In Review: R.R.H. #1

R.R.H. is the perfect mix of fear, fantasy, and family.

The cover: Sydney Woodman stares strongly at the reader, determined to make her mark on her heritage. If only she looked behind her she might see the gigantic wolf rearing up to strike. There’s a whole lot to like about this cover. The first is the logo. I admit I was wondering what the logo would look like for a character who was the heir to Red Riding Hood; it could be disastrous. I don’t know who designed this, but it looks great. I really like that the first R looks like a character wearing a red hood, and the jagged edges of the letters give it an ominous vibe. It makes the premise instantly cool with only three letters. The illustration features a really strong looking Sydney. She looks like she’s ready to kick some major butt with that intense look on her face, and her windswept hair only makes her look that much cooler. Behind her, just below the logo, is a ferocious looking wolf. I’m a huge fan of werewolf stories and films, so it takes a lot to impress me: Andres Esparza impressed me. The maw stands out, the mottled hair is great, and the coloring is tops. This is the perfect way to introduce this title and this character to readers. Overall grade: A 

The story: The book starts in the thick of things on a full paged splash, as a woman bound to a chair in an unsavory location gives narration about fate. She ends her internal monologue by saying, ‘My destiny was spawned 800 years ago.’ She lifts her head, which is again is another full paged splash, and her face is a fleshy mess of blood and bruises. She’s barely able to eek out to an unseen character, “Please, I’m begging you…” The response is “Begging won’t stop it.” The scene then makes a dramatic shift to 48 hours earlier in San Francisco, Potrero Hill District. In a darkened bedroom an alarm goes off, which allows entrance for a young boy to run in shouting at the top of his lungs, “Happy Birthday, Sydney! Happy Birthday!” Sydney Woodman does not want to get up, even if it is her birthday, but with her little brother whipping the covers off of her and greeting her with something unexpected (which was great!), she gets gets up to open the present he brought in. His gift is the best thing a little brother could get his big sister and there’s a nice pause so the reader can feel as Sydney feels. Writer Orlando Harding has crafted a fine origin story for Sydney, but praise should really come his way for the entire Woodman family. I can’t think of seeing a family like this in a comic in a forever. The love they have for each other never crosses into sappy family bliss — they’re real! I believe in these characters as family members that care for each other. When someone says something to Sydney that night, the family’s reaction creates a strong sense of tension and a moment of realization when it’s understood her time has come. I’ve read what seems like a million origin stories, so I was hoping for something different, and Harding delivers it. The origin — the fate — of the Woodman family is given, yet it’s punctuated with excellent moments of believable humor, that had me feeling just like the mother and daughter in those scenes. The final panel is the perfect shot of reality into Sydney’s unbelievable situation. It’s also the perfect tease to get readers to return for the next issue. Overall grade: A

The art: Andres Esparza has an excellent opening for this book. The first two pages show the lead character in a dramatic state of distress, starting with her face unseen on the opening image. The point of view is from the ground, looking up at the woman tied to a chair in a cement walled structure that’s missing a chunk of ceiling, which shows a vivid blood red moon up high. Saving the reveal for Sydney on the second page is a stunningly dramatic moment. Writing this review, I’ve looked at it several times, and it’s still disturbing to look at because I don’t want to think of what anyone had to go through to look like that. The third page is a complete opposite: opening with a shot looking down at sleeping Sydney and quickly becoming family life as little Ronnie comes running in. The look of anger on Sydney as Ronnie joyously rips the sheets off of her is perfect. Illustrating children has been a bugaboo for several artists, who have them looking like little grown ups rather than children, but Esparza does not have that problem: Ronnie is definitely a child, and he looks great. The kids’ mom also looks great, but I have to really give a major shout out to the design of the patriarch of the family. I applaud the creators of this book for having the father look as he does. I also have to give props to Esparza for the outstandingly detailed settings, especially that of the Woodman home: it’s not glamorous, but real, and that helps immeasurably to make this story more believable. The antagonist of this issue is delightful teased to readers, with only glimpses seen, but the threat obvious. I’m glad this was also the decision made, because to show the monster fully revealed in the first issue would lose the impact of what’s bound to occur in the next installment. My favorite page of the issue is 8 because I teach at a high school, and I could swear I’ve seen/taught these students, and I’ve seen students strut just as Sydney’s doing on that page. Overall grade: A 

The colors: A book inspired by a fairy tale or involving wolves screams darkness. It has to be dark given the nature of the premise, right? Nope! Steve Cobb has the ultimate fake out, thanks to the story and art. The first two pages are strong stuff, with the first page primarily in black, with violet highlights to outline Sydney, but red dominates the page from the moon up high. The second page shows Sydney’s face tinted by the moon high above her, but the discolorations from her bruises cannot be ignored. The change of setting brings a change in tone, as the house has all the cool blues and greens one would associate with a welcoming and comfortable home. I like how Cobb had Sydney brighten up in the second panel on Page 5 to highlight her. The colors brighten further on 7 when she goes outside. When the night does arrive, as readers know it will, Cobb uses violets for darkness, allowing the art to remain seen and creating a otherworld fantasy feeling that mirrors Sydney’s journey, such as on page 10. Cobb is the perfect match for Esparza’s art. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration and dialogue (the same font), weak muttering, scene settings, sounds, and yells are created by Ed Dukeshire. Contributors that need to get more attention from comic book readers are letterers. Dukeshire is doing some amazing work on this book, and it’s so subtle that if it’s not mentioned it might not be noticed. His skills are strong because he’s able to place a tremendous amount of dialogue in some panels without running over the visuals. This seems like an obvious skill for a letterer to have, but take a look at how he does it on Page 20: he could have run his text over the weapon shown, but that would diminish the moment, or he could have moved the mother’s text in the bottom panel more to the left, but that would have taken focus from the container on the floor that began her on her destiny. This is something that should be recognized. And that’s just on his placement of dialogue; his sounds are great and the yells from characters are a match from their speakers. This is great work. Overall grade: A 

The final line: R.R.H. is the perfect mix of fear, fantasy, and family. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a book like this turns up to show you there are many more stories to be told. 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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