Saturday, June 23, 2018

Shanghai Red #1 Review

Red Sky in the Morning

Script/Design: Christopher Sebela
Art/Colors/Cover: Joshua Hixson
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editorial Assistance: Andrea Shockling
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 20 June 2018

Oooh. Shanghai Red, just the exotic and heady images that that name conjures up sets high expectations for this book. Then the fact that this book - on my radar anyway - seemed to get quite a bit of coverage over the last few weeks online, meant that I was really looking forward to this issue. Let's dip into the stormy seas and see how it was. Shiver me timbers Jack!!

Well. Emmm. It was not what I expected. Now I had deliberately avoided spoilers, but I was expecting a real high seas adventure and knew what I thought was supposed to be the broad outline from the solicit. Well, sadly I was extremely bored by this issue. That boredom was, unfortunately, laced with incredulity at the fundamental premise that underpinned the issue. You see, this book rotates around the premise of Molly, nicknamed Red in this book, who has been "shanghaied" out of Portland in the late 1800s. Drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a ship’s captain, she wakes up on a boat headed out to sea for years, unable to escape or even reveal who she truly is. To all intents and purposes, she is known on the ship as Jack and is treated as a boy or a young man. So far, so part of every pirate story you've ever heard.

This book takes a bizarre turn when Molly/Red at the end of her tenure of service as a slave decides that rather than disembark the ship, or stay on as a shiphand for a further voyage she is instead going to pursue hidden option number three. Now, this book then proceeds to ask the reader to suspend his or her disbelief to the extent that Molly/Red is able to single-handedly slaughter every single member of that ship's crew and then cajole, and later bribe, her fellow slaves into serving her for pay (from a chest which she has "liberated" from the former (now deceased) captain). Really? I don't care if she was Andre the Giant, I don't think it is feasible that she would have been able to single-handedly take out a seasoned crew of sailors and their captain and then prevent her fellow slaves from saying, "tell you what Molly, how about we just toss you over the edge of the ship for the sharks and we'll pay ourselves out of Captain RIP's treasure?"

Art-wise, I was also disappointed. The style was very miniaturesque, very detailed little faces and expressions without any dynamism, locked in place without any sense of momentum. They look like fixed illustrations in a Victorian children's book as opposed to a comic book - a medium which is supposed to convey fluidity and movement. One point for praise is, however, Hixon's color work. This is very good work rendered beautifully on some of the pages.

Bits and pieces

Well, it just goes to show, don't ever build up your expectations for anything ever, just take life as you find it. Certainly, that's what I've learned from my years listening to Jim Werner. Anyway. For me, I'm not sure if I'll pick up the next issue. Perhaps this title is only one for the pirate completest in your life.



  1. Thanks for the great review! I WAS planning on picking this one up, because I'm a pretty big fan of pirate everything. . .but I think I'll pass now.