More Scalped, the critically acclaimed Vertigo series that mostly tells the tale of Dashiell Bad Horse an FBI agent undercover on the Prairie Rose reservation he grew up on. The reason he is undercover is that his immediate boss Agent Nitz has a vendetta that he's kept going for thirty years over the deaths of two FBI agents who were murdered in 1975 by a man known as Catcher. He doesn't know that Catcher both did the deed and also scalped the agents, he is fixated on tribal chief and casino owner Red Crow who was present at the murder as was Gina Bad Horse, Dash's mum who has also been murdered by Catcher. Dash unfortunately hooked up with the self destructive Carol, Red Crow's daughter and has picked up a heavy heroin habit from her. Another FBI agent was placed on the rez by Nitz, a man nicknamed Diesel, currently being held in prison for killing a woman and her vengeance seeking twelve year old son whom Dash had taken under his wing. Finally Red Crow has a serious headache in the form of Mr. Brass, a sadist who has been sent by the East Asian criminal gang who part funded the casino to deal with any threats to its profitability. Brass raped and murdered two runaways just for his own enjoyment and was caught by Red Crow gouging the eye out of Dino Poor Bear's head. This was the final straw and Red Crow shot Brass's goons then broke his nose and had him arrested for the two murders. Now in this volume we see the fallout from those actions as he has to deal with the possibility of war coming to the reservation. Jason Aaron writes and thankfully R.M. Guera's fantastic art graces all the chapters of this arc.
Officer Franklin Falls Down is sitting on Granny Poor Bear's porch chatting with her as day breaks. He tells her of a dream he had, he was falling and the whole world was falling with him. Gina was there, she fell past him while he tried to grab her but missed. He asks Granny what she thinks it means. "Means you still got a lotta work to do" she tells him.
She says the Cheyenne have a story, which says there is a great big pole holding up the Earth. And the "Great White Grandfather Beaver of the North" is always gnawing it. It's been gnawing a long time and is halfway through.. When people do things to make him angry he gnaws faster and pretty soon he'll have gnawed all the way through and the pole will topple and "the whole world will crash into bottomless nothing and that will be the end of everything. The end of all ends." Falls Down asks if she believes that and she just says that sometimes when she first wakes up she can hear the gnawing.
|Falls Down and Granny sit and talk.|
So Dash drives back to the rez with Catcher in the back. Catcher tells him he talked to Dash's mum the other day. Dash says she's dead, but Catcher says he knows and that Dash has spoken to her as well. Dash asks if he knows him and Catcher says they met in a bathroom where he told him he was on a "long black road."
He tells Dash to get his life together or he'll be the next to die. He must stay away from Carol, she's a parasite who'll bleed him dry. He says Dash needs to stop being afraid of who he is and he's going to have to kill a lot more people which Catcher can help him with. Dash is confused, who the hell does Catcher think Dash is?
Catcher: "You're Dashiell Bad Horse. You're a drug addict and a Lakota warrior and an undercover agent for the FBI. You've been sent here to save us."
As Dash turns angrily towards him, Catcher says "eagle" and an eagle flies at the windscreen causing Dash to swerve into a tree. When Dash comes round, Catcher is gone.
He calls Dash into his office and asks if he has heard of an Agent Nitz, Dash says he hasn't but Red Crow goes on to say he believes Nitz has managed to get an agent undercover in his organisation. Dash's new mission is to root that person out. He says Dash hasn't been performing so well lately so this is him auditioning for his job again. Dash leaves and Red Crow says to Shunka, "give him a week. If he doesn't get it together..." And Shunka grins saying "my pleasure".
Dash walks outside in a daze, ignoring Falls Down asking to speak to him about his mother. He gets to his truck and vomits hard with a look of utter terror on his face. He then rings Nitz in a panic, but Nitz says if Red Crow thought it was him he'd be dead and buried already. Dash want's out but Nitz says no. The situation with Brass and the Hmong's will blow up into a full fledged war and sooner or later, Red Crow will pull the trigger on someone.
|There's a lot of vomiting in this series.|
Red Crow stands outside Mr.Brass's jail cell. Brass asks if Johnny Tongue has called yet, because he'll enjoy watching Red Crow squirm when he does. It's at that point Johnny does call. He tells Red Crow to let Brass out and give him a million dollars. Red Crow says no. Make it two million then says Johnny. "You can make it two trillion for all I care. I'm not doing it" responds Red Crow.
Johnny starts ranting and make a series of crude threats towards Red Crow, he says he helped build that casino and he'll come and take it apart piece by piece if he'll have to. He wants to speak to Brass so Red Crow hands the phone to him.
|Thus perished Mr. Brass.|
Red Crow: "Now he's dead. And you will be too, you slant-eyed mongrel fuck, if you ever dare set foot on my fucking rez".
Johnny Tongue is rendered speechless as Red Crow hangs up on him. He then tells his men to gather everyone and get a many guns as they can find, they're going "to kill a bunch of Indians."
