COMIC REVIEW: Red City

Genre-mashing is fun. No doubt. It’s also fairly common. Putting hard-boiled crime noir in a science fiction setting is a frequent trope. Plenty of examples leap out at you, from Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon to Bladerunner, from Alphaville to Antony Johnston’s The Fuse. The question remains, however, is it good science fiction? Is it good noir? Is it a good comic? These questions require addressing with Image’s latest trade collection: Red City.

Writer Daniel Corey (best known for Moriarty) has teamed up with artists Anthony Diecidue (also, Moriarty), and Mark Dos Santos (Fall of Cthulhu) to produce an original story set in the far future where the solar system has been colonised, and right and wrong aren’t so clear cut as you’d expect.

“Cal Talmage thought it would be a pretty simple job: find an ambassador’s daughter, who has disappeared in Mars Central City, and keep her safe until treaty negotiations between Venus and Mercury have ended.”

The key to good noir is to have an almost anti-hero type but one the reader has sympathies with; the lovable rogue, or the down-trodden PI. They should be hard, not exactly fair, but doing things for the right reasons. Noir usually has a femme fatale type character too. Science fiction, of course, is a warning or comment on humanity’s place in the universe, what it means to be human and such like. Page one looks awesome. All shadows and bold colours. A cooler looking woman you could not imagine: red hair, purple dress, big green boots. Aliens in trilbies. Hard-boiled narration. Here we go…

Cal, for it is he that is narrating, soon tells us that there is a central government in charge of the solar system, but there’s trouble on Venus and Neptune. Cal is busy orbiting Mars and he tells us why he’s in a whole heap of trouble. You’d expect that from a former Mars detective and ex-conman of course. We have political intrigue and inter-planetary negotiations going on. So Cal needs to get the girl and save the entire solar system (to mis-quote Pop Will Eat Itself).

There are some problems with Red City. Attitudes to women don’t appear to have improved in the future, sadly. We still get holographic strippers. Cal isn’t very interesting, either. You don’t really side with him, even though he’s always getting beaten up. Nothing about him makes you think of Han Solo, Rick Deckard, Mal Reynolds or even Mike Hammer. The aforementioned cool woman, Angel, is more of an under-used side-kick than a classic femme fatale, which is a shame. Her narrative does improve towards the end, so perhaps there’s more of a story with her another time. While the narration and voice-over is common in noir, there is way too much exposition. And for some reason, you just don’t seem to care. There is some humour in the story, but not enough to be interesting.

There some attention-grabbing styling going on. One page consists of 5 page-width panels with a couple of characters talking, with very little movement. Very effective story telling. The sequential narrative is the best thing about Red City. The art is gorgeous, and the colours (by Chris Fenoglio) are striking. The characters all have very interesting faces (although Angel seems to have a fairly malleable face – probably a result of the different artists working on the comic). Diecidue’s style is more suited to the noir-ish look and works better than bold lines of Dos Santos. This means that parts three and four have a very different feel to the earlier segments because of this; especially the fight scenes. However, the swearing walrus is fun! Another worrying aspect is that some of the future design are oddly anachronistic. Would a bar-maid really be wearing denim hot-pants? Would they all still drive around in cars with wheels? Of course, science fiction has the right to be speculative, but some things don’t sit easy.



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Red City is an ambitious attempt at sci-fi noir. It gets the look and feel right – the art, especially by Diecidue, is just about spot on. It is proper science fiction (decent world-building and cool if clichéd aliens). However, the characters and the story itself are a let-down. You just don’t care enough about Cal and his troubles.

Title: Red City 

Publisher: Image

Rating: 3/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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