The Horror Honeys: Horror Comics ~ Red Thorn #1

Horror Comics ~ Red Thorn #1

A Guest Comics Honey Review by Allison

Red Thorn #1

Writer: David Baillie
Artists: Meghan Hetrick, Steve Oliff (Colours), Todd Klein (letters), Choong Yoon (cover)
Publisher: Vertigo
Released: November 2015

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Entertainment: 4/5

Overall: 4 sexy, naked, pagan gods out of 5!

On the rain-soaked streets of Glasgow, a girl whose drawings somehow come to life has just stumbled across her one true love. And thousands of miles below those streets, an ancient demi-god plots his escape from the prison where he’s been held for nearly two thousand years. Evil forces are at play and no one is safe as the legends of Scottish mythology collide with the modern world. Fans of FABLES and THE SANDMAN won’t want to miss this riveting dark fantasy epic! 

Dark fantasy is practically horror, right? I've been eagerly awaiting this series since I read an interview with the creative team promising spooky Scottish folklore and old-school Vertigo content.

I saw right away that one of my favourite duos - Mike Carey and Peter Gross - receive "special thanks" in the credits, and this definitely feels like something that could come from their wheelhouse. Like Baillie does here, Mike Carey frequently puts young women at the centre of his stories, and the meta-fictional concept of a drawing coming to life (inside a comic book) and the folkloric pastiche would feel right at home in Lucifer or The Unwritten. But Baillie can hold his own; he captures the Scottish patois in a way that only an actual Scot could, naturalizing dialogue that could feel forced an awkward in other hands. 

I'm immensely fond of folklore, so seeing references to Red Caps and an appearance by Jenny Greenteeth is a sign of great things to come. For an introductory issue, this is a bit slow - we only scratch the surface of the story and its background -but I'm content for now to be in the comic's world, and I look forward to learning more about it.

See the "buy it" link below for the NSFW version...
Not every comic can start with a double-issue, but time and space work against our characters in Issue #1. We know that Isla's sister disappeared before she was born, and that they (presumably) shared the ability to give life to the beings they draw. Other than that, Isla is cool and fun and spontaneous, but we don't know much about what's driving her, beyond a desire to find out what happened to her sister. That will probably come in time, and for now she's likeable enough, but I wish that an intro issue would delve a bit deeper into its protagonist - especially since we only meet half of the pair at the centre of the story. When Thorn properly enters the scene, presumably in the next issue, we'll see what Isla makes of his boyband good looks...

Meghan Hetrick is fantastic, and her designs tell us as much about the characters as the dialogue does. I like the touch of Isla's nose piercing, and her giant, unruly hair is gorgeous. Thorn's hair and tattoos are likely Isla's projection in some sense, but they give us an idea already of the kind of character he's going to be. Even Alec's beard and ironic t-shirt paint a perfect picture of a guy who would read Camus in a bar. Only one monster appears in this issue, but its design is a sign of great things to come.

The page layouts are clean and clear, with only one spread that gets fancy, but the text box placement leads you clearly around the spread (an image of Isla's sister's notebook) - as usual, Todd Klein's lettering is pitch-perfect. I would have chosen a flatter, less-rendered colouring style than Oliff uses, but the too-bright colours add a sense of weird surrealism to the art, which generally leans more realist.

While very little happens, this issue effectively sets up the series' world. We're introduced to half of the main characters but there isn't much action in this issue - Jenny Greenteeth gives Isla information so that she can "wake" a god imprisoned beneath the city, but we'll have to keep reading to learn what that even means.

Isla is a lot of fun, and she'll be an even stronger character when the story delves further into her inner life. I can't wait to properly meet Thorn, as his smirk says a thousand words, and with the promise of more monsters  to come, this should be a series to seek out for other fans of folklore and urban fantasy.