We return to earlier, Falls Down tells Granny he wants to speak with Catcher, all roads in Gina's murder lead back to the FBI murders in '75. Grannt says that was a long time ago. Falls Down says plenty of people think Lawrence Belcourt is innocent and in that case where's the real murderer.
Granny: "Lots of folks got killed back then. Lots of murderers still running loose. Some secrets is best left buried."
Falls Down says he knows Gina left the prison in tears and hurried back to the rez but never went home. Granny says Catcher can't have killed Gina, he loved her. Falls Down says in his experience there's often a "fine line between love and murder."
He says he just wants to speak to him and Granny says she can tell him where to look but he may not find him, he's a hard man to pin down. But she advises him that no one will want to talks to him about the old days, lots of people did things they weren't proud of back then, "you ain't got no right makin' 'em relive all that". They sit in silence for a while then Falls Down asks after Dino. She says he lost the eye but is otherwise holding up fine. She knows Red Crow saved him.
Granny: "I don't know what to make of that man no more. I surely don't. Just when I'm ready to give up on him for good, he ups and surprises me. Maybe I'm crazy but something tells me...he may surprise us all yet."
Back in the jail. Brass lies dead and Red Crow yells that no one saw a thing. Unfortunately sat in the adjoining cell is a young drug dealer called Ben White Elk who witnessed everything. Red Crow is about to shoot him, but Shunka stops him saying "no boss. Not like this." He orders the removal of the body and Ben to be put in the interrogation box. And everyone else get back to work.
|Didn't see nuffin' guv'nor.|
Shunka and Red Crow are watching Ben through the one way mirror. Red Crow says he can't believe he shot an unarmed man in a cell in front of a roomful of people. Shunka says the people are loyal to him, but that leaves Ben. He's a two-bit burnout who'd sell out his own mother if a fed flashed a badge at him, "and he saw me commit murder. What choice do I have?" Shunka says he'll sneak him out after dark and deal with him andhe'll spin the Brass murder as self-defence. No need to worry about the feds. It's Johnny Tongue they have to make ready for.
Outside the station Dash phones Nitz and tells him Red Crow killed Brass. And there is a witness as well he's in the interrogation room. Nitz tells him to not take his eyes off Ben and not let him be taken out of the station. Nitz and Newsome then set off to go confront Red Crow. Dash meanwhile thinks how this looks like his job is finished and he can finally leave the rez and never come back.
Dash: "Goodbye shitheads. You fucks are stuck here for the rest of your lives, but not me. I'm getting the fuck outta here. I'm getting the fuck outta here. I'm getting the fuck outta here. So why don't I feel good about it yet?"
Ben comes in shackled to use the toilets where Dash is. He begs Dash to help him he knows his days are numbered. When Dash says he can't help, Ben says he'll out Dash as a heroin addict to Red Crow as he's been dealing to him, "get me the fuck outta here, or I'll see you in hell." Dash has a flash of what could happen if Ben told either Red Crow or Nitz, a bullet to the head or jail. He smacks the wall in frustration.
Nitz comes into the station and says to Red Crow that he knows there was a murder there today. Red Crow says it was a man trying to escape and if he wants to read the report he'll send Nit a copy. Nitz says all the witnesses will back his story? Red Crow says they will. Nitz asks who they have in the box, meanwhile Ben is being held in the back of the station away from Nitz. Dash sneaks up behind the man holding Ben.
|Dash has a decision to make|
In a gun store, Catcher is buying a high powered scoped rifle. He also buys ammo, a single bullet. In the police station, Nitz forces his way into the interrogation box to find no one there. Ben is still being held in the back of the station Dash then knocks the man holding him out from behind so he isn't seen. He takes Ben outside and they hide behind some dumpsters. Dash gets out a knife and Ben thinks he's going to kill him so panicking he smashes Dash over the head with a bottle and runs. He finds a car with keys and makes his getaway just as Red Crow and Nitz appear wondering what the fuck just happened. Both Nitz and Red Crow tell their second-in-commands they need to find Ben.
Meanwhile Falls Down is knocking on doors looking for Catcher, or "Arthur Pendergrass" to give him his real name. After another interview fails to help him he murmurs "it's like chasing a damn ghost" as Catcher watches him through the rifle scope.
Dash goes to Carol's house but she holds the door shut saying she doesn't let FBI agents into her house. He tells her to keep her voice down but she starts yelling "FBI! FBI AGENT, RIGHT HERE! HEY, EVERYBODY!" He slaps her hard telling her to shut up. She looks at him on the verge of tears as he says he's sorry. Then she gets angry again, slaps him and throws him out saying if she sees him again she tell her father everything. As he drives off, she runs to the toilet and vomits down it.
Later that night, Shunka tells Red Crow they found the vehicle Ben escaped in. Red Crow tells him to find out who let him escape and kill him. Left alone he broods for a while then goes to visit Carol who opens the door with a knife in her hand. She asks what the fuck he's doing here. He asks if he can come in just for once. She says no. Then he says he wants her off the rez tonight, he'll give her any money she needs.
