Shanghai Red by Christopher Sebela and Joshua Hixson is a multilayered revenge story overflowing with emotion. After a young woman named Molly is shanghaied (kidnapped) in Portland, themes of self identity, empowerment, and family are addressed. There is also plenty of blood and violence. Issue #5 brings the emotional revenge tale to its conclusion.
Shanghai Red has dealt with many things, however, everything in the book has been highlighted by extreme violence. From the brutal kidnapping that took Molly away from Portland to her bloody acts savagery, the story has been painted blood red. Unsurprisingly, this issue is no different.
Throughout the series, the violence in Shanghai Red has had an intimate feel to it. Many of the fights are one on one confrontations that are shown up close. Even the larger fights are more about engaging the reader than highlighting the violence, and even the most brutal moments in Shanghai Red had an emotional quality to them.
The final issue goes a different route. The battles are still up close and personal, but they now take on a more cinematic look. This is especially true near the end of the book after Jack’s final confrontation with Bunco Kelly. A series of panels sees Molly in a hellacious firefight that ends in a daring escape. It will remind more than a few readers of the church scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service. This sudden change of perspective is immediately noticeable and makes sense for the finale of the series.
Shanghai Red is a revenge story. However, it is not about simple acts of the vengeance. The entire run has been about how Molly deals with the harsh circumstances of her life. After being kidnapped, Molly relies on the persona of Jack to deal with the situation. The comic has been about the constant internal struggle between Molly and Jack and culminates in a sad yet logical fashion issue five.
As Molly has inched closer towards her final target, things have become more difficult. After seeming unkillable in the debut issue, each proceeding chapter has seen Molly face more arduous opponents that have left her closer to death. Each time, Molly has turned to Jack to help her.
As with the rest of the series, Molly’s/Jack’s situation is dealt with care. Sabela has never treated Molly like a crazy person who cannot cope but instead like a person who has been driven to make extreme choices. Molly is not someone to be mocked or feared, but instead someone who should be pitied. Even knowing the circumstances, it has been sad to watch.
Hixson’s art peaks during the final issue. The issue takes on a gritty look that is perfect for the story it is trying to tell. Scenes look absolutely brutal and the resigned joy and obvious pain on the characters’ faces add to the situation. Hixson has always made it a point for his art to work in tandem with Sabell’s story and nowhere is that more clear than in this final issue.
Shanghai Red has been a violent, bloody and emotional revenge story. Wrapped inside of all of the barbarism has been a strong sense of sadness, desperation and love. Shanghai Red does a great job of going beyond the confines of an average revenge comic.
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