This week marked the release of Scarlet #1, the new creator-owned Marvel/Icon comic from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. While the duo were well-known for their successful run on Daredevil, I went into this book with mixed feelings. Why was that? Well, I guess you could say that it’s an example of “In Real Life Made Me Hate You”. Let’s take a step back in time, shall we?
Brian Michael Bendis was the first comic writer whose work I purchased solely because of the writer. In the past, I bought X-Men because everybody bought X-Men. I bought Batman because, well, he was Batman. Bendis, however, made me stray outside of that. I never really cared much for Avengers, since they were D-listers at the time, but Bendis got on the book, and I followed suit. While his overarching stories may not be consistent, he’s a master of dialogue. He’s pretty much popularized the “talking head” comic in the modern industry, much to the chagrin of many fanboys. I, however, LOVED his work. I read his autobiographical comics, like Total Sell-Out and Fortune & Glory, plus I even gave Powers a try (still don’t get the hype on that book). Based on Avengers and his Ultimate Marvel work, I think it was safe to say that Bendis was my favorite writer in comics. With that in mind, of course it would have been an honor for me to meet him.
Fast forward to 2008, at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Bendis was making the rare convention appearance out East, and I saw this as my chance to finally get to meet my favorite writer. I got in line for his table EARLY, as we knew he’d be signing, but no one seemed to know when. On top of that, he was doing back to back panels, which seemed to be running over schedule. I’d been to a handful of Baltimore shows, so I knew I wasn’t missing much on the floor. If you’ve seen Howard Chaykin once, then that’s all you need. Bendis, however, was the goal. I must’ve stood in that line for over 4 hours. Sure, I had some interesting fanboy conversations over the course of that time, but I still wasted the better part of the day in that line. When I finally got up to Bendis, he spent the time chatting away on his iPhone. I don’t think he even looked at me. He kinda scrawled his autograph on my comic (which, by the way, didn’t look nearly as good as the potentially fake autograph I’d bought at a show some years earlier. At least that one looked like it said “BENDIS”). Before I could really say anything to him, he handed it back and briefly moved the phone aside to say, “Here ya go, champ”, in the manner of your mom’s new boyfriend who didn’t care enough to learn your name.
Now, I know that whole thing sounds like I have a sense of geek entitlement, but I really expected more. A lot of people have asked, “Well, what did you expect him to do?” I really can’t tell you, but I certainly expected actually get to say something to him. I’m sure everybody says the same, trite “I love your work”, but isn’t that part and parcel of the convention signing experience? At least pretend he cares about his fans. Whenever you read these stories, someone in the comments will say “Well, maybe he was tired” or “‘Maybe he was having a bad day”. None of that seemed to apply here. He was happy and spry; he just wasn’t present. Never meet your heroes, kid. Anyway, my opinion of him kind of took a hit after that, while his star has only continued to rise. I was already grandfathered into his earlier series (like New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man), but I wasn’t sure I wanted to get on that horse again. Petty, I know. So, this is where I was coming from when I heard about Scarlet. Due to the buzz surrounding the book, I decided to give it a shot. In retrospect, it’s a great book that I’m not quite sure I should’ve read.
I don’t want to ruin it for you, because the story has an angle to it that should be experienced by the reader. As a quick elevator pitch, Scarlet is the story of a woman who, upon realizing that the world isn’t fair, decides that she’s going to change all of that – by any means necessary. It’s a book with a message, and it’s a potentially dangerous message. It’s almost like Falling Down, the Michael Douglas movie where one bad day pretty much sets an average Joe on a self-destructive path. I say it may not have been the book for me because of what my life has been going through as of late. It speaks to me, and it probably speaks to other readers as well. This familiarity will be good for the book’s accessibility, but do we really need to make angry people any angrier? It could almost be seen as inspirational, but what is it inspiring? It takes the notion of “The World Is Screwed Up”, but follows it up with a “So, What Are You Going To Do About It?”
Seeing as how it’s the first issue, it’s not exactly preachy, but focuses more on providing background info on Scarlet. It will be interesting to see how the book proceeds, seeing as how Bendis has said it’s not meant to be a political book. After all, this means that it will be a battle cry for a revolution that doesn’t specify the end goal. It almost sounds like an invitation to chaos, while it could also follow the notion that society has to be fully destroyed before it can be rebuilt. It’s an interesting concept, and I look forward to seeing where the book is headed. I hate to admit it, but Bendis has still got it. Maybe one day, I might get the chance to tell him that.
One thought on “Scarlet #1 – A Review?”
Wow, not cool. BMB’s attitude, not your opinion of the book, that is. I met him once at Wizard World a way long time ago, back when he was still mainly working for McFarlane and Ultimate Spider-Man was just getting off the ground. He was just a tiny bald guy hanging out in the corner of the Image uber-booth with no one to talk to.
We’ve come a long way, baby…
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