In Review: R.R.H. #4

You'll forget the fairy tale once you've read R.R.H.

The cover: The image used for this review has been deliberately cropped so as not to spoil all the fantastic gruesomeness that it shows. Lead character Sydney Woodman has embraced her identity as the new Red Riding Hood and is putting her katana to good use by sticking it through the open mouth of a werewolf. The creature is utterly fantastic looking. I’m not a big fan of gore, I like it in small, shocking doses, but with this cover by Caanan White can be looked at in detail, and I love it. The monster is being speared with a full moon behind it, spotlighting the kill. Sydney looks really angry, as she should be, at this thing running loose in her city. This image tells a reader exactly what he or she is to expect within. Overall grade: A+

The story: Ag, the redheaded werewolf assassin from the previous issue, is at Fisherman’s Wharf at 1:30 AM. He tosses a bag to a figure hidden in the mist, telling her that “Ten should do nicely” and that “it” should be done at home. At 4:30 that afternoon, the same figure enters the USPS and mails a package off to Maggie. A tattoo is shown on the back of the mysterious woman’s hand. A transition occurs and Sydney gets up to look in the mirror, afraid that her fighting with Ag has left her face a disaster. She screams at her image and her parents come rushing in. Her reaction on Page 5 is perfect for her age. School leaves her in a daze; after all, she survived a werewolf attack — it’s going to be hard to focus. A talk with her mother about what it’s like to have their abilities leaves Sydney feeling uncertain. However, on Page 11 she makes a decision and the book kicks into overdrive. Writer Orlando Harding gives readers exactly what they need in this issue. The big question is does Sydney have the stuff to battle a werewolf on her own? Harding answers this question and doesn’t pull any punches. One of the big joys of the book is that the battle that Sydney participates in is not done for humor. Sure, there are some fun moments with a new character, but this is a serious battle with death being the only outcome for one combatant. There’s no cocky banter from the heroine; she knows she could die, and the reader comes to that conclusion as well. The last page is exactly what I wanted — needed — to see, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t hear that final sound effect out loud. This is some serious monster killing. Overall grade: A+

The art: This book could be an artist’s nightmare. It’s not simply an action series involving supernatural creatures battling humans, but includes quiet scenes containing conversations between the protagonist and her family and friends. Luckily, Andres Esparza knows how to keep these quiet scenes visually interesting. The book opens with two pages focusing on a female figure who’s hidden by the fog. Esparaza knows exactly how much to show of this mysterious character to peak interest, but reveal nothing — for now. When the story shifts to Sydney there’s a page devoted to her fear of what her face looks like. Esparaza keeps the readers in suspense, along with Sydney, until she reveals herself before her parents. The scenes at school are nicely populated by a wide variety of students, and the settings (the cafeteria and a classroom) are more than accurate, which I can vouch for as a high school teacher. The final panel shown of her at school, as she wanders the halls, is fantastic. When Sydney has a sit down with her mother, notice how Esparaza gives her some nice movement as she moves her hair back — if I had a dime every time I’ve seen students do this, or my own children…There’s a new character introduced in this issue that Sydney has to save and his design is excellent, with his clothes giving him an immense personality. Most readers are probably checking this book out for the battle between Sydney and the werewolf. I’ve read many comics with such creatures, and Esparaza gives his creatures a look and size that’s unique, so he’s gets some applause for that, but I really have to cheer when Sydney interrupts the monster’s meal — talk about your heroic entrances! All that’s missing is music! The fight is great, and gory, and leaves me hungry to see more of what Esparaza can do. Overall grade: A

The colors: Steve Cobb has got an excellent handle on what to show readers, and what to keep in the dark. He starts with some strong work at Fisherman’s Wharf, using violet and blue to create night, rather than drowning the scene in ebony. However, the mysterious woman is kept in shadows for this page, though the fog of this iconic location wonderfully imposes itself between her and Ag. Yellow is used for this woman’s exit on Page 2, as if she were headed off into the sunset. When Sydney enters the book, Cobb does some slick shading on her, and her friends and family’s, skin to create a three dimensional effect. Red comes into play when the protagonist hits the street, with her hoodie’s colors making her a standout on every page. Crimson also appears when the werewolf starts to stake out victims. Cobb’s acing this book. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Ed Dukeshire is responsible for scene settings, dialogue, a label, sounds, and yells. All look good, but the sounds that appear during the battle steal all of this book’s textual thunder. That last sound of the book was perfection. Overall grade: A

The final line: You’ll forget the fairy tale once you’ve read R.R.H. Excellent story and visuals make this something that everyone should check out. Recommended. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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