Scarlet is a vigilante who is determined to fight back against a corrupt system and she uses violence for change. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, who is known for his skill in writing character’s dialogue, Scarlet is a deliberately provocative story meant to push boundaries. Originally released in 2010, it is being re-released for it’s timely story line during this #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and Women’s March era, and I obtained a copy through NetGalley.
Scarlet is living life as a typical Portland teen when she and her boyfriend get targeted by a dirty cop’s drug pat down. When her boyfriend punches the officer and they make a run for it, they are followed and shot at. Her boyfriend dies, and Scarlet is sent to the hospital in a coma. The police cover themselves by painting the couple as drug dealers and the officers are hailed as heroes who saved the community from a drug cartel. When Scarlet awakens, she is furious and decides she wants revenge.
The gimmick is that Scarlet breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader. Thus, the narrative is from her perspective and she is sharing what she wants you to know, so you get her spin on the action. This mostly works, but at times it’s a bit pretentious. Scarlet isn’t always likable, and can definitely be perceived as an anti-hero. Her unsavory ‘violence is the answer’ motto is tempered by the realization that some big changes in our world have only come to fruition through violence. Martin Luther King Jr was able to further the Civil Rights Movement through love and non-violent means, but he was counterbalanced (and helped) by Malcolm X’s methods, as Gandhi was also helped by radicals. This is an uncomfortable truth that should be further delved into.
The artwork is stylized with an edgy noir vibe. Mostly drawn in black and white or with a muted earthen color palette, some splashes of color include Scarlet’s red hair, blood and occasional details such as a pride flag. The art is sketchy at times, but also includes photographic type detail. Artist Alex Maleev is fond of closeups of people’s faces, which can be hit or miss at times, but his unique style is a good match to the story.
This series is worth looking into further to see if Bendis finesses this culturally relevant story and develops Scarlet into more than a gun-toting cop killing hottie. I look forward to Scarlet moving from vigilante to true revolutionary.