Advance Review – The Crimson Cage #2 (AWA Studios)

Publisher: AWA Studios – Upstart
Writer: John Lees
Artwork: Alex Cormack
Colours: Ashley Cormack
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 19th January 2022

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” – William Shakespeare – The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II – Scene I

After having been betrayed in the ring, Chuck Frenzy seeks an account from Van Emerald, but sinister forces are at work and the words of the women from the Bayou intrude on his thoughts, leading to a moment of terrible, bloody, action.

This issue is not simply a gear change in terms of pace, it’s like a rocket has been strapped to the story as Chuck Frenzy’s world explodes around him in gallons of crimson blood, as the predictions of the crones from the Bayou come to pass and Chuck sees himself crowned in the place of the fallen king. Chuck soon learns however that he has only just started to pay the cost of obtaining the crown, and that the cracks forming in the world around him may see bloodier deeds and far worse betrayals from all sides in the future if he intends to keep it.

Do I have sufficient superlatives to praise the work of this creative team?  Eh, probably not but I’m going to give it a damned good try. I’ve said it on numerous occasions, but this team is made up of some of my favourite people in the comic industry today. They’re regularly at the top of whatever “best of” list I’m writing, and I can’t remember ever giving any of their offerings less than 5/5. That alone is enough reason for me to support this title, but if you need more convincing, here goes…

The Crimson Cage is one of those series that you really, really need to buy. John Lees has been very vocal about the passion that went into creating this story, and it is evident on every page that his heart and soul has gone into every character, every interaction, every line of dialogue. This is also the kind of story that Alex and Ashley Cormack were born to illustrate. These are characters who revel in their flaws and grotesquery, whether that’s physical or within their personalities, and that is where the Cormack’s live for me, bringing a writer’s narrative to the page in a real and believable way.

This is also a series with its own share of horror, and as Alex is the only person who’s made me shout expletives across the room in shock since I first read Junji Ito, I can’t think of a better person to deliver it. Not to leave out Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, who for me is in the top three letterers in the business and brings his A-Game to absolutely everything he does.

Honestly, there has not been one single misstep in the first two issues of this series. This, for me at least, is delivered as a real world full of real people. It’s tense, brutal, horrific, action packed, and a real rollercoaster ride. I truly cannot recommend this series enough. I mean, it got into my Best of 2021 list based on the first issue alone, and this issue merely seals the deal.

Rating: 5/5.

The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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