Red Thorn is a new series about a girl whose drawings have the ability to come to life while an ancient god plots his escape. Sounds like it could go just about anywhere—is it good?
Red Thorn #1 (Vertigo Comics)
Let’s look at the solicit information for this issue:
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.
Yeah… we’ll talk about that in a second.
Red Thorn is full of good ideas and potential, like a lot of these Vertigo series. David Baillie presents us a story about a woman named Isla Mackintosh tracking down her sister who disappeared over twenty five years ago and is trying to figure out what happened to her. The same woman has an interesting power where some of her drawings come to life, but something terrible happened the first time she created a being. The comic also involves the legends and mythology of Scotland, which is something you don’t really see often. There’s also a neat twist at the end about a revelation with our main character’s sister and what it could mean. There are ton of good ideas and plot points for this series to use that it could benefit from.
Meghan Hetrick provides the artwork on the comic and she does a pretty good job overall. The characters are drawn very well and look distinct from each other, from their face down to their body type. Everyone’s really expressive as well and there’s never a moment where you can’t tell how a character is feeling due to their body language. The layouts are put together well, though a double page spread looks a bit off in what is happening it. There’s not much of it, but the more fantastical and mythological parts to the comic are drawn well and the designs in them are interesting to look at, even if I’m not sure how accurate they are to the legends. All in all, the artwork does work rather well and is a good fit for this comic.
The biggest problem hurting this comic is its narrative and focus. The majority of the issue was setup and did a fine enough job establishing our lead and what her past was like (at first…), but the narrative was weak and kind of all over the place. The issue started with Isla looking for her missing sister and there was big emphasis put onto it… but then that plot point just disappeared after four pages when a flashback happened and then Isla ended up getting distracted when she went to a bar. Then the majority of the issue is spent on her with this guy she met (who she then spends over a year with according to a text box, so I guess she just randomly gave up on finding her sister) before the last few pages introduce the mythological angle to the story. Then there is a random cut of a dead body and then the next page shows us the character from the front cover (which also ties back to the very first page of the book). It’s not hard to follow or understand, but comic feels disjointed as it jumps around all over the place.
Speaking of which, our main character feels just as disjointed and awkwardly written. At first, it seems like you can understand her character: she’s on the hunt for her long lost sister and wants to know what happened to her since her disappearance left a big impact on her life. It’s something that seems like a big deal to her, having left America to do so, and affected her mentally due to implied pressure put on her from her parents. Plus, we also see that she has this strange power that kind of scares her, due to a certain incident, and that she also has trouble connecting with people. However, her character abruptly changes not even halfway into the comic where she almost immediately drops her search for her sister to hook up with a guy she barely knows and declares him to be her boyfriend (rather abruptly and out of nowhere). She then starts living with him, for over a year as well, and even starts using her power again despite what happened. It’s so strange and it feels like she became a completely different character out of nowhere. Neither version of her are bad, but they don’t connect or mesh well at all.
Is It Good?
Red Thorn #1 is sadly a misfire for Vertigo. On one hand, this comic has great potential and ideas, while also having some very nice looking artwork. On the other hand, the comic’s narrative, story, and main character are rather inconsistent in how they are written. I’m not sure if I can recommend this one due to those problems. Maybe wait a bit first to see what happens next before checking this one out.