I've read a lot of comic books in my life. Scalped is among the best.
Never actually read this one, even though I gather the debate these days is whether 100 Bullets, Criminal or Scalped is the best noir comic since Sin City. Last week I figured I'd finally take the plunge. Now I'm addicted.
I love 100 Bullets and Criminal. Scalped is so, so, so much better, and I'm only on the fifth collected book. It's the difference between The Wire and Homicide. And that's where Scalped's real peer group is: on TV.
So, really quick and spoiler-free: Scalped takes place on a South Dakota Indian reservation. This particular reservation is run by Lincoln Red Crow, a former AIM activist turned tribal chief. Once Red Crow was a thuggish revolutionary. Now he's a gangster dictator -- except he believes, deeply, that he does what he must in order to protect his Lakota tribe. One of his cops/enforcers is Dashiell Bad Horse, the estranged son of Red Crow's longtime rival Gina. Bad Horse is back on the rez out of the blue for the first time in 15 years, and he's got a secret. There's a murder mystery running at the heart of the entire story, and the cast of characters, from the marginals to the centrals to the marginal-turned-centrals, is sublime. Scalped does for the rez what The Wire did for urban America. (Can't really say "Baltimore" because the rez in question is fictional.) Creator Jason Aaron says the comic will end soon, at issue 60, on his terms.
At that point, some production team simply must turn Scalped into a TV show. HBO. AMC. Showtime. It doesn't matter. It's exceptionally rich, unbelievably dark, socially relevant, bleakly humorous and extraordinary. The Walking Dead -- which I also love, as a comic and a TV show -- is Law & Order. At the risk of repetition, Scalped is The Wire. (Yes, yes, Scalped and Walking Dead are two different genres, arbitrarily linked because they're both comics. But that's all producers care about anyway when they're pitching, so let's be results-oriented, yeah?)