is practically a gangster, but it got worse when he was shot in an ambush a few months ago. Oh, and it turns out his wife died in a car accident several years earlier.
So things are not good as Falls Down prepares to return to work, plagued by dreams and memories of the horrors he’s seen, in his own life and on the job. And the first day back starts off poorly, as a poorly-executed arrest results in Falls Down getting knocked out and having his gun stolen by the suspect. All of which leaves Falls Down wondering if he should call it quits.
It’s probably not much of a spoiler to reveal that he doesn’t, but the motivation, which comes in a vision, is one of the most beautiful and eloquent sequences I’ve read in a comic in some time. What keeps Falls Down going isn’t revenge or anger, but hope and faith.
“This is where life tried to crush me,” he says as he relives his wife’s death. “But it failed. … Beauty is all around us here. You jut have to fight for it.” Accompanied by some gorgeous art by guest artist Davide Furno, it’s a spectacular scene. I’ve been a big fan of Jason Aaron since The Other Side – heck, the guy writes a good Ghost Rider – but I didn’t know he was this good.
Aaron’s greatest accomplishment on Scalped has been the way he’s told the story from different points of view. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and Aaron gives everyone their own unique perspectives. Falls Down sees Dash Bad Horse, the main protagonist of the series, as a reckless punk. To Bad Horse, Chief Red Crow is a brutal thug, while Red Crow sees himself as, if not a hero, then at least a man with noble intentions. Aaron did this marvelously with Casino Boogie, the second story arc, and it’s good to see him continue. Scalped isn’t really a crime book, but an increasingly intricate character piece that executes well on the both the big and small scale.
And speaking of “I didn’t know he was that good”, check out Tim Bradstreet’s cover. Bradstreet’s a fine artist, but most of his covers have blended together – how many times do we really need to see the Punisher standing against a wall looking tough? But his work here, as well as on the next two Scalped covers, is far more diverse and interesting.
It seems like every five or six issues, Scalped takes a big step forward. While not abandoning the tone of the series, he’s given another character another angle, added another lens for viewing the series. It’s also a pretty self-contained story, an excellent sample for anyone who’s still not reading the book.