For the past few months Scalped has taken a bit of detour. This isn't to say there has been a dip in quality on the title–far from it. Instead Jason Aaron has chosen to shift sideways, concentrating on fleshing out some of the supporting cast and their back-stories, leaving the protagonist in the midst of a major cliffhanger.
With this issue the focus returns to Dashiell Bad Horse, picking up where we left him in issue #25. That issue centred on a con artist who had come to the casino with the aim of ripping it off. Spying Dashiell drowning his sorrows in the bar, and with full knowledge of Dashiell's FBI credentials, the con artist resorted to blackmail. If Dashiell doesn't help him with the heist his secret will be revealed to Red Crow.
Numerous times during the run of Scalped Aaron has played with the concept of time, leaving story strands hanging then returning to them several issues later, or opening an issue with a sequence then showing the events that lead to that point. A lesser writer might find such chronological legwork a struggle but Aaron executes these sequences with real skill. This issue is a showcase for this kind of story structure with Aaron choosing to interweave events from the recent and distant past with the present. The issue is bookended by Dashiell returning home to Carol with blood literally on his hands with the majority of the plot devoted to the heist and its effects on Dashiell.
Aaron's use of time proves effective in the opening page as he shows us (in the space of a page and a few panels) the past few hours of Dashiell's life. This page serves almost as a recap to remind the reader of just how low Dashiell has sunk, using drugs, and his involvement with Carol and their self destructive relationship. It's a well put together page that serves to bring the reader up to speed before they jump back in to the story proper.
In turn, these small flashbacks build up to the point where we left Dashiell in issue #25, drug addled and in trouble of having his cover blown. As is the Scalped tradition, things go from bad to worse as the heist gets under way. Aaron plays with time again during one page of the heist sequence, with quick one panel flashbacks taking place hours, months, even years before the stories setting, Aaron using the panels to show that destruction has been a constant companion for Dashiell during his life. This is interesting when looking at the overall theme of the issue–Dashiell's realisation of how low he has sunk and how close to death he has come as a result of that. Ultimately, it is the destruction and violence in the course of this issue that leads him to this revelation. This in turn leads to the closing pages which promise a hell of a next issue.
Every single member of the creative team gave their all for this issue. R.M Guera's work is of the usual high standard. His line work seems slightly cleaner in this issue but the real strong suit here is all in the character work. Guera really has an eye for a persons' body language and expressions, especially when it comes to Dashiell. The guy looks like he has the proverbial weight of the world on his shoulders, a guy who has hit bottom. You really feel the anguish, desperation, and anger Dashiell experiences throughout the issue. Giulia Brusco also contributes to the quality of this issue with her excellent use of colour. There is no better illustration of this than the bookend scenes (particularly the opening pages), Dashiell sitting in the shadows weighing his decision in his mind. The contrast between the darkness and the blood on Dashiell's hands really lends weight to the scene, producing a hook that sinks itself in the reader.
This is an excellent issue of Scalped with every facet of the creative team firing on all cylinders. Whilst the previous few issues have given some great insight into the way some of the other characters tick, this issue gets back on track with a bang with an ending that promises fireworks for the next instalment.