Honestly, I didn’t know much about Red One going into it outside of a brief premise and the fact that the Dodsons duo (a personal favorite artist team of mine) were handling the art. However, it can be a good thing to know little about what you are getting into sometimes—no preconceived notions or expectations, and you avoid potential spoilers in interviews and the like. Let’s see what surprises await us with this title which comes out March 18th. Is it good?
Red One #1 (Image Comics)
The year is 1977 and things are getting weird in Los Angeles. A strange vigilante by the name of the Carpenter (with almost superhuman like physicality) is killing “immoral” people and is, somehow, becoming a beloved figure by certain groups. Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, we meet Soviet Spy and bombshell Vera Yelnikov, who has just been given a brand new assignment. The higher ups want her to somehow infiltrate the Hollywood scene, become a star, and create her own superhero and propaganda that paints the Soviets in a good light. Can she do it? Can she hide her accent and become the next big hit in America?!
No lady, you don’t yell at the protestors. You join them secretly to mock them like Kevin Smith did that one time.
Red One #1 is a decent comic and start to this new series. It’s not great, but it’s not bad either and it does shows promise. Story-wise, everything here is mostly just setup and happily, it pretty much sets up every single thing you need to know about the story, the settings, the ideas and themes, and the characters we’ll be seeing. It feels like there is a lot going on here and a lot to chew on, with most scenes serving some sort of purpose to the overall narrative or characterization. It’s a story that promises to be a strange superhero tale (from the solicit information I read), but crossed with a spy and also a fish out of water story. All of these elements could make for good experience and I’m curious to see how they all work in unison as time goes on.
However, the storytelling and the story itself have some issues that keep it from becoming great at the start. The major offender of the comic is the pacing itself, which is very fast. I am grateful for the fact that it got all of the setup out of the way, but in return, it felt like most things were on fast forward at points. A couple of awkward transitions and jumps from scene to scene, leaps in logic to get one point to the next, and more. It’s not awful, but it becomes a bit too quick at points (now that setup is done, hopefully the comic slows it down a tad). There are also parts of the plot that don’t make that much sense or don’t feel that well explained (at least at this point in time), like how people seem to be looking up the Carpenter figure as someone who is holy and doing God’s work or the fact they don’t address Vera’s accent she probably would have.
The writing on the book otherwise is pretty decent. Our main character, Vera, is pretty well characterized and introduced well. You get a good idea of what kind of individual she is: a pleasant, sure of herself, and very likeable individual. She is dedicated to her own “family” and her country, even though the two can collide at points. Everyone else in the book is just sort of there at this point and isn’t all that well characterized outside of a few basic traits. We don’t even get much of Carpenter himself outside of one scene, because most people in the comic apply their own beliefs and thoughts to him rather than us seeing what motivates him (maybe a hint). Again, this sort of thing can change as time goes on, but I wouldn’t have mind some extra time on the others.
Otherwise, the writing is solid. The tone of the book has a sort of comedic aspect to it at parts, which is hit and miss. Some jokes are quite amusing (Vera’s secret identity is Alabama Jane, which feels like the Soviets were trying too hard to make her sound all-American), some are a bit subtle, and some just don’t quite hit. The dialogue and narration aren’t too bad, with the occasional good line here and there. For the time period, the comic seems to get it right for the most part. Almost everything looks 70’s and has that feel to it, from the homes to the some of the fashion styles. There are parts that are slightly inaccurate that I noticed (the Walkman didn’t hit stores until 1979 and prototype didn’t even appear until 1978), but a few more clever and surprising details that most people might not know, like how Star Wars wasn’t even built up to be that great or big of a film at the time (Fox had their money and were campaigning more on a different sci-fi film at the time).
Gentlemen, this lady is so out of all of your leagues.
The artwork here is quite lovely and helps elevate the book a bit. Terry and Rachel Dodson do a great job with drawing this book. Like their usual work, all of their female characters are wonderfully drawn and look very pretty, which does definitely fit the story, while all of the male characters look rather distinct in facial and body types. The facial reactions and body language expressed are very nice and well handled, really letting you tell what everyone is feeling or thinking. The locales and scenery look great and really do capture the era well enough. The layouts are put together distinctly and are easy to follow, with some pretty neat bits of action or motion (Vera’s introduction looks great in how she flows and moves from panel to panel).
Plus, the coloring is nice and lush, making for some rather nice imagery. There are a few minor hiccups with the fact that sometimes body parts look a bit too big or small (one guy’s head in one panel looks too small for his body) or in the detail (the blue collar on a shirt someone wears sometimes disappears in certain panels). There are also points where word balloons feel too small and the words really are crammed into them, to where it becomes slightly difficult to read the comic. It’s nothing terrible mind you and ultimately, the artwork is strong enough to overcome any minor issue or nitpick that can be had with it.
Is It Good?
Red One #1 is a good start to what could be an enjoyable series. It has a nice mixture of many different kinds of stories and genres in it that show some potential for fun, while also presenting an enjoyable main character and some great artwork. It’s not perfect given, its iffy pacing and minor flubs in areas, but there are some good times to be had here. Give it a shot when it hits shelves March 18th if this sounds like it’ll be up your alley.
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