Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: David Baillie
Artwork: Megan Hetrick, Steve Oliff
Release Date: 16th March, 2016
As David Baillie and Megan Hetrick’s RED THORN reaches its fifth issue, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the creators are in absolutely no hurry to tell this particular story. The pacing remains immaculate here, with all of the separate storyline threads being given ample time to breathe, and the overall effect being a truly engaging world that you can’t help but want to immerse yourself in.
For me, it doesn’t hurt that many of the streets and locations in this book are ones I grew up in, and Hetrick does a fantastic job of faithfully recreating the familiar Glasgow landmarks and architecture while simultaneously giving them a slightly darker feel to fit the tone of the story. The dialogue also feels truly authentic, rather than the typical “och aye the noo” nonsense that is commonly inflicted upon comicbook Scots, and Baillie displays a confident grip of the trademark ‘weegie humour during a cracking bout of pub banter.
Story wise, this issue sees Isla having something of a crisis of faith about her involvement in Thorn’s plan – somewhat fitting, given the fact that this lines up perfectly with the arrival of a new upstart god purporting to be the “God of Lost Faith”. Once again, it’s worth mentioning how truly impressive it is that Baillie keeps adding to new layers to his story, with Belatucadros’ nefarious plans continuing to unfurl gradually. Hetrick is also clearly having a blast with the creative opportunities the story is providing her, particularly in her memorable depiction of the aforementioned god.
As I mentioned, there are a lot of plates spinning at the same time here, and the measured pace may not necessarily appeal to every reader, but for me, it’s truly a pleasure to sit back and watch these talented creators build such a truly rich world. In spite of this, there’s a definite sense of tensions escalating here, with the battle lines being drawn and the sides being gradually formed, even if – much like Thorn himself – Baillie and Hetrick are keeping their cards clutched firmly to their chests for the time being.
For me, it’s fantastic to see the rich pool of Celtic mythology and the innate appeal of Glasgow – the “sexy, dirty jewel in Scotland’s dark crown” – being utilised so impressively. While deftly managing to avoid cliché or parody, RED THORN digs its nails into the dark world of Celtic fantasy, providing a truly gripping series filled with humour, drama and glorious, foul-mouthed violence. You can count me in for the rest of this one, that’s for damn sure.
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