Story: David Baillie
Art: Meghan Hetrick, Steve Oliff
Release Date: 18th November, 2015
A dark fantasy set in modern day Glasgow, Red Thorn – the creation of Scottish writer David Baillie and up-and-coming artist Meghan Hetrick – wastes little time in introducing us to its chief protagonist, Isla McIntosh. After spending the bulk of her life in America, budding artist Isla has returned to her childhood home to investigate the strange disappearance of her sister, who vanished a year before Isla was born. There’s something different about this protagonist though; namely, the fact that every so often, the things she draws have an unusual habit of coming to life.
The first thing that strikes you about Red Thorn is just how incredibly well-written it is. Isla’s inner monologue is rich and descriptive throughout, painting a vivid picture of her doubts, fears and unquenchable curiosity. Writer Baillie handles the flashbacks smoothly, providing us with eloquent and unobtrusive explosion that fits perfectly alongside the present day story. He also does a reassuringly impressive job in recreating the distinctive ‘weegie dialect, something which adds immeasurably to the setting of the tale.
The artwork is bold and vibrant, with Hetrick’s style feeling vaguely reminiscent of Fables (no real surprise, given her previous work on Fairest) with its expressive characters and eye-catching supernatural moments. There are subtle notes of horror here throughout, as well as some not-so-subtle ones, and Hetrick’s artwork combines with the rich colours of Steve Oliff to inject the story with a sense of energy and life. It’s also worth noting that Hetrick does a truly impressive job of recreating familiar Glasgow landmarks, from the Barras to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, something that really helps to embed the story in its Scottish roots.
As a first issue, Red Thorn does exactly what it’s supposed to; namely, making me immediately want to get my hands on the second. Isla is a truly intriguing protagonist, and seeing a supernatural horror mystery unfolding on the very same streets where I grew up gives this story an added level of emotional investment for me. With the series promising more demons, monsters and supernatural horror as it moves forwards, there’s absolutely no doubt I’m going to be sticking with it for the foreseeable future, and it’s safe to say that Baillie and Hetrick have created a tense, gripping addition to Scotland’s rich history of dark fantasy tales.
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