In Review: Red One #1

Sensational debut issue that's a 32 page steal for only $2.99.

The cover: Looking happy to be wearing her super hero outfit, Vera Yelnikov is the Red One. She is a superhero for America in May of 1977. However, she also has a big secret: she’s a Russian spy. She literally is the “Red One.” Beautiful image by penciller and colorist Terry Dodson and inker Rachel Dodson. Vera looks beautiful, with big time sex appeal that would definitely fit into America’s Charlie’s Angels love at the time. The coloring is very striking, making the white seem extra bold against all the red. This really stands out against other books on the stands. Overall grade: A+

The story: This is a fantastic idea for a story. America, 1977: a starlet’s movie is picketed by a group lead by Jacky Core, an ultra conservative who believes the actress to be sinning on the screen. As the actress drives away she is attacked and allowed to die by someone the media dubs the Carpenter. In Moscow, three months later, Vera Ylenikov is drafted by Brezhnev to go to America, “A rival to the Carpenter. Our superhero will have to move there under an assumed name, then win the hearts of the Americans. And when that is done, and not before, they will eliminate the ‘Carpenter’.” This must be done because Core is up for election, and if she wins she will obstruct the signing of the SALT Treaty, possibly restarting the Cold War between Russia and the US. Every time the Carpenter kills someone, Core’s popularity shoots up. Normally I don’t review a book with specific details past the first four pages, but this is up to Page 16. This is half way through this monstrous 32 page debut issue, but I haven’t spoiled any of the fun that comes with Ylenikov’s first appearance or what is said during her assignment. She is completely loyal to Russia, to be sure, but she knows that its citizens are feeling quite the pinch, and she’s shown trying to help where she can. Her comments on America are great, and when she arrives in the Land of the Free, she’s a fish out of water who makes her way into certain people’s lives in fantastic ways. Xavier Dorison has crafted an incredibly fun, unique, and sparkling story that is impressive. Overall grade: A+

The art: I’ve only become aware of Terry Dodson’s pencils and Rachel Dodson’s inks with the recently released Princess Leia series from Marvel Comics. That book looks fantastic, but this book shows this duo to absolutely take flight with this original character. The character work is flawless. The opening pages begin at the movie premiere, showing the star and her protestors. She looks gorgeous and Core looks like someone that would give Dolores Umbridge a run for her money. Vera is a beautiful woman, cut from the same strong mold as Wonder Woman; she’s tall, brunette, and looks as if she could snap anyone in half. Her emotions are perfect: Page 8, panel one; Page 11, panel eight; the bottom two panels on 13; panels three and four on 15; the second panel on 17; and I could go on and on and on. She’s amazing. The character on 23 had me laughing with every angry glance and look of terror. Another character introduced on Page 30 looks as if he could be the precursor for one of Springfield’s more famous shop owners, though the Dodsons make him much more believable. The settings in this book are incredible: a movie premiere, a freeway, a training center, a briefing room, an airplane, the airport, someone’s house, someone’s place of work, and the final three pages. Nothing is left out or cheated on in these settings. In fact, I found myself reading the story slowly because I was completely taken by such fine details in the art. The visuals are spectacular in every way. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Doing double duty on this book is Terry Dodson who is also providing the colors. I do like to see artists coloring their own work, since they normally consider colors when creating their visuals, and it’s easy to see that Dodson knew what he was doing when he drew and colored this book. The opening page is a nice set of contrasts, which transition into some nice brights which typify the expected Southern California day. When thinking of Cold War Russia, bright colors don’t come to mind, and Dodson keeps the backgrounds in the expected browns, grays, and tans. However, when Vera is on the page, or any other character appears, their flesh tones generate a tremendous amount of warmth, making them come alive in this tough environment. This is especially true when she visits some friends, and they, too, create an inviting feeling because of the colors they wear. Dodson can draw and color exceptionally well. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This is my only nit of the entire book, but it does not fall on letterer Clayton Cowles’s head. There is a tremendous amount of dialogue on some pages and in several panels. Dodson doesn’t allow much room for the lettering from Cowles. Because of this, the lettering for dialogue on this book is really small. I know I’m showing my age, but I really had to strain my peepers to read some of the dialogue. Did I read it all? Yes I did, and I loved every word of it, but Cowles’s hands are tied in trying to tell Dorison’s story with Dodson’s tiny, detailed panels. He obviously didn’t want to cover the art, and his only solution was to go for a tiny font. Cowles provides dialogue, transmissions, and sounds expertly, but I wish old man me didn’t have to blow out a blood vessel to read this book. Overall grade: B

The final line: Sensational debut issue that’s a 32 page steal for only $2.99. Get one while you can, because Mother Russia wants you to. 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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