Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scalped #35

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Danijel Zezelj

It might seem a little early to cast votes for the best comic of 2010, but I feel confident after reading this book in saying that the bar this year has just been raised incredibly high.

Aaron gives us a stand-alone story about an elderly couple, Mance and Hazel, who live out at the far end of the reservation. They have managed to eke out a simple, subsistence lifestyle, which has brought them much happiness and satisfaction. As they have been aging, they have been finding it increasingly difficult to 'take in the garden', and set aside enough food to last them the winter. They are a proud pair, and find the indignities of age and indigence equally shaming.

The story is told in both of their voices (subtly lettered by Steve Wands), and Aaron quickly establishes them as strong individuals. Almost every page of this book is fraught with emotion. The scene where Mance goes to receive government nutrition aid is one of the most searing and effective things I've read in ages.

Zezelj's work is perfect for this issue. His thick lines perfectly evoke the age and hard-scrabble existences of the characters. I've always liked his work, but this is one of the best things I've ever seen him do.

Scalped has been criticized for its negative portrayal of Aboriginal life in the United States, and I think this issue, with its honest and open portrayal of poverty on the reservation, works to silence that criticism. I have enjoyed this series from its beginning, but this is by far the best issue of the book to date. I love that Aaron is taking a step back from his story to give us a richer understanding of life on the Prairie Rose Reservation.

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