Review – The Crimson Cage #3 (AWA Studios)

Publisher: AWA Studios – Upstart
Writer: John Lees
Artwork: Alex Cormack
Colours: Ashley Cormack
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 16th February 2022

No fancy blurb/summary this month. If you’ve read it then you already know, and if you haven’t then I just can’t go into detail without spoiling what has to be one of the most brutal and traumatic issues I’ve read since Negan pulped Glenn’s head with a baseball bat way back in issue 100 of The Walking Dead. However, what I can tell you is that it’s a rollercoaster that left me properly choked up at points, and emotionally exhausted by the end. For me, It’s as close to perfect as I think you’re ever going to see in a comic.

By now pretty much anyone who reads comics must be aware of the superstar team that is John Lees, Alex & Ashley Cormack and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and my enthusiasm for anything they produce. And of the long list of projects they’ve collaborated on, this is by a country mile the best thing they’ve ever done. Okay, so it’s broadly pitched as a retelling of MacBeth in a contemporary setting but this is so much more than that. The writing is just extraordinarily good, there’s more tension, character development and emotional depth in this series so far than I think you could reasonably squeeze into a full blown novel. This is something that both John and Alex are masters at, delivering fully realised and believable characters on the page who are not stylised ideals but rather flawed and imperfect and relatable.

As you may imagine from the above, this is an issue that is action packed and full of tension, horror, and heartbreak. There are some wonderfully choreographed wrestling scenes, Chuck Frenzy’s ever quickening spiral into insanity is incredible, and when the meat meets the metal, there are moments that made me genuinely wince. The part of this issue that broke me is so utterly brutal and quick but it seemed to stretch on forever as I tried to digest what was on the page. I could hear every single punch land, I could hear bones break and muscle and sinew tear, it was horrifying and heartbreaking, and I keep getting flashbacks to it, which is not something that happens often to this somewhat jaded 40+ year veteran of all the horrors comics have had to offer.

Hands down, this creative team are my number one, top of the pile, best creators in the industry at the moment; writer, artist, colourer, letterer, these four are consistently at the top of any “best of” list I’ve written, and what’s more, they continue to get better with every new project.

Rating: 5/5.


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

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