Review – The Crimson Cage #4 (AWA Studios)

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

Chuck Frenzy is at the top, life is good, and he and Charlene are putting the past behind them. Charlene is hoping to realise her own dreams, but when you make a deal with the devil there is always a price to be paid, and more blood is required to seal the pact that will keep the crown on Chuck Frenzy’s head.

Wow, this issue got DARK. I consider myself to be a seasoned John Lees fan, and if not jaded as such, then certainly hardened to some of the worst excesses of his fevered imaginings, but the last scene in this issue really tested my limits. And that last panel?  Well, let’s just say that I made an audible moan while reading, which prompted my wife, knowing I was reading a review book, to respond with “John Lees?”

If you read my review of issue 3 then you already know the deep respect I have for this creative team and how utterly floored I am by what I consider to be the best work they have produced. So with that said, I really don’t know if there’s anything else I can do to convince you that this is a title that should be considered an absolutely essential read. I’m pretty close to calling this my top comic of 2022 with eight and a half months still to go, that’s how good it is.

So, with all that said, how do I stretch this to a minimum of 400 words without repeating myself? Honestly, I don’t think it’s feasible, because once again, there’s not a dull note, a misstep or single flaw in any of it, and it’s a title that will inevitably end up in my best of round ups this year, and likely end up in my best of the decade round up (if Ceej hasn’t fired me before then!)

I absolutely love the energy of this comic. I love the passion and the intensity, and the interactions between the characters, even during the more outré scenes is believable. They’re real people, and you are 100% drawn into their world, even if you’ve never dipped a toe in the world of wrestling. That in a nutshell is John Lees’ greatest skill. Not just writing the grotesque and horrific (of which is is undeniably the G.O.A.T.), but in making you believe in and care about these flawed creatures .

On the visual side of things, I love the design, I love the artwork, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is one of the most prolific letterers/designers in the business and one of the best at his craft, and Alex and Ashley Cormack remain my favourite art team producing beautiful, flawed and disfigured creations that are all the more heartbreakingly real for those flaws and scars.

If you’re not convinced by now then I can do no more, but if you’re already reading this series then by god you’re in for a treat (if that’s the appropriate word) with this latest issue.

Rating: 5/5.

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

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