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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3 -- I remember reading the original Red Star trade paperback collection years ago; if I recall correctly, it was published then by Image Comics. It's not anymore, now it's published by Archangel Studios, which both forgets to put a price anywhere on this comic book, and lists the publisher's city of residence in the indicia as "North Hollywood, Clifornia."

Because this is the third issue of a series apparently recounting "the origin story of the Red Star saga," I am late to the proceedings, having not read anything since that initial collection many years ago. I remember that it contained many full-page images of people and machinery, the people shouting, or grim, and the machinery large. Having read this new issue, I recall now that at least some of the machines use human souls as fuel. I don't believe there's such a thing as a soul, distinct from our earthbound biology, so already my baloney detector is going off. The people still seem grim. There are ghosts, and a Darth Vader-like guy who tears someone's soul out of them. I guess that would be bad, in the same way it was bad for Austin Powers when Dr. Evil stole his mojo. (See what I did there? I don't believe in mojo, either; actually, I believe people possess mojo more easily than I believe they possess an immortal soul, so, Austin Powers 1, Red Star: Sword of Lies #3 0, I suppose.)

(And no, at no time in thinking about writing this review did I think at all about Austin Powers, it just organically developed out of the writing process.)

Coming in to the universe of The Red Star this late in the game, with little interest in the previously established stories and even less in the origin of how they got there, I have to confess that clearly The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3 is not the funnybook for me. I feel a little bad about that because A) A lot of effort clearly goes into the creation of these very serious and portentous comic books and B) The woman at Archangel Studios who asked me to review this issue was both very nice about asking and very prompt in making sure it arrived at my house in a timely manner. But like someone with no interest or background in Freemasonry walking into a ceremony for experienced devotees of that tradition, I have no idea what is happening and can only note that everyone involved seems very committed to their work, although no one seems to be devoting any time whatsoever to making sure outsiders can understand or appreciate what is going on.

So, if like me you come into The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3 with no recent experience of the series, here is what you will find:

* Large machines that apparently use human souls as their fuel. I suppose this is a metaphor for the effect of Soviet governance on its people.

* A sequence involving stolen liquor that I think is supposed to be both funny and sad. Upon reflection, it recalls Captain Kirk calling down to Scotty in engineering on the original Star Trek, more than anything. Scotty liked a good, stiff drink, and was an engineer, and talked to his captain over the intercom, just like you see here. The engineer even looks a bit like mid-period Scotty with his big, gray mustache. And fondness for liquor.

* Someone being operated on in an operating room with one panel that looks like Alex Ross, the rest like full-colour manga.

* Soviet-style soldiers standing stoically in the snow.I suppose this is a metaphor for Soviet soldiers, who often had to stand in the snow being stoic.

* A guy who looks and acts like Darth Vader, or maybe Baron Karza.

* A lot of unmemorable and static painted-looking art.

* A giant red lady with a sword. She seems regretful, or resigned, or determined.

* Two people kissing. The girl seems not to have any nostrils.

The Red Star seems to be some sort of sci-fi pastiche/homage to the days of the Soviet Union. I have no idea if prime mover Christian Gossett was born there, or if his family is from there, or if he just thinks soviet-style costumes and saying "Komrade" a lot are just super-cool. From the available evidence, it could be any of those things, but there's so little to go on that I am forced to guess. I am sure one could craft brilliant historical fiction or historically-informed science fiction based in some way on the events or legends of Eastern Europe and its peoples. The Red Star: Sword of Lies in no way reflects that possibility. I apologize if Mr. Gossett has a genuine, profound and/or personal interest in the Soviet era, its people or symbols. If he does, I wish any of that translated to these comic books, which seem overblown, self-important, impenetrable, and deadly dull.



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