Indian Comics Irregular #150
Three new comic-book series--SCALPED, COWBOYS & ALIENS, and RED PROPHET--feature Indians in prominent roles. They're all worth a look and some are even worth a read. As usual, let's separate the wheat from the chaff.
Premise: Set in an alternate history of America where folk magic really works, RED PROPHET is a story about a Shaw-Nee named Lolla-Wossiky who sets out to find a cure his unusual illness only to discover a strange young boy named Alvin who has the ability to change the world around him. As an encounter with Alvin changes Lolla-Wossiky into Tenskwa-Tawa, the Red Prophet, Alvin learns that he must use his powers to help other living beings, and not to harm them. But as luck would have it, this lesson comes as a war begins to brew between the Prophet's brother, Ta-Kumsaw, and the frontiersmen led by Governor William Henry Harrison. (Silver Bullet Comics, 1/11/07)
Rob's review: Issue #2 is devoted to Lolla-Wossiky's thoughts and feelings as he journeys north to his first encounter with Alvin. It's rare that a comic spends so much time showing how strange the white man's world was to an Indian. If the writing continues to be this incisive, RED PROPHET may be something special.
Premise: Fifteen years ago, Dashiell 'Dash' Bad Horse ran away from a life of abject poverty and utter hopelessness on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in hopes of finding something better. Now, he's come back home to find nothing much has changed on 'The Rez'--short of a glimmering new casino, and a once-proud people overcome by drugs and organized crime. So is he back to set things right or just get a piece of the action? (tfaw.com, 1/4/07)
Rob's review: SCALPED is reasonably entertaining as a "Sopranos"-style crime drama. As a genuine look at reservation life, it's a grotesque distortion of reality--almost a pure fiction. I'll venture to say that no reservation, not even Pine Ridge in the '70s, was ever this bad.
Writer Jason Aaron is kidding himself if he thinks people will learn about Indians from SCALPED. What they'll learn is that Indians are criminals, thugs, and lowlifes. In other words, that they're just as savage and uncivilized as they ever were. What a charming message that is.
Premise: On the western Arizona trail in the 1800s, a skirmish between a band of Apache warriors and a wagon train of cowboys and settlers is interrupted by a crashing alien spacecraft. The cowboys and the Apache form a tenuous alliance against this new foe ... a greedy, rapacious interstellar empire called the Caste. (CowboysandAliens.net)
Rob's review: COWBOYS & ALIENS begins with a nice prologue comparing the European invasion to an alien invasion. For Indians, that's just about what the European invasion was. Between guns, germs, and steel, they had no idea what hit them. They learned fast, but that wasn't enough to stave off eventual defeat.
But the comic immediately subverts this message with the main story, which opens with ... I kid you not ... an Indian attack on a wagon train. Most of your basic Native stereotypes quickly appear. The Indians are Apaches ... riding horses ... with a Plains-style chief ... half-naked braves ... and a "shaman." The Indians have no culture or religion other than dancing around a fire before a big fight. The text refers to them ironically as "savages," but the story portrays them as actual savages.
My recommendation: Buy RED PROPHET, borrow SCALPED, and skip COWBOYS & ALIENS (or read it online). For more on these comics, follow the links at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/nacomics.htm
Blue Corn Comics