Red One #1-4 (probably of 6)January 7, 2021
Writer: Xavier Dorison
Art: Terry Dodson
Publisher: Image Comics
At the beginning of the 70s, California is the scene of a so-called “Carpenter”. A vigilante whose image refers to “The Farm”, an openly anti-communist and very rigorous movie. The current Carpenter also kills porn actors and directors, which eases Jacky Core’s business, trying to be elected for Senate.
The Soviets, on the contrary, would like the Americans to be a little more flexible regarding the Cold War since an agreement (SALT) is trying to be sealed. They decide to infiltrate their best agent who will play a new superhero, or rather a new superheroine with “red” symbols.
This is how Vera Yelnikov becomes Alabama Jane. If the spy speaks fluent English, she knows almost nothing about American ways. And her cover is most peculiar: assistant (secretary / driver / housekeeper) for Lew Garner, a 70-year-old porn director.
This job will allow her to enact her alter-ego, Red Skin, a sickle & hammer super-heroine. Between a mission for which she is not prepared, a complicated personal situation and bosses who seem to be hiding things from her, will Vera manage to stay sane ?
Red Skin is one of the Franco-American comics that seems to appearfrom time to time. Xavier Dorison (The Third Testament, Sanctuary, Undertaker…) will go far in the fan-service zone by playing with innuendo, leaving to the reader the leisure to create the crispest scenes in his/her mind. The cover of volume 1 is actually a false promise because we will never see the heroine in that bare suit device despite a strong sexual appetite that will be rarely satiated (that will become a running-gag through the comic-book).
On a more political side, United States will be stongly depicted as a country where Puritanism allows the murders of innocent people (that said, things have not changed much in January 2021). But the Soviets are far from being nicer and it seems only Vera applies the most positive (utopical even) sides of communism : sharing of wealth, community life in its broadest aspect – which didn’t happen much in reality). The gap between the ill-prepared heroine (to such an extent that one wonders if her physical capacities were sufficient to make her an agent capable of carrying out her mission) and her mission provides the opportunity for a few well-staged jokes with a few spades launched at the world of the super-heroic comic-book itself, spikes that are still relevant today (a lot of violence but not an ounce of a nipple in mainstream comics).
As for the rest of the story, I would like to tell you that it is well put together but the third volume supposed to close the plot takes pleasure in being delayed, to such an extent that one can wonder if there will actually be a third volume.
The main reason I purchased this book is of course Terry Dodson’s art. Dodson is well known for having worked for Marvel and DC Comics whether it is for regular series or very catchy covers.
Dodson being Dodson, he makes Vera as a female character he knows very well how to draw, close to other characters he designed, basically only changing their hairstyle. To be completely honest, in a her appearance, Vera looks leaner than usual Dodson heroines. One can wonder how much Russian she is, although the USSR being so large, you can find all kinds of faces and bodies out there. The rest of the cast has ironically much more variety, unique look and personality than the heroine. The face expressions provided by Dodson for each characters are so precise that it’s a real pleasure to read. Kuddos to the old grumpy porn director which has a large range of expressions.
The layout knows how to manage efficency; humor works in most scenes (especially thanks to the off-screen underlined by the script); the action goes at full speed and Dodson succeeds in transcribing Red Skin’s intentions effectively (depending on whether she uses exacerbated violence or not). I admit that I was less convinced the “horror” scenes but some featuring Core and the Carpenter are still quite strong.
First article for sgtpepere.com and reviewing an incomplete series to start. I sent a message to find out if issues #5-6 are meant to be, so I will update this article once I’ll get the info.
In the meantime, here are two nice volumes (in french) to read. Even if the story is quite light, it still have topics about freedom of speech and conservatism that are still current.
And with Terry Dodson on board, it’s at least a pleasure for the eyes.
Ah, you can check American covers here and spot the main difference 😉 : https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=27225824