Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run on “Daredevil” was one of my favorite comics storylines ever. So when word came that they would be working together again on an extended project (and not just a fill in issue of something here and there) I was certainly excited. Is “Scarlet” the same kind of comic that their “Daredevil” was? Well, not really, but it’s not bad either. Just different.
“Scarlet” has been telling the story of a lone woman looking to avenge the murder of her boyfriend by, basically, taking down the entire law enforcement system in America. This issue serves a transition between Scarlet’s actions graduating to murder and her stepping onto a grander stage, from working on her own to starting a movement. Bendis also introduces the people who will, one assumes, be working to take Scarlet down.
But these are the broad strokes. Bendis and Maleev are at their best when depicting the moments between the big shifts in plot. One of my favorite moments in their “Daredevil” run was Foggy leaving Matt Murdock a cup of coffee in a police interrogation room. This issue of Scarlet has several moments like this. They work not just because Maleev is an incredible artist, miraculously skilled at capturing the subtlest aspects of human emotion, but because as storytellers, the writer and artist are expert at pacing out the storytelling to allow these moments to have the most impact possible.
If there’s anything to slight “Scarlet” for, it would be its slow-going pace. It’s understandable that it has to move this way, as it’s just as much about the subtle turns of character as it is about Scarlet’s ongoing mission to change pretty much everything everywhere. But it feels like a comic that would (and probably will) read better when collected. This sort of phenomenon feels more acute these days when prices for individual issues are so high. The fact that Maleev can draw panels you can linger on for like twenty minutes at a time certainly helps, though.
Overall, “Scarlet” is a very different kind of comic than Bendis and Maleev’s previous work together. Ostensibly it might be seen as a comic with a “message” (though its anti-establishment…ness is a bit too cartoonish to be taken seriously), these are two creators who excel at depicting the most human aspects of drama. Regardless of where her story takes her, Scarlet will always be an interesting character to watch.