Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Artwork: Alex Cormack
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: Kickstarter launches 1st November 2017 (LINK)
Stain the Seas Scarlet is a self-contained science fiction one-shot from Ryan K Lindsay, Alex Cormack and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou which is poised to explode onto Kickstarter at the beginning of November (or, y’know, tomorrow, depending on when you’re reading this).
Story wise, it features what could be considered – at first glance, anyway – to be a fairly played-out scenario where an alien species finds itself teetering on the brink of extinction at the hands of a relentless robot invasion. Thankfully however, Lindsay manages to frame the story in such a way that it still manages feel utterly fresh and dynamic.
With Lindsay clearly having a lot of fun playing around with the narrative structure, the early portion of the book introduces us to Yelena, a revolutionary and freedom fighter desperate to do something to try and prevent the utter annihilation of her race. Right from the opening page it’s clear that she has a plan, and her relentless confidence – which only briefly wavers throughout the course of the twenty-two pages – makes her a truly engaging protagonist.
Lindsay’s writing feels like a masterclass in minimalism here, effortlessly delivering all the exposition and character development the reader needs without ever having to break away from the story he’s telling to do so. Everything is explained naturally, and Lindsay never wastes time digging too deeply into whys and wherefores, instead focusing on establishing the basic premise on which his story comfortably hangs before letting the events themselves drive the narrative forwards.
If you’ve ever seen Alex Cormack’s work on the likes of Oxymoron or Sink, you’ll know exactly what to expect by now; detailed, expressive linework with a sense of raw energy that really keeps the pages turning. I’ll be honest though, I did have some initial reservations about just how well his style would translate to a straight-up science fiction story, but by the end of the second page those concerns proved to be entirely unfounded. Cormack’s dynamic visual flair is really given a chance to cut loose in the latter stages of the book, including one particularly visceral scene with Yelena hammering away on a ship’s bulkhead which may be my personal highlight of the entire issue.
Respect must also be given to the work of Otsmane-Elhaou, whose lettering works smoothly alongside both Lindsay and Cormack to give the book a slick, professional aesthetic. Everything is inserted unobtrusively, and subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shifts to the font size and colour help to give each character in the story their own unique voice.
What makes the latter portion of the book work so well for me – aside from Cormack’s stunningly visceral artwork, obviously – is the sheer strength of Lindsay’s dialogue. Featuring humour and gravitas in equal measure, the showdown and fantastic interactions between Yelena, Plath (one of the aforementioned relentless robot invaders) and the voice of Plath’s ship have a genuinely amusing and impressively natural flow to them. No overwrought dramatics here, just a heady blend of profanity, legitimately high-stakes space combat and one glorious slapstick moment. It’s a fantastic approach that really sets the story apart from a lot of other sci-fi I’ve read in recent years, and prevents it from ever coming across as too earnest.
The conclusion is as poignant and powerful as it is inevitable, and while there’s likely to be a nagging desire on the part of some readers to find out what happens next, for the most part everything ends in a suitably dramatic and satisfyingly cathartic fashion.
With the likes of Negative Space and Beautiful Canvas already under his belt, Lindsey is fast cementing his reputation as an exciting, up-and-coming writer who has no qualms about doing things a little differently. And seeing him working alongside such an impressive visual partnership as Otsmane-Elhaou and Cormack here makes this a Kickstarter that you flat-out need to back. The team are opting for a primarily digital approach, with just two bucks grabbing you a PDF of the one-shot, and various other tiers offering more free digital comics and commission-based goodness. Definitely one to look out for when it goes live (edit: which it is now – LINK)