Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Scarlet
by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
Icon Comics, 2011

The back cover asks “What will the world look like when someone stands up and says, ‘Enough’?” It could also have asked “What happens when the Eisner-award winning writer of Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, Alias and Powers reads too many issues of Adbusters and decides to do his own version of V for Vendetta set in hipster central Portland, Oregon, starring a psychotic Manic Pixie Dream Tank Girl?”

It’s, er, very topical, with street protests and struggling against institutionalized corruption, but despite Bendis’ masterful grasp of narration and story construction, Scarlet is as subtle as a brick. Bendis has proved repeatedly that he’s capable of more satirical and intelligent work than this exploitative rubbish.

Maleev (his primary collaborator on Daredevil) dutifully provides the excellent artwork, restricted to a desaturated palette with streaks of red, derived from heavily-treated photos of posed models. The book also contains 13 pages of script (which is pure padding) and 30 pages of covers and sketches, which is rather more worthwhile. One of the covers was censored by the Man, because raised middle fingers are too racy for mainstream comics. Who the fingers were being raised at is less clear.

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