The second part of “High Lonesome” shifts gears, completely ignoring the events of last issue to deliver the story of Diesel, the violent white man who wants to be a Native (he claims to be one-sixteenth Kickapoo). He’s in prison following events from earlier in the series and this issue focuses on a specific event from his childhood, one that shaped who he is as an adult.
“Scalped” #26 is a rare sight on the shelves as it is completely self-contained and stand-alone. Knowing who Diesel is adds to the story, of course, but it can just as easily be read as a short story about a man in prison and a moment in his childhood. It’s so divorced from everything else that it’s really remarkable how well it both fits into the overall “Scalped” story and stands off by itself. No other characters from the series are mentioned, and that adds to it in many ways.
In comics, too often, even when the goal is to tell a stand-alone story, references to other characters are unavoidable, always adding that slight reliance on what happened elsewhere. Not here. Why is Diesel in jail? By the end of the issue, it’s apparent that he’s a violent man, so his imprisonment is not surprising. Other than that, this issue really could be given to someone who’s never read “Scalped” and they should get just as much enjoyment out of it as a devoted “Scalped” fan.
The story itself is told excellently through both the writing and art. Davide Furnò is so perfect here, able to draw Diesel (or, Britt as he was named by his parents) as a child very well and, more surprising, consistently the same age. He always looks the same height, has the same sort of facial features, and, actually, looks like a real kid. Not only that, Furnò gets a wide range of emotion out of young Britt. It looks like a combination of colors on pencils and inks, which gives the art a very unique look as well, suiting the story for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on.
Aaron’s writing is expertly paced and uses captions well, rarely delivering information that’s readily available in the art. He hits the right cross between hopeful naïveté in Britt and rash emotion. Britt wants to be an Indian more than anything and is offered his chance by people we know are just messing with him. How Aaron follows that betrayal up is shocking. How Aaron ties Britt’s reaction to Diesel’s actions in the present takes things a step further.
As much as I mass Dashiell Bad Horse as the focus of the series, it’s hard to complain when “Scalped” is this good as an ensemble piece with the focus roams according to its own whims. What’s more, I’m simply astonished at how well Jason Aaron and Davide Furnò tell a self-contained, stand alone short story here that is gripping and sucks the reader in.