Posted by: Abhay Khosla on April 7, 2013
Scarlet #6 by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, and Chris Eliopoulos, published by Marvel Icon, released February 2013:
This was one of the damn oddest comic-reading experiences for me of recent memory. First, there was the surprise of even seeing it– this was a comic that had just stopped coming out, mid-story, ages and ages ago (2011, according to the internet). I just found it sitting on a shelf, unheralded, nearly two years after #5. Letter page promises #7 in March; if that came out, it got by me…? It’s been more than 10 years since Bendis-Maleev Daredevil launched; since then: Halo, crossover tie-ins, Spiderwoman, Moon Knight…? For a team that decent, that celebrated, back-when, a run of (mostly) also-ran’s. What happened?
But more strange: Scarlet is a comic about a woman who runs around shooting police officers because she hates police corruption. Uh, which is a thing that actually happened: that one guy, Chris Dorner…? Remember him? He wrote a manifesto which accused the police of being dirty (also: how he wanted to have sex with Laura Prepon and how he regretted that he would likely not survive to watch the Hangover 3), and then went and murdered some cops, etc. That totes happened. This comic ends with a rally inspired by Scarlet’s cop-killing antics; in real life… I wasn’t paying too much attention, but the way I remember it: the police shot up a bunch of random people; found him in a cabin; lit the cabin on fire (“inadvertently“); yadda yadda, he blew his brains out rather than burn to death…? I didn’t follow Dorner too close, all happened during a busy time in my life, may have some details wrong and I apologize, but still: boy, this made for an extremely odd reading experience, one obviously unintended by its authors and yet maybe unavoidable for readers. (Though of the four reviews I glanced at, only one mentioned him, so … maybe not…?). I found it a very strange time, returning to this comic’s world after all that … hoopla….?
So: a serialized comic’s narrative unexpectedly matches up with current events– that’s a thing that happens sometimes. What do you think? Surely, it has to effect how we read it, whether we like it or not, whether we want it to or not. Does it make the story better that the main character’s antics actually now seem somewhat more plausible? Or, alternately, because this story presents events so different from the reality of how you know similar things played out in real life, does it make the story worse?
At the moment, if forced to choose, I’d vote “better.” It seems suggestive that Bendis, Maleev and Eliopoulos were at least “asking the right questions,” at some point in time. Even if accidental, even if mere coincidence, it at least creates a pleasant illusion that there’s something– something?– at the root of this thing worth examining. Of course, the Dorner story was many things, but not great fiction. The synchronicity of current events alone isn’t enough fissionable material to solve this comic’s more pressing issues, namely: is the redhead an interesting character? Her goals are extraordinarily vague and intangible, forcing our attention too much on society’s response to her which now only defies plausibility all the more thanks to Dorner et al. Practically-speaking, if she is an interesting character, I don’t remember why anymore– 2011’s too far. But so, the Dorner thing, it’s something.
That’d be my answer, at least at this moment in time. However, as the story progresses, will we notice its discontinuity with reality more and more? What’s it going to be like not with #6, but #9, #11, #13, as it becomes clearer how much they’ve “gotten wrong” about how things would play out should a “cop-killer with reasons” gain national media attention? Hot damn, it’s an exceptionally odd situation for a comic to find itself in. But I guess only if the comic actually comes out, which is really just anyone’s guess, at this point… Maybe?