The reaction to the first issue of Scarlet‘s revival was a divided one. It seemed that many who had gone through the first volume, the Marvel series, seemed a bit let down. For those who were new to the character, it seemed exciting and full of potential. I suspect that after this issue, that divide will become even worse, as Scarlet moves forward but not in the way that I was hoping.
At the end of the last issue, we were left on a major cliffhanger: the President himself (herself?) wanted to talk to Scarlet. This was finally going to take us in an interesting direction and tread new ground that hadn’t already been traveled in the previous iteration of the series. However, as we jump in, the conversation never happens. Instead, Scarlet has a face-off with the messenger, who as she reveals through one of her trademark fourth-wall conversations, reminds her of her boyfriend Gabriel, the original catalyst for Scarlet becoming who she is. Later on, as Scarlet makes the call to take the messenger, Troy, hostage, one of her supporters, Kit, decides to act in a way from which there is no turning back. Simultaneously, Scarlet reveals that she isn’t in the best place mentally and we see she has to lean on others. This leads to one big breakdown at the end — as the external peace breaks, internal peace for Scarlet also seems to break.
I have to admit, the tease of the President being on the line and then not going through with it was a huge letdown for me. Arguably, bringing in the highest authority figure possible into the game would have been a major escalation and could have really taken us somewhere we have not gone before. Instead, so far we have yet to interact with any authority figures in this volume, which is a big weakness and gap compared to the original series. The stakes just don’t feel high enough and this was a huge missed opportunity by having Scarlet say she wasn’t interested in talking.
The good news is that Scarlet herself is still 100% recognizable. Her breakdown and descent is totally believable and consistent with everything that has happened to this point. It is humanly impossible for anyone to go through what she has gone through and not snap eventually, and now she appears to be near her breaking point.
The supporting characters, though, are what continues to make this book feel really boring. I’m still waiting for some rich supporting character to emerge that is as fleshed out as the ones we had in the previous volume. Instead, we get an attempt to do that with Kit that doesn’t work as well. Just based on her attitude and a few words uttered in the previous issue, we are supposed to sympathize with her conflict at the end of the issue where she is put in a difficult spot that drives her to tears? Also, the soldiers being portrayed as nothing more than silhouettes (in both issues now) might be effective from one angle, but how much more effective would it have been if this issue would have actually given us a closer look at them and added some humanity to the enemy? It would have made Kit’s emotion that much more believable rather than what it is now, where we have to assume we know what she went through.
The art remains stellar. Maleev is able to take advantage of the passage of time to draw some distinctions between his art style in the previous series with now. In particular, he uses a really cool technique of emphasizing red, yellow and gray that actually foreshadows the beautiful final panel, which is brilliant in drawing the parallels between the mental and physical war. He also throws in a little “blink and you’ll miss” touch with all of the “good guys'” eyes looking just the slightest bit bloodshot. Maybe I’m seeing things, but this stood out to me during the confrontation with Troy the messenger.
The title character’s characterization and art continue to match and even progress past where they were in the previous volume and keep this series passable. However, the bad continues to drag on this series; far from the story not moving forward, it feels like things have actually regressed from the original Marvel volume. A continued lack of development for supporting characters and very little exploration of the enemy, two elements that were vital to the previous run, make this book less and less interesting by the issue.