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Comic Book / Scalped

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Scalped is an American comic book by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. The main focus is on Dashiell "Dash" Bad Horse, who left the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation as a teenager, only to come back, violently resisting all attempts at reconciling with his mother, and joining up with the police force.

Only the police force is full of dirty cops and run by Chief Red Crow, a vicious crime boss. And the Reservation (or The Rez) is a complete drug-addled gang-run hellhole.


Scalped provides examples of:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love Shunka gives one to Red Crow right before Red Crow shoots him.
  • Anti-Hero: Dash.
  • Anti-Villain: Red Crow. He genuinely wants to do right for the Rez and seemed to really love Dash's mother.
  • Anyone Can Die: Expect at least one major death per story arc.
    • Subverted in the finale, though. It would seem fitting for such a violent and tragic story to end with the death of either or both of its two main protagonists, Dash and Red Crow. But surprisingly enough, they both survive. There's even a fake-out funeral scene, where we are lead to assume Red Crow has died, until we find out it's someone else in the coffin.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: Dashiell is an FBI agent yet he doesn’t have a college degree. In real life, anyone aspiring to become an FBI special agent must possess at least a Bachelor’s degree.
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  • Ax-Crazy: A lot of people verge into this on occasion but Catcher takes the cake. Shunka briefly verges into this at the conclusion of his character arc.
  • Bad Boss: Cross him and Red Crow will be this. Nitz, on the other hand? Working for him SUCKS.
  • Badges and Dog Tags: Prior to joining the FBI, Dashiell Bad Horse served in the U.S. Army and saw combat while on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
  • The Beard: Shunka hires prostitutes to convince Red Crow he's straight.
  • Benevolent Boss: Red Crow can be this at times.
  • Berserk Button: Diesel does not like his very white, non-Indian-looking skin tone pointed out to him.
    • Dash insulting his mother's honor or implying Red Crow had her killed is this for Red Crow.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Very close to being a Downer Ending as the series ends with the old generation largely being replaced with the new. Dino Poor Bear is corrupted by his experiences and becomes the new gang leader who may be more ruthless than Red Crow, Nitz and Catcher die in a fire that burns the casino, and Dash, though coming to terms with himself and the reservation, leaves for an unknown destination, unknowingly leaving Maggie as a single mother. On the other hand, Carol becomes Granny Poor Bear's replacement as the mother figure for the reservation, Red Crow leaves his old life behind lives on the land (effectively being a much saner version of Catcher), and Officer Falls Down looks to be a more effective Sheriff than his predecessor.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Between Johnny Tongue, Sheriff Karnow, and Agent Nitz; Red Crow might actually be the most moral authority figure in the book.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Subverted Shunka is set to turn on Red Crow, but at the last second turns on his compatriot assassins. He saves Red Crow, but Red Crow's trust in him is gone forever.
  • Broken Pedestal: Subverted with the two agents who were scalped. Nitz practically views them as saints who helped him immensely as a young agent but his ex wife notes they were terrible people who even their wives aren't sad they're dead. Nitz is fully aware of this, having participated in one of their murders of a suspect who got off but doesn't care, still seeing their bond as agents as the most important thing.
  • Dirty Cop: Every agent or cop but Falls Down.
  • The Dragon: Shunka for Red Crow.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Stone cold killers Red Crow and Shunka are horrified by Mr. Brass.
  • Eye Scream: Mr. Brass is fond of removing eyes. He does this to Dino Poor Bear.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Man, Sheriff Karnow loves to pretend he's a hardcore badass Vietnam vet who loves John Wayne films. When he gets his dates wrong in regards to when the Green Berets (his supposed unit) came back from combat and notes High Noon as among his favorite Wayne films, Dash calls him out on it.
    • Later it even affected Karnow as he started to show a sense of his own failures, especially with the arrival of a US marshal who is actually a decorated Vietnam veteran and give him "The Reason You Suck" Speech on his conduct. Later, he explained to one of his deputies that he never served in Vietnam at all.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Dino Poor Bear goes from a janitor at the casino to Red Crow's replacement as gang leader by the end of the series.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Red Crow vs. Nitz with Dash caught in the middle.
  • Gayngster: Shunka.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: But Carol isn't a very good girl.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: When Granny gives Red Crow Gina's soul bundle, he legitimately tries to be a good man so that her soul can find peace. However, Red Crow soon realizes that the Hmongs will walk all over him if he is not free to be heavy handed and returns the bundle back to Granny after he kills two Hmongs and takes Mr. Brass captive.