There's trouble coming and he doesn't want her in danger. She says last time she tried to leave he killed her boyfriend and baby and now he's coming to "buy me off like some cheap goddam whore?" She isn't going anywhere then suddenly she swoons and Red Crow catches her.
|Something it up with Carol.|
Next day Catcher is walking alongside is ancient horse Festus, still carrying the rifle. He notes a helicopter over head saying "I guess pigs can fly." It used to belong to channel 7 news, now Red Crow's crew are using it to do an aerial search for Ben while the mountains are crawling with FBI also after Ben who is quivering in terror behind some rocks.
Dash is at the motorlodge where Nitz and Newsome have their office. Dash asks Newsome what was he supposed to do. Newsome says he was supposed to keep an eye on the witness, now Nitz is away to clean up his mess using FBI from the local city to search the mountains. He tells Dash he better pray they find the witness alive. Dash then says he heard Diesel is getting out.
Newsome says they pulled some strings. As far as the Nebraska cops know he's being transferred to federal custody. He's done, Nitz want him out of sight when they get Red Crow. Newsome says that he know how Dash feels about Diesel, Newsome feels the same. He's actually arranged for a mental hospital in Wyoming to take him, "to hell with the guy right? He's a drug addict and an murderer. He'll get what he deserves". And Dash looks completely shame-faced at that. Later Diesel is passed a note in his cell that makes him whisper, "motherfucker."
Red Crow is standing in hospital where he took Carol after she fainted. They are still doing tests on her and she doesn't want to see him. He looks furiously at the nurse telling him this, then walks away. Elsewhere Dash has found Catcher and they are both pointing guns at each other. Dash asks how he knew he was FBI. Catcher says the Thunder Beings told him. Dash also asks if he meant everything he said in the car the other day. Every word says Catcher. Dash puts his gun away saying "then let's talk".
|Dash confronts Catcher.|
Then Shunka finds Ben. Shunka tells Ben he used to track mountain lions for kicks where he grew up. He wants Ben to tell him who helped him excaped the police station. Then we cut to Johnny crew driving up to the police station where Red Crow is. Then we see Diesel in a car with Newsome. He asks to be uncuffed and Newsome lies that he's going to be put up in a hotel until they have time to debrief him. Then Diesel lunges at him, taking Newsome's gun and shooting him through the head as the car careens off road. Dash is there to "rescue" him and as Dash guiltily looks at the blood stained window and the dead Newsome, Diesel tells him to get going to Dash's car.
Johnny's crew spread out in front of the police station. Red Crow tells his men not to do anything no matter what happens. He doesn't want to turn the place into a battlefield. He goes out alone to meet Johnny Tongue, he says "I got nothing to say to you, Johnny. Just do what you came to do". And Johnny smashes him across the face with his machine gun and knocks Red Crow to the ground. He keeps beating and kicking Red Crow and holds a gun to his head.
|Johnny Tongue hands out a beating.|
Diesel: "Fuck 'em. They lost two good agents tonight. The two baddest fucking Injuns the bureau ever saw, am I right?"
Dash says nothing. Then he pulls out a gun and shoots Diesel in the lower back, then his legs. As Diesel collapses in agony he says he doesn't remember this being part of the plan. "This was always the plan" says Dash.
|Dash begins his toture and murder of Diesel.|
Dash: "I don't throw up like they do in the movies. I don't feel suddenly overcome with panic or remorse. I just look down as this man all shot to fucking hell... and I feel pleased."
Back with the manhunt. Shunka is demanding the name of who helped Ben escape the police station still while Ben begs to be let go. Then he starts to say who it was... and Catcher shots Ben through the head with his rifle, "I did that for you, Gina. I did that for your boy. If you should see him in the spirit world, this man I just shot... please tell him it weren't nothin' personal".
|Catcher saves Dash's skin.|
We return to Red Crow having the wounds he sustained in the beating being seen to. Shunka comes in and tells him his witness took a bullet to the brain before he could tell him anything. Red Crow says that Johnny Tongue beating him down in front of his people was a way of saving face, "he couldn't afford to kill me, he knew that. Just wanted to put me in his place." He gets dressed and tells Shunka to get a gun and come with him.
At Catcher's trailer, Falls Down ventures inside and finds many pictures of Gina pinned to the wall and the words "I'm sorry" written in blood over them. He realises Catcher is the murderer and goes to phone for back-up but gets knocked out by him before he can do so.
Johnny Tongue and crew are returning to their hotel. Johnny says "Red Crow's a smart motherfucker. He knew he fucked up. And knew he was beat." They go inside their rooms to find the people they left there dead and Red Crow standing with a gun over the bodies. Then he and Shunka unload into Johnny and the rest of his crew until they are all dead.
|You don't fuck with Red Crow.|
We then see Agent Newsome's body discovered and a rage filled Nitz kicking his car in frustration. Falls Down has disappeared and can't be raised on his radio. And finally Carol is leaving hospital and is told she is pregnant. The final page shows Red Crow soaking in a bath. Dash looking at himself in the mirror and Carol crying out in silent anguish. End of volume.
|On that cheerful note..|