There are merits to this volume. Bendis’ dialogue, now that he’s back to having real people talk to each other, feels more energized and believable than it has in a while. Maleev’s art perfectly captures the grimness of the story while taking periodic stylistic departures to remind you of his range. There’s also a certain appeal in seeing the series tap into current events and letting the rage in them boil over into a full-on riot. None of this matters in my final consideration of this volume. The simple fact is that Bendis and Maleev’s failure to get the issues in this volume out in a timely fashion has left me convinced that they don’t care as much about this series as its incendiary subject matter would indicate.
It’s honestly kind of amazing how prescient/current this volume manages to be. Here you have a protagonist in a comic dedicated to a very specific cause — the rooting out of bad cops from the police force — after police killings of unarmed civilians has been a recurring headline in real life for well over a year now. The two issues in this volume that hail from 2013 feel even more relevant now as Scarlet digs into her crusade. If that wasn’t enough we see the backstory for one of her followers, an African-American woman named Isis, and find out that her father was killed by police after he was stopped and dared to raise his voice while they were questioning him. These moments tap into the current zeitgeist in a way that’s scary, and it makes me wonder if the scenes from the back half of the book as the people revolt against the police won’t be equally relevant in a few years.
There’s also the parts where members of the FBI and police profess to be taken completely off guard with how Scarlet’s message is resonating with these people. While they recognize Scarlet as a cop-killer, she’s still able to draw a crowd of thousands to a rally when she and her crew break into a TV broadcasting studio to tell everyone who agrees with her to meet up at a specific place. It’s almost amusing to consider how these people in power can’t understand how the message of an obvious (to them) villain is resonating with so many people. That kind of failure on their part is uncomfortably familiar in light of recent events as well.
By all rights, these elements should have made this volume an electrifying read. There are some logic issues that do detract from the overall experience. Thing such as the ability of Scarlet and her gang to waltz into that TV studio to broadcast their message without a hint of trouble or resistance. As well as the fact that the next step in her plan is to make the mayor of Portland be the one who answers for this problem. That in particular seems like a weirdly specific and laughably small-scale way to continue her fight.
However, these issues pale in light of the simple fact that the publication schedule for the issues collected in this volume doesn’t give me any faith that Bendis and Maleev will be able to follow up with this in any meaningful way. Vol. 1 came out back in July 2011. Issues #6 & #7 arrived in February and July of 2013, respectively. Issues #8-10 were then published over May and June of this year. If you were reading this series in single issue form, then you have my condolences. In my case, if you’re going to make me wait five years between volumes then I had better get a transcendent read out of the experience. Vol. 2 of “Scarlet,” for all of its current relevance, is not at that level. Furthermore, if you are going to make a reader wait five years to find out what happens next in your series, ending the volume on a cliffhanger with the promise of more to come in the next year is just going to piss them off!
In fact, “Scarlet’s” future may not lie in comics at all. It was announced earlier this year that the series would be adapted to TV on Cinemax with a yet to be specified air date. Even with the reduced episode counts for cable shows, there’s a pretty good chance the first season could run through all of the existing material from the comics. At which point the people behind the show would have to start determining what happens next on their own terms. That is, unless Bendis and Maleev actually make good on their promise to deliver more “Scarlet” next year and have new issues come out on a timely basis. Though it’s very likely we will get a new #1 issue when the TV series arrives, I doubt we’ll see subsequent issues come out in a timely manner. History is kinda with me on this: Bendis and Oeming couldn’t do it for “Powers” when that series made its debut.
So if Scarlet’s crusade does sound like something you’d have an interest in, you’re probably better off waiting to see if the TV series is any good before checking out the comics. As of now, there are only two admittedly good volumes in the series out right now with the third a potential mirage on the horizon. Back in my review of vol. 1, I wrote that my main reservation about it was that Bendis and Maleev’s schedule meant that it would be a while before we got a vol. 2. After all this waiting, I wish I could go back to that time and tell myself to just skip buying that volume all together.