The aspect of the modern revenge thriller whether it be through the Tarantino lens or even within the Liam Neeson “Taken” construct has to have a reason for being but also not take the idea too close to the bone. Tone is an interesting texture as is perspective. In “Scarlet – Book One” [Brian Michael Bendis/DC/184pgs], the protagonist herself starts off in bad ass mode simply because that is her nature. The difference here is that this 20-year-old as a character begins by talking to her audience and explaining the who, what and why even if she doesn’t quite fully understand it. This graphic novel definitely shows the approach with the texture of cause and effect which is made more undeniable by the actual element of the script and early sketches with the words included at the end of the volume. It shows the exercise and the discussion that took place to accomplish the flow of the art and story. The idea at the center is one a little of cliche: of semi innocent love lost. The difference here is that it is fueled by police corruption whom Scarlet wants to expose. Using her actual weapon of violence and using it as a pedestal for change does not make it right but does offer an interesting conundrum. Her ideas are specific and logical and she is level headed….but she is a killer who cannot turn back. This of course makes her the balance of both a pariah and a martyr which is the trajectory she is on at the end of this volume. Memories keep flashing in her head in what could have been done differently. The artist dictates that many of the frames were designed to be anti-cinematic to specifically focus the viewer on Scarlet’s words. That said there is still a sense of lurid color that sweeps through the art specifically in a sequence where Scarlet gives a corrupt officer his comeuppance. “Scarlet Book One” is a slightly different take on the vigilante but with an identity that is its own.
By Tim Wassberg