Announced back in October, Matt Kindt and Matt Lesniewski’s new series Crimson Flower mixes Russian folk tales, trained assassins, and government conspiracies. Sounds great, and that’s even before you see the trippy, outrageous, and totally unexpected artwork. This new series is wildly different, but what else should we expect from Dark Horse and these creators?
Crimson Flower opens with a man at a desk and his daughter sneaking to read a book called Slavic Folklore. As she peers into its pages we smash-cut to her as an adult and we quickly learn she’s after something. Or is she after someone? She’s intense, quick to use violence, and soon finds herself fighting off a man with a spindly beard and deep veins popping out of his arms. This is a story about a woman’s perspective after seeing something truly awful occur as a child and the many stories she has read of Russian folk tales.
In many ways this is a superhero tale, only the main characters’ powers reside in storytelling and her imagination. Kindt does a good job establishing this element, which allows the first issue to close on an interesting cliffhanger.
The art in this book is incredible and totally different from anything you’ve read before. Lesniewski draws characters with intense embellishments, like the protagonist’s long wavy hair, the thin limbs of characters, or the hands that are as large as a boy’s torso. In an intense moment of action, Lesniewski draws the bearded man with a cartoonist’s eye, making him flop backward like he’s made of rubber. It’s an art style that is imaginative in its own right, which further extends the premise of storytelling and how we remember things.
The action is also interesting and fun to piece together. Lesniewski renders fight scenes in a logical way when it comes to a specific movement, yet things like the fringe of a cut jean will flow outward as if it’s alive. It makes this world seem fantastical even when it’s rendering the mundane.
A subplot of a man ordered to kill someone close to the protagonist leans heavily on expository moments, which slows the plot way down. Given the nature of the reveal, it’s not that surprising or original, though the premise of this book is more about telling stories within the story. In general, the plotting is a touch clunky, which extends to the main character who is introduced to the reader as if she’s untrustworthy and possibly unhinged. We know she’s suffered great pain, but is she doing the right thing with violence and even murder?
Crimson Flower is an intriguing first issue, introducing themes of storytelling, imagination, and covert operations. This book is hard to put down because it’s so visually stunning and has an air of complete originality. That said, the ability to immerse yourself in its world is clunky and difficult. Narratively speaking, it may require reading the second issue to be fully on board.
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