Review – Red Room #2 (Fantagraphics)

Publisher: Fantagraphics
Written and Illustrated by: Ed Piskor
Release Date: 24th June 2021

Red Room is a grimy, violent slice of splatterpunk excess from the mind of Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Ed Piskor.  Digging into a dark web subculture of live-streaming psychopaths committing atrocities for cryptocurrency donations, this twelve-part series adopts the early Stray Bullets-style approach of self-contained-but-broadly-connected stories.

While the first double-sized issue focused on Pentagram Productions, one of the top Red Room streaming companies on the dark web, and their recruitment of a brand new “act” called Decimator, this latest chapter shines the light on a rival company and the methods they employ to obtain a new victim to be brutalized by their star psycho Pokerface. As part of this process, we’re introduced to the unfortunate Doctor Daniels, who is held captive and forced against his will to prepare the victims ready for their moment on camera.

Right from the get-go, Piskor’s boundless enthusiasm for the twisted world he is creating is on full display here. There’s an impressive depth of world building in this series, belying its outwardly shlocky exterior, along with some wonderfully quirky new characters introduced throughout the course of the issue.

The story cracks on at a brisk pace throughout, bombarding the reader with crazy characters and explicit gore aplenty, and there’s a real feeling of Piskor continually trying to top himself with the frequent live stream interludes. Some of it becomes almost comically over the top as a result, which I feel has to be intentional on his part, although there are still some genuinely unsettling moments along the way.

On the visual side of things, Piskor’s impressively detailed monochrome artwork fits the style of the comic perfectly. Characters are exaggerated, both in terms of their physical proportions and their facial expressions, and there are plenty of neat little details tucked away for eagle-eyed readers. The live streaming sections are brilliantly rendered, featuring a pitch-perfect comments section where affluent voyeurs turn out to be the same form of chat room detritus we’re all familiar with. The whole thing has the feel and aesthetic of a grimy underground ‘zine, in all the best ways.

I’ll be honest though, this latest chapter didn’t quite sink its (thankfully metaphorical) hooks into me the way the first issue did, but there’s still an enjoyable “where the heck is this going?” undercurrent that keeps the pages turning throughout. The doctor’s story is basic but effective, with the inevitable fate of the poor unfortunate victim almost feeling like a secondary concern to Daniels’ fragile family situation and the events that are transpiring outside of his horrific captive bubble.

While the overzealous gore and violence may turn off some potential readers, I’d still heartily recommend dipping your toe into Piskor’s crimson-coloured waters.  And with ten more issues to go, it’s going to be fascinating to see how many interesting situations he can wring out of this depraved setting.  I’m definitely going to be turning in to see what comes next, that’s for sure.

Rating: 4/5.


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