Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: David Baillie
Artwork: Megan Hetrick, Steve Oliff
Release Date: 17th February, 2016
Four issues in and Red Thorn writer David Baillie is still expanding the mythology of his world at an almost dizzying pace, providing a truly intriguing backdrop for his Scottish-based tale of magic and mystery. This issue sees the integration of mute youngster Tarek and his remarkable ‘gifts’ into the larger story as the similarly ‘gifted’ Isla manages to convince him to join the cause. The linchpin of the series however remains the enigmatic Thorn, charming in his arrogance and constantly keeping his true agenda a closely guarded secret.
As I mentioned, the world continues to expand rapidly here, with Baillie bringing all manner of diverse fairytale aspects into the fray. The pace is also a lot brisker here, with Tarek’s abilities providing Thorn with exactly what he needs and a greater conflict to come hinted at throughout – particularly during the final pages. Isla’s doubts and uncertainties about Thorn’s true motives continue to bubble to the surface, as does her growing sense of regret about the ‘replacement’ she left for her former love Alec. There are a lot of moving parts here, but Baillie manages to keep the plates spinning smoothly for the time being, keeping the story firmly anchored to the strength of his two leading characters.
While the narrative itself has ebbed and flowed throughout the series so far, one thing which has remained consistent is the rich, vibrant artwork of Meghan Hetrick. Using thick lines to define her pleasingly solid and slightly cartoony characters, there’s a wonderful aesthetic at play here – a mixture of traditional Celtic folklore and Fables-esque fantasy, all brought to life by Steve Oliff’s bold colour work. Her characters are bold and emotive, and their subtle facial expressions go a long way towards enhancing Baillie’s words – particularly in the case of the silent yet expressive Tarek. A half-smile here, a wide-eyed gasp there; there’s a subtlety to Hetrick’s work that belies its bright, colourful fantasy appearance, providing a deeper appreciation for the story on repeat readings.
Oh, and along the way, Baillie also manages to throw in a pleasing justification for just why the Scots people are so boundlessly creative and innovative, an ideology that – as a Scotsman myself – I can most definitely get on board with.
Overall, while it may not necessarily have the same ‘edge’ as some of Vertigo’s other recent offerings, the intriguing fantasy trappings and engaging characters make Red Thorn yet another highly recommended purchase from the iconic publisher. Baillie and Hetrick are working together seamlessly to weave this modern day tale of Scots mythology, and are doing so in a captivating, exciting fashion. Fables may have come to an end last year, but the spirit of the landmark title lives on in Red Thorn, albeit with a slightly more Celtic slant.
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