Christa Faust and Mike Deodato Jr’s Redemption #1 is a hard-bitten post-apocalyptic western with a feminist twist that spends the first issue building up and teasing its anti-heroine, but delivers in a climactic final sequence.
The town of Redemption is a lone surviving outpost in a forsaken world. Years after civil unrest led to the collapse of society, Redemption is a walled city in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. The Rev. Stonewater, who controls not just the spiritual life of the community, but their water supply, rules it with a heavy hand.
The book opens with the town doctor being whipped in the town square and sentenced to death for performing an abortion on an underage girl who was raped. But as she awaits her execution, her daughter Rose rides out in search of a savior, the outlaw and bounty hunter Cat “The Butcher” Tanner. But The Butcher hasn’t been seen in Redemption in years, and Stonewater and the town sheriff have a personal stake in keeping it that way.
Faust’s script embraces and inverts a lot of western and post-apocalyptic tropes, particularly in the ways she frames women. There is a lot of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road in its DNA, down to the tricked-out vehicles, a water-hoarding misogynist patriarch, and a badass lady with a cybernetic arm. But that film centers on franchise hero Max, and the character we’re really following is Rose. This results in a very different power dynamic between the characters.
Redemption #1 is the beginning of a story about safety. Rev. Stonewater promises safety and survival for a high price, and destroys anyone who stands up to him. He leads a town surrounded by a wall that looks very familiar to modern-day America, but we don’t see much of what he claims to be keeping out in this issue, only the people he holds inside. Rose escapes looking for the trail of a lost outlaw, over her mother’s protests that she’s too dangerous to find or to be trusted. It is also interesting how much of the action relies on older characters in the Reverend and the Doctor. The Sheriff and Rose are proxies to their ongoing struggle for control of the town, and the unresolved conflict of which Cat is the fulcrum. I can’t wait to see how the balance plays out between the doctor and the reverend when the agent of chaos returns.
Mike Deodato Jr’s art is distant and moody, full of low-slung hats and desolate vistas. His deserts seem to be swallowing the surviving remnants of the 21st century. In the opening pages, we see a spread of the low, boxy town surrounded by its rough, corrugated metal walls. In the foreground, a toppled cell tower sits half-exposed in the dunes. Redemption #1 is full of stark images and heavy shadows. The desert is enveloping the ruins as surely as civilization’s collapse has brought back a world of brutality.
Colorist Lee Loughridge uses a restrained palette to bring the story to life. His panels take on the nearly-monochromatic style of a spaghetti western, with the wasteland painted in sun-blasted yellows and oranges, while a night scene in an unlit jail cell is painted in soft blue light pouring in from a window.
The book opens with a scene of a public whipping that is both difficult to read and somewhat slow-paced. The front half is somewhat overloaded with exposition, although the static images of the Butcher’s exploits have a cool look to them. The book’s pacing picks up steam in the second half and is all the better for the earlier explanations.
Redemption #1 is a fresh, feminist take on the post-apocalyptic western. Full of harsh atmosphere and bloody revenge, it is not to be missed by fans of the genre, or anyone who’s interested in a grimdark heroine who’s a bit different. I can’t wait to see where this team takes the story.
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