  • The Hermit: Catcher. But Red Crow becomes this at the end
  • Hidden Depths: Everyone, but especially Red Crow, Carol and Shunka.
  • Insistent Terminology: Dare point out his caucasian skin, or hell just say anything to the contrary to him, and Diesel will scream in your face that he's "one sixteenth, kickapoo!"
  • Kick the Dog: Lots and lots of people get these moments. Diesel slaughtering Red Crow's dogs is one...and Agent Nitz gets dozens of asshole moments.
  • Knight Templar: Nitz has many of the methods of one but ultimately his quest to bring Red Crow down isn't at all about justice but simple revenge for the death of two agents decades ago that Red Crow didn't even kill.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A great deal of visions. It's left unclear if there are truly spirits. Catcher monologues how he unsure at times if he is 'prophet or madman.'
  • Native American Casino: Red Crow's business, and a prominent setting in the series.
  • Necessarily Evil: Red Crow sees himself as this, willing to pay any price to make life better for his people.
  • New Old West
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lawrence Belcourt for Leonard Peltier, an AIM activist imprisoned for killing two FBI agents. Peltier's book Prison Writings is seen on Lawrence's bookshelf.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: Averted by Red Crow and his casino, which opens early in the series. Even after his "success" of getting the damn thing up and running, life as the boss is a constant stream of interruptions and complications.
  • No Ending: Intentionally invoked for the fate of Lawrence Belcourt. He requests that Red Crow no longer pay for his protection in jail. Whether he is murdered at some point in the future or dies of old age is left to the imagination of the reader.
  • One-Man Army: Dash is described by his fellow cops as a "one man SWAT team".
  • Out of Focus: Dash appears very little "The Gravel in Your Guts," focusing more on Red Crow's issues with the Hmongs. "High Lonesome" immediately follows where Dash plays an important role but isn't really the focus of most of the issues.
  • Pet the Dog: A lot of people get these moments sometimes. Red Crow giving Dino Poor Bear money to escape the Reservation, his occasional kindness towards Dash and his literal pet the dog bits reinforce he's a man who, as he says wishes for the day when his dreams outnumber his regrets.
  • Porn Stash: Nitz reads so much porn, it's almost a running gag.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Quite a few, generally when silencers are used.
  • Properly Paranoid: Shunka hates Dash and is convinced he's lying to Red Crow. He's right.
  • Really Gets Around: Carol, originally, before character development.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Karnow, trying to atone for his own misdeeds (not the least of which being his lies about his past), wages war on Rath's drug gang and dies doing so, though he fatally cripples the Nebraska-based crime organization along the way
  • The Reveal: The murderer of the FBI agents that Lawrence went down for? Catcher is the one who murdered the two FBI agents thirty years ago. He is also Gina Bad Horse's murderer. It's revealed surprisingly early in the series.
  • The Rez: The series is set in a casino rez in South Dakota that brushes up against the political rez at times.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Catcher for Gina.
  • Start of Darkness: We see Red Crow and Catcher's years ago. Diesel's backstory also shows his. In many way, this story is one for Dino Poor Bear, who becomes a brutal new crime lord of the Rez at the end.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The death of Diesel Engine. Dash shoots him in the legs, then shoots all his fingers off, then his elbows, his groin... and he only puts a bullet in his brain at the very end. All this because Diesel killed a kid Dash had taken under his wing when the kid came shooting at Diesel for murdering his mother.
  • Sleazy Politician: All over the place.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very cynical.
  • The Sociopath: Diesel has shades of this, but Mr. Brass is this to a terrifying degree. Also, Wesley Willeford who gets great joy out of lying to everyone and goes out of his way to manipulate and degrade a hooker that he sleeps with on multiple nights before coldly murdering her in bed.
  • Torture Technician: Mr. Brass. He never asks a question twice.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Johnny Tongue and his Hmong gangsters.
  • Time Skip: The final arc takes place eight months after [Dash arrests Red Crow.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Dino Poor Bear has no issues trying to murder Red Crow later on, despite Red crow having given him 2000 dollars solely to help him and his daughter.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Believe it or not, Diesel.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Diesel.
  • Wretched Hive: The Rez. There's very little for the denizens to do other than get drunk, high and start fights. Red Crow's apparent desire to improve the cesspit of a reservation he's nominally in charge of is a major part of his character.
  • Yellow Peril: The only Asian characters in the story are the Hmong gangsters and Mr. Brass