In Review: Red Thorn #3

The best modern fantasy available is Red Thorn.

The cover: A gigantic creature thinks it has the drop on Thorn, but the title character is more than aware of his position. He raises his hands in supplication, though he has a smug smile on his face, and the monster splits into several pieces. Thorn is not a demigod to be trifled with. Great cover by Choong Yoon that, though this scene doesn’t occur in this issue, captures the personality of Thorn in one image. I do wish the creature and the background colors were a little lighter so that the details in both could be seen more clearly. Overall grade: A-

The story: In the city of Essaouira, Morocco, a storyteller is regaling a group of children with a story about a holy man and a water serpent. This is foreshadowing an appearance later in this story, written by David Baillie. Listening to the storyteller is Tarek, who is deaf. A man greets the teen, who tells him that he can provide some place safe the boy can stay at while his father sobers up. Alone in a room in the man’s house, Tarek sketches a map of a place he names Thorn’s Keep, as his eyes blaze a brilliant metallic orange. At Redcap keep, Isla wakes up from the previous night’s revelry from Thorn’s return to the world. She finds herself atop a table next to several sleeping orcs and trolls. She remembers what she’s done to end up in this position and now she wants Thorn to make good on his promise to tell her everything about her missing sister. She finds him, though she did not expect to find her new friend surrounded by such an interesting collection of people in such an interesting place. Baillie has got this story going along at a really good, fun pace. I’m enjoying how Isla and Thorn separate from one another, going off on their own little adventures. His story is much more serious than hers, and the individual he encounters on Page 16 is the stuff dreams are made of. Isla’s tale is also serious, given whom she’s looking for, but with Thorn-appointed guardians Franint and Stepping Orc along for the ride, the dialogue among them is priceless. She finds the person she’s looking for on the streets of Glasgow, which is not surprising, though the person that individual is with is a sweet gut punch. This story is fun on every level, with just the right mixture of fun and dark fantasy. The only reason that this story misses an A+ is that it is still developing. Overall grade: A 

The art: I’m completely won over by the visuals from Meghan Hetrick, so you can’t consider my opinion unbiased. The opening scene in the Moroccian market nicely gives the book a foreign flair from the familiar streets of Scotland. Tarek is drawn very sympathetically with a slight shift in his mouth giving him incredible emotion. Isla’s awakening is as startling for the reader as it is for the character; seeing this young woman wake up next to several monstrous sized fantasy characters is unsettling to say the least. Thorn’s first appearance is initially shocking, but then becomes something worthy of a chuckle, as it sums up his personality quite well. I like how Hetrick gives her characters so much emotion, as the faces and posture of her characters instantly communicates their feelings, such as when Isla and Thorn speak in the hall. Everything seems all peaches and cream until Cardos’s name comes up and Thorn has a very pronounced reaction. The action sequence with Thorn continues to show the violence he’s capable of if someone, or something, stands in his way. The individual he’s looking for is wonderful; Hetrick’s design of this character is completely unexpected and puts a new twist on the infamous entity. Franint and Stepping Orc are also excellent characters, with their emotions well drawn. The final page has no dialogue, but is shocking and carries an extremely ominous tone. This visuals on this book capture reality and fantasy excellently. Overall grade: A+

The colors: There is also extremely strong work from Steve Oliff on this book. Game of Thrones and Tolkien films have tainted my expectations of what the colors should be in a fantasy; I expect an overabundance of earth tones, but Oliff doesn’t deliver that. Thankfully, he supplies a welcome amount of bright colors to the issue, without one choice seeming out of place. Bright colors first appear in the storyteller’s story and in the market where it’s told. The color of Tarek’s eyes in the final panel on Page 3 is beautifully ominous. The bright hair on Thorn and Isla, as well as her top and his tattoos, bring an excellent splash of color to every page they’re on. The flames that appear on Page 12 are wonderful and the background colors on the character that appears on 16 add so much magic to that panel. Colors are also key in the final panel, bringing a good threat to that closing image. Oliff is aces. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, scene settings, yells, the story’s title, the story’s credits, sounds, narration, and the tease for next issue are created by lettering icon Todd Klein. Any reader can see from Klein’s work that they are watching a master at work, for he creates such unique fonts for the story’s title and credits, the scene setting on Page 2 is gorgeous, and the sounds are visually disturbing to match the action. Klein is also knocking it out of the ballpark. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: The best modern fantasy available is Red Thorn. Readers will be on their toes trying to decide if Thorn is a force for good or evil, as human Isla tries to learn the truth about her sister. Outstanding in every way. 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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