Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Xavier Dorison
Artists: Terry and Rachel Dodson
Released: 18th March, 2015
I’m not sure quite how many of us would’ve predicted the resurgence of the Cold War thriller in the 2010’s – in the information age, where we’re posting literally our entire lives on t’internet for all to see, it seems awfully quaint that spies were ever needed at all. A good data miner’s what you need these days. But needed spies were, and thanks to what I can only imagine is a growing jonesing for the privacy-ridden days of yore, here we are in 2015, and the genre has found its way into perhaps the most difficult genre to shoehorn it into – sequential art.
We’re of course well aware that this style of story can work, thanks to the absolutely incredibly work of Nathan Edmonson on Black Widow, and whilst this does give at least a couple of nods Ms Romanov’s way, this #1 most certainly forges its own path. It’s a pretty interesting one too – rather than having the Soviets portrayed as their traditional malicious selves, this spy is a benevolent one, tasked with improving the image of Mother Russia in the USA by playing into the American fantasies of being a super-hero – a nifty, meta-textual flip of the usual tropes of the story that’s actually mildly refreshing.
What’s most fascinating about the book, however, is seeing the Dodsons operating outside of the ‘true’ super-hero stories that have become their bread-and-butter – here presenting a rather more realistic tone that, whilst certainly referencing the nature of their previous work, imbues it very successfully with a ‘cold-war thriller’ vibe. Truthfully, the artwork is absolutely stellar – those of you familiar with their work over at Marvel and DC don’t need reminding, but for those that aren’t, it’s trickier to put your finger on it: striking a chord that’s half-way between old-school Disney rotoscoping, and Romita Jr’s more stylised approached. The layouts are incredibly dense, but never at the expense of getting the story told, and the sheer amount of art that you get per page would make the book a bargain even if it had no words. The design is pretty excellent too, nailing the 70’s aesthetic with a readily apparent fondness.
The nascent feminist in me is chomping at the bit of wanting to criticise the occasional flirting with the traditional comic T&A trope, but – aside from a final panel that sees our curvaceous heroine cramming herself into a too-small jumpsuit, the same one on the cover – there’s not actually that much to criticise on that front. It never feels exploitative, and Dorison’s lyrical, considered writing style ensures that despite her hip-to-waist-to-chest ratio, Vera still feels like an actual human.
Overall, Red One is a highly enjoyable slice of pulp fiction that sets up both a likeable stable of characters and an intriguing plot steeped in clandestine intrigue and mystery. Vibrant art, great dialogue and a surprisingly large amount of story crammed into a 30-odd page book make this yet another addition to Image’s mass of great titles. Certainly worth a look.
The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24