At the center of “Scalped” #40 is a four-page scene that isn’t like any other scene done before in “Scalped.” In it, Wade, Dash Bad Horse’s father, is confronted by Red Crow (flanked with two bodyguards) over his return to the reservation. It’s a playful scene with Wade clearly having fun screwing with Red Crow, because he’s not afraid of him. He’s not trying to make Red Crow think that he’s not afraid, he simply doesn’t care. But, he also isn’t looking to make Red Crow afraid of him. He’s just Red Crow’s old rival for Gina Bad Horse’s affections and he won, a fact that he likes rubbing in Red Crow’s face. It’s so low stakes compared to the regular death and violence that permeate “Scalped” that a simple, playful scene like this stands out to such a degree.
That, and the rest of the issue revolves around it as Wade and Red Crow’s children both deal with their personal problems. For both, it’s detoxing and getting clean, but for very different reasons. Dash needs to get clean so that Red Crow won’t get rid of him for being a liability, while Red Crow’s daughter, Carol, is doing it because she’s pregnant. Most of the issue revolves around their struggles as we see how both Wade and Red Crow produced children that wound up in the same place. It makes their interaction at the center of the issue funny in an absurd way. They’re trying to tear the other down through snide remarks and casual accusations, trying to vie for dominance, but they’re not so different. Or, at least, they weren’t.
Wade doesn’t look like he fits into this comic. RM Guéra draws him in a trenchcoat, tie, and dress shirt, making him look like a private detective. He looks like a Native Humphrey Bogart stepped into this darker, harsher world, drinking his drink, not really caring what anyone thinks, just wanting to get to his business, and maybe make a few smartass remarks along the way. He’s got a funny, cartoonish face that does quite fit his look when you first see him, but it works as the pages go by and he loses his goofy grin. Guéra does some of his best work in those four pages as Wade and Red Crow dance around one another.
The scene comes in two parts as Aaron uses the space wisely. There’s the playful first half where the problem seems to be Gina and Dash, and how they were Wade’s, not Red Crow’s, but it gets more serious on the third page when Wade asks if Red Crow killed Gina. He doesn’t seem to care too much, even offering Red Crow an out by saying he would understand if he did have her killed, but it does make things serious in a hurry. Wade comes off as more dangerous than he appears and something of a wild card now that he’s resurfaced. We don’t know his agenda, but we do know that he doesn’t really see Red Crow as anything other than the guy who wanted to be him years ago.
Most of “Scalped” #40 is struggle and pain and misery, and it’s done very well as usual, but it doesn’t stand out like the playful, fun four-page scene between Red Crow and Wade. Jason Aaron and RM Guéra continually produce fantastic comics and it’s easy to take them for granted, so they like to remind us all how good they are by mixing things up like they do here. Forty issues in and this series is still a constant surprise