In Review: Crimson Lotus #3

The Crimson Lotus reveals herself to the heroes and destruction lies in her wake.

The cover: Agent Dai walks into a room with his pistol drawn and looks perturbed at who’s standing before him. I would expect a character to be angry or surprised, but the spy looks miffed. The character that he’s looking upon isn’t seen, but the individual’s hand is and a coin is being held between their index and middle finger. The importance of the coin is revealed within, as is the identify of this unseen character. Neat cover from Tonci Zonjic that shows one of the leads and teases another, with the coin getting the major focus. The coloring is really cool with all the reds really making this an ominous image. Overall grade: A

The story: In Harbin, China, Dai and Shengli are at a gathering of spies where it’s announced that if “the Jilin Self-Defense Army and the Chinese Resistance are to succeed, we are needed here.” This is followed by the news that Agent Baolu has been found dead, mutilated. After this information, the agents try to relax, with Shengli producing a charm for Dai to have. She tells him that he will have to pay for the protection and he offers a coin he picked up in Hong Kong in exchange. She puts the charm around his neck just as everyone pauses at hearing something odd. That’s when a monstrous sized tiger creature bursts into the room, killing a man and pinning Shengli to the ground from debris. Pulling his gun, Dai fires, getting the beast’s attention. Things do not go as he planned. Thankfully, the obstacle is dealt with, but that’s when a tremendous explosion users the Crimson Lotus onto the scene. This is when things go completely chaotic. She wants Dai, but Shengli, having some magical abilities, defends him. John Arcudi then splits his story with Dai on the run from armed guards, wearing gas masks, and Shengli versus the Crimson Lotus. This is some action packed, intense, fun, and glorious reading. Dai’s escapades alone would be more than enough for a satisfying read, with all the action involved, but the battle between the women is dazzling with their fantastic back and forth of words and powers. WOW! The last page is a stunning cliffhanger, ending with the most terrifying character in the world. Overall grade: A+

The art: Mindy Lee is absolutely crushing the visuals on this series. She’s made me a fan of her work and I would love to see her on any other series. I like that she’s able to populate a setting with several people and have each character look unique, rather than cutting and pasting the same figure to create a crowd. The reactions of those gathered have a great response to hearing of Baolu’s passing. The change of tone between the second and first page establishes the time period as the spies try to relax at a bar; this instantly gives the story a classic James Bond-cocktail feel. The charm that Shengli produces is neat and looks as though it could be thousands of years old. I like how Lee is able to show that Dai is impressed with his own wit in the fourth panel on Page 3; again, very James Bond. The bottom panel of the page shows a great reaction to a distant noise that the reader isn’t aware of. The partial double-paged splash of 4 and 5 is awesome with the creature looking like a nightmare brought to life. The reader can feel the sizable chunk of concrete that smacks into Shengli and the terror of the man that’s caught in the monster’s jaws. The lack of dialogue in the first panel on 6 is exactly what one would expect of any sized feline that’s happy with its kill in its mouth. The second panel on 7 is terrific. The surprise on 8 is amazing; I couldn’t have predicted that visual if I had a million guesses. I like how everything is normal, as possible, after this horror, making the reveal at the bottom of 9 spectacular. The entrance on 10 is excellent, as is the reaction at the bottom of the page. I love the look of the armed men — they are really creepy! The battle on 12 – 14 is just so cool! All that was missing was a soundtrack. The point of view in the large panel on 16 is really well done, creating a great sense of vertigo. The reactions on 18 are perfect. The book ends with three images that are superb: a reaction, the reveal, and the most horrific thing ever created in the history of Mignola books. I would pay some serious money to have Lee on another series as soon as this one concludes. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors by Michelle Madsen add to the tone of this book. The book opens with three pages of browns for a sedate and secretive meeting and remind one of the classic bars of the time period. Notice in the third panel on Page 3 how Madsen colors the background yellow, the brightest colors in the book so far. This notifies the reader that what’s occurring in the panel is extremely important. The arrival of the creature on 4 and 5 has the background turning a strong red to punctuate the horror it brings with it. The sound that accompanies it is in a bright yellow, making the noise that heralds its arrival as epic as the beast. The last panel on 7 again has the background turning yellow for a key moment. The pale greens for the first panel on 8 increase the supernatural nature of the monster. The last panel on 9 is momentous with its yellows and hints of orange. I love how the character revealed on 10 has their face colored darkly, indicating that though bright colors are being wielded by this individual, their soul is black. This is in contrast to the extremely bright colors for the person that ends this page, which reflect her nature. The last page is terrific for the shock of oranges used for the background setting; they are absolutely normal for the location, but they marvelously allow the reader to focus on the characters. Madsen is awesome. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins is a masterful letterer and is responsible for this issue’s text which includes scene settings and an editorial note, dialogue, sounds, screams, yells, spellcasting, and devious laughter. The scene setting and editorial note are in italics and that fits them as essentially asides to the reader. The dialogue is easy to read and when someone yells the font becomes larger, thick, and italicized to emphasize the stress with which it’s said. The sounds in this issue are killer, with gunfire, creatures, and things being broken. The most impressive of the issue are the two spells cast on page 14, with Robins doing something I’ve never seen in a comic, and I’ve been a reader for several decades; it’s a perfect match for something unnatural. And don’t get me started with how terrifying the devious laughter looks that ends this issue. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The Crimson Lotus reveals herself to the heroes and destruction lies in her wake. The action is great, the intelligence of the leads is displayed, the visuals are awesome, the colors increase the tone, and the letters accentuate every panel. This book is amazing! Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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