Writer/Artist: Rozi Hathaway
Release Date: Second Edition on sale November 2015
A complete sucker for traditional media comics, I fell head over heels for The Red Road from my first look at its simple and striking watercolour cover. Burned skeletons of trees, silhouetted against shadowy mountains with a blazing red sunrise just breaking above these – the image nicely encapsulates the story’s blend of light and darkness. The comic is based on the poem, ‘To Walk The Red Road’ and centres on the very personal journey of an unnamed young woman, joined by animal guides along the way.
Hathaway seems to just ‘get’ the medium and this results in strong, unlaboured storytelling. With minimal text we are given a clear insight into the mind of her protagonist and are trusted to understand her final decision. Hathaway chooses to give us only fleeting glimpses of the trauma this woman has experienced, making these fragments all the more haunting. Shifts in the colour palette really drive home these moments of horror as bleak greys and violent reds invade the otherwise harmonious tones of Hathaway’s illustrations.
My only pedantic gripes would be that the slightly cartoonish spirit guides sit a little uneasily alongside the comic’s darker moments, whereas otherwise her simple style is perfectly matched to the restraint of her storytelling. That said, Hathaway herself has stated that these lighter moments are intended to give some levity to the pervasive darkness of the story.
I did struggle a little with the comic’s subject matter. The story is inspired by Native American spiritual beliefs regarding the path that an individual takes through the world and personal responsibility for reaching enlightenment. Hathaway is obviously very considerate of this, she directly refers to the cultural borrowing that she’s undertaken here and approaches her subject with delicacy and sensitivity. However, she’s still working within a wider society in which appropriation of marginalised cultures is an all too prevalent issue and this certainly casts a shadow over the work. I definitely think The Road Road deserves a place in an on-going debate about whose stories we should tell, and the best ways in which this can be done.
Overall, The Red Road is a quietly powerful reading experience and a sure-footed debut from Hathaway. There’s more than enough here to get me really excited for whatever she brings out next as I think her ability to depict difficult emotions with a light touch will translate to a variety of projects. Be sure to also check out her contribution to HOAX Psychosis Blues – a graphic novel memoir by Ravi Thornton, centred on his brother’s struggle with Schizophrenia.
The first print run of The Red Road has sold out, but Hathaway is planning to release a second edition in November, complete with sketchbook pages and additional information. Make sure to check out RoziHathaway.com for all the latest news on its release.
You can also find some of her other comic and goodies in her Etsy Store.
The writer of this piece was: Kirsty Hunter
Kirsty Tweets from @kirstythehunter.