Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Robert Carey
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Release Date: 13th January 2021
Across the United States of America, a series of impossibly connected and stomach churningly violent events on election day have taken place with almost supernatural precision. Seemingly normal Americans are exploding into violent, savage attacks, leaving a bloody red swathe across the heart of America. Miriam Roberts is a journalism student living a normal, everyday existence, when a visit from the FBI turns her world upside down and she finds herself dragged unwillingly into a world of Cold War Madness, and into a psychic war dreamed up by the dying remnants of the Soviet Union.
The third issue of this AfterShock Comics series introduces a number of key characters, giving us an idea of just how far-reaching project Red Atlantis is, as well as the lengths that those responsible will go to protect it. It also expands on Miriam’s history. We are given more insight into the people her parents were and their relationship with Sasha. Miriam’s powers start to reveal themselves more fully, and Sasha is going to have his work cut out not only to convince Miriam of the danger she’s in but also to help her control the powers growing inside her.
Well, I am way late to the party on this title, but I’m so glad I’ve taken the time to get caught up. Red Atlantis is a story that is very much of the moment. With the political unrest in the USA, the almost hypnotised, yet rabid behaviour of Trump supporters and the alleged interference by Russia in both the election results four years ago and throughout the Trump presidency, this does have a gritty ring of veracity to it. Okay, I’m not suggesting for one moment that Russia has a department of specially trained ESPionage agents, but I’d almost prefer to believe this story than the idea that people really are so easily and completely fooled into the actions that the world has witnessed over the last three months.
I’ve been a fan of espionage thrillers for a long, long time, having being exposed to the likes of Craig Thomas, John Le Carre, Len Deighton and Graham Greene from about the age of ten, not to mention the myriad films and TV shows on the subject that pervaded the late ‘60s to early ‘80s that were constantly being run on British TV like some permanent reminder that the Red’s may still be “under the bed” like some eternal childhood bogeyman. One of my favourite authors, Brian Lumley, also took the idea of supernatural espionage to the extreme with the hugely successful and epic Necroscope/E-Branch saga that spanned some 27 years in the telling, weaving in Vampires, necromancers, werewolves, teleportation and interdimensional travel all set against the backdrop (certainly for the initial story arc) of a psychic war between Russia and the UK.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that Stephanie Phillips’ story is going to be bringing us vampires or other fantastical creatures, but I’m thrilled at the prospect of a supernatural story blended with a cold war thriller. Plus, Phillips’ ability (as shown in her writing on Devil Within), to bring the supernatural seamlessly into a story, making it seem plausible and real, is right up there with some of my favourite novelists. This is a great thriller. The pacing is fantastic and the tension is constantly there, even in the quieter moments.
I particularly like the way the characters are being developed; Sasha has an extremely difficult job ahead of him, I love the way he initially comes crashing onto the scene, the white knight come to rescue fair maiden, and it’s great to watch him deflate and have to radically rethink his approach when Miriam doesn’t just jump on the back of his metaphorical horse to join him on his quest. Being a journalism student, Miriam has the healthy level of scepticism that you would expect of an investigative and enquiring mind, but it’s tempered with a certain level of petulance that speaks to her age and lack of experience as well as, given Sasha’s revelations about her family, a feeling of abandonment and betrayal.
Robert Carey and Rosh continue to provide excellent artwork for this series. The aesthetic has a satisfying neo-noir feel to it which is just gritty enough for a Cold War thriller without making it seem dated or out of place with its modern day setting. As I am very much playing catch-up with this series, I’ve binged the first three issues over a single weekend, and the character design is really good and consistent throughout. Each character is very well defined, they’ve all got their own personalities, ways of moving, and personal ticks which, given the number of characters it looks like we’re going to be seeing regularly, is a gift. This is something that is not often the case with a large cast, and it’s refreshing to see that Carey and Rosh have made it really easy for the reader to keep track of who is who. There is also a surprising amount of detail in the panels and pages, little things that probably go unnoticed for the most part but go that extra mile in providing this story with an added sense of reality and believability.
I am always going to be interested in new supernatural stories, I am always going to be interested in new thrillers – especially Cold War thrillers – and so I am extremely happy to be reading a story that combines both written by a writer that is fast becoming a favourite of mine. I loved Devil Within and Descendent, I’m having a blast with A Man Among Ye, and while I had some issues with the artwork on Butcher of Paris, I loved the writing. Red Atlantis looks, from what I’ve read so far, to be shaping up to be another great addition to Philips’ impressive portfolio.
While I will always love comics for what they are, and will always be a huge advocate of them as an important form of literature and a gateway to feeding our minds and fuelling our creativity, I am seeing an increasing number of series that are crying out to have screen adaptations. Red Atlantis is a series that could easily be adapted into a TV series, and that’s personally something I would love to see.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek