Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
The book begins with Scarlet strangling a man to death in an alley. Great opening shot, one that's sure to grab readers' attention. He also happens to be a cop and she steals the money out of his wallet. But she's not the brutal, heartless girl you expect her to be, as Bendis takes great care in pointing out over the course of this first issue. She's been through a lot in her life, most notably seeing the love of her life gunned down in front of her by a cop with absolutely no reason to shoot an unarmed kid, and finding the papers blasting his name, calling him a drug dealer who needed to be put down. That sort of shit doesn't sit well with Scarlet, and as she sees the world as ugly and corrupt now, she takes the law into her own hands and, as demonstrated by strangling a cop who demands "favors" from her at the beginning of this comic, and her bludgeoning a man trying to steal a bicycle, we can see clearly that she means business and is no one to mess with. And so she begins her one-woman quest to purge the world of evil, hopefully getting around to having her revenge on the cop who killed her lover somewhere along the way.
Bendis took an approach to this title that you don't see too often these days. Scarlet talks to the readers, makes them a party to the atrocities that she carries out. It's certainly something that's been done before, but she's very insightful and demands the audience to analyze what's going on. Insistently. And she knows kind of exactly what to say. When she started "talking to me," and I was thinking that I wasn't sure I really cared for that aspect of the book, she bluntly tells me that I probably want to read a straight-forward narrative, and goes into a rant on why she's involving me and making it more personal for the reader. Bendis knows what he's doing, and he's doing it well here, so I'm willing to leave myself in his - and Scarlet's - hands.
Maleev's art is fantastic, of course. He smartly illustrates this book, using his dark art to great effect, and making Scarlet's bright red hair look like a flair on the page, making her stand out, right from that very first panel where she's strangling that cop to death. Most of the book, when she's not randomly causing pain to people around her (who deserve it), is told in flashbacks, explaining her motives, introducing us to a damaged person who sees the world around her as dirty and broken. So there's not much action for Maleev to depict here, but the short utterly brutal scenes that pepper this book are executed fluidly. Bendis writes strong enough dialogue here to carry readers through the slow parts, and together, they have put out a very compelling first issue.