Death Sentence: London continues the phenomenal critical and sales hit rampant with sex, drugs and superpowers! Making this perfect jumping-on point, awesome all-new rising star artist Martin Simmonds joins co-creator Montynero (X-Men Annual, Verigo CMYK) for a wild ride!
I Kill Giants, the critically-acclaimed graphic novel by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura, is headed to the big screen! Major gasp! Have you read I Kill Giants? HAVE YOU? If not then what are you doing with your life? Go read it.
It features Barbara Thorson, a girl struggling with life by escaping into a fantasy life of magic and monsters. There’s a twist, which to be honest I couldn’t see coming, but like all twists perhaps you will. It also made me cry, with all its real, visceral gutsiness.
The artwork has an intensity to it that threatens to splinter apart at any moment, and which is beautiful to look at. This is a book to be returned to again and again, and we have high hopes for the film here at Girls Like Comics.
Los Angeles, 1977. A mysterious vigilante known only as the Carpenter is killing people whom he considers to be sinners. A chunk of the public – typified by a local fundamentalist sect – sees the Carpenter not as a murderous fanatic, but as a real-life superhero who is cleaning up an immoral country.
The USSR has got wind of the Carpenter’s activities, and fears that he will inspire a right-wing surge across America. The solution, reason the Soviet authorities, is to establish an alternative to the Carpenter: a seemingly all-American superhero who is secretly loyal to the interests of Russia. And so, the glamorous agent Vera Yelnikov is sent to California to don a shiny red catsuit and capture the attention of the nation’s media…
It is a credit to Xavier Dorison’s tightly-packed script that Red One #1 manages to cover this slightly convoluted set-up while still keeping about half its page-count free for character moments.
The central conflict is that Vera, a woman who knows next to nothing about America (she is unaware that California is a warm place and has never heard of John Wayne), is on a course to become an American popular icon, and the ensuing fish-out-of-water confusion allows for plenty of commentary on Stateside culture.
According to the Soviet characters, superheroes maintain their appeal because Americans never outgrew fairy tales. When Vera expresses concern about her outfit having a target-like “R” on the chest, she is told that branding is all-important in the USA. Metafictional musing is hardly new to the superhero genre – Alan Moore built much of his career around intertextuality back in the eighties – but Red One has a solid take on this favourite theme. Dorison’s superheroes are products in a culture war waged between a cold, calculating USSR on the one hand, and an alternately crass and puritanical USA on the other.
Red One certainly has potential; at this early stage, however, it is hard to say how much of that potential will be used – the issue carries the suspicion that many of its plot points are headed in the most obvious directions. Will the comic treat Vera’s culture shock with sympathy, or will it characterise her as a befuddled bimbo? Will its portrayal of religious fundamentalism rise above the level of caricature? Will the Carpenter be unmasked as the dumpy puritan preacher Jacky Core, or will there be a less predictable plot twist?
The first issue of any given comic will always be a tricky balancing act, one which must balance enough surprises to engage the reader with enough familiarity so as not to throw any audience members off. While Red One #1 does rely a little heavily on stereotypes, these can be excused while Dorison is still laying the groundwork for his story.
The artistic team of Terry and Rachel Dodson (penciller and inker respectively) were a good choice for the title. The illustrations have the slickness and glamour appropriate for a superhero story set against the background of Hollywood, while adding plenty of humorous touches in the process. Characterisation is one of the Dodsons’ strong points, and is essential in a story that relies heavily on character interactions.
It is too early to hail Red One as a triumph, but this is a good first issue. If Dorison makes full use of the opportunities afforded by his concept, then this title will be a strong contender in the field of more thoughtful superhero comics.
- Writer: Xavier Dorison
- Penciller: Terry Dodson
- Inker: Rachel Dodson
- Colourist: Terry Dodson
- Series: Red One 2015
- Issue: 1
- Price: $2.99
- On Sale Date: Mar 18 2015
- Color/B&W: Color
- Page Count: 40