The debut issue of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s new creator-owned title is… well… exactly what you’d expect it to be. And yet I’m not sure what I make of it. Both creators are a solid bet and if, like me, you enjoyed their run on Daredevil or Spider-Woman, you sort of know what you’re going to get, but if you’re hoping to be startled by something entirely fresh and new, you may be a little under-whelmed.
Bendis comes up trumps as ever when it comes to naturalistic dialog, although in this case it really is more of a monolog, as the titular Scarlet spends the majority of the book directly addressing the reader and showing us snapshots of her life so far. This is a neat idea which has the effect of bringing us directly into the heroine’s world. We are also exposed to her emotional insecurities, giving us a sense of a three dimensional character, if not a particularly likable one. Herein lies my main gripe with this issue as an opener – in spite of the tragedy in her past, we are given very little to excuse Scarlet’s murderous actions. I can only hope that she becomes more sympathetic in coming issues, or it is going to be difficult to get behind her crusade.
Artistically there is much to recommend here. The contrast between the gritty blue tones of the urban environment and the golden hues of Scarlet’s nostalgia give us some great visual texture and there is a real sense of motion through the action sequences. The splash pages on view here are works of art in their own right, and to my mind the cover is the most exciting I’ve seen in a long while. However, as impressive as Maleev’s art always is, his sketchy, realistic style seems slightly at odds with the ‘Babe with a Gun’ theme, and some panels are perhaps too closely derived from their photographic source material for my liking, with some jarringly photographic backgrounds.
My ambivalence towards the central character aside, there is certainly much to recommend here, and it is only the high bar the creators have set for themselves which makes this feel slightly disappointing. I think this may be, like Spider-Woman before it, one to be in for the long haul- In spite of my reservations about issue 1, I will certainly pick up the next few issues… this feels like a solid base for the continuing series, and it really does feel like things will improve. I hope we get to know our heroine better, and meet more of the people in her life, be they family or fellow revolutionaries. I would give it seven out of ten, for being a solid start with much room for improvement.