Review – Red Thorn #13 (Vertigo Comics)

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Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: David Baillie
Artwork: Megan Hetrick, Ryan Kelly, Nick Filardi
Release Date: 14th December, 2016

And so it’s with a heavy heart that we reach the untimely end of David Baillie and Meghan Hetrick’s Red Thorn. Thorn, having been betrayed (by himself, as it turns out), now finds himself in a life-or-death battle with Cadros, while Isla’s new powers continue to grow to near unimaginable levels. It’s all rather tense and exciting, and while there’s a definite ‘sprint finish’ feeling to the pacing – and understandably so – this final issue sees Baillie, Hetrick and Ryan Kelly stick the landing in impressively confident fashion.

It’s difficult to know just how much adjustment (if indeed any) had to be made to the narrative due to the book’s untimely cancellation, but Baillie does a solid job of pulling all the threads together and wrapping things up in a pleasing, satisfactory manner. Yes, it’s a little fractured and frantic at times as we dash from scene to scene, but all the character arcs reach their logic conclusions here, with some poignant, moving and chuckle-worthy moments along the way.

Hetrick’s health issues have forced her to share art duties with Ryan Kelly for the last couple of issues, and while Kelly’s work is of an impressively high quality once again, it does alter the ‘feel’ of the series somewhat to see such a noticeable departure from Hetrick’s gorgeously rendered, thick-lined style. Also, it doesn’t help that the frequent transitions between the two feel a little jarring at times, and while the switches are handled in a logical way from a narrative point of view, the ‘two-headed artist’ approach is definitely a lot more noticeable than it perhaps should be.

That said, this is still an utterly gorgeous book to look at, with Baillie providing ample opportunity for his artistic twosome to flex their combined muscle, including a couple of jaw-dropping splash pages as Thorn and Cadros each run into a little… trouble, let’s say. Story wise, it would have been fantastic to see this story run and run, but given the relative constraints of a 13-issue series, it’s impressive to see just how much Baillie and Hetrick have crammed in. It’s also interesting that, for all the epic scale battles between gods and demigods in this issue, it’s the resolution to Alec’s story that really impacted me, leaving a lump in my throat long after I’d put the issue down.

Ultimately then, Red Thorn serves as a perfect example of the sad fact that, just because a book is exceedingly well written and drawn, that doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to buy it. It’s genuinely disheartening to see books like this – books packed with passion, enthusiasm and fantastic ideas – being cancelled while anything with ‘Deadpool’ or ‘Harley’ in the title seems to keep on going forever, but I suppose that’s just the reality of the comic book world we live in.

Regardless, with a second trade paperback on the horizon, I heartily recommend anyone who missed out on this one to pick it up as soon as it becomes available. Sex, violence, profanity and fantasy with an unmistakably Scottish slant. What more could you ask for?

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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