Writers: Rick Remender & Kieron Dwyer
Artist: Paul Harmon
Publisher: Image Comics
I have really enjoyed Sea of Red so far, but this issue felt unfocused to me overall, even with the main plot concerning hordes of vampires attacking New York City. With a comic book plot such as this, how could this issue possibly have gone wrong? Well, I think the transition from Issue #9 to #10 was a little clumsy, possibly due to the fact that Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer changed their original plans for the series. Originally, Issues #9-12 were to consist of a story arc primarily scripted by Dwyer that would focus on defining events in Blackthroat’s life, primarily during the Civil War and World War II. However, the creators changed their minds before Issue #9 was released, though they kept the original 9th issue intact, complete with ironclads and Nazis. Issue #10 brings us back to the present and throws us into the middle of a vampire holocaust. You still with me? As a matter of fact, I don’t blame them for the change. The flashback arc probably would have taken a lot of steam out of the continuing story, slamming on the brakes at the moment when Remender and Dwyer should hit the gas (even though the cover to Issue #9 was very compelling, to say the least). However, Issue #10 doesn’t deliver the thrills fans of the series are expecting for such a potentially earth-shattering installment.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love Sea of Red, and I really hope it lasts past the 13th issue, which seems unlikely. This is a more compelling series than I initially thought considering the cheesiness of the premise. But, I think the problem with Issue #10, as with other issues in this series, is Remender and Dwyer’s desire to steer the ship with brute force rather than letting the wind take its course (no pun intended). Issue #10 tries to say so much within the 23 pages that I almost wish it was split up into two issues, one concerning the shipmates’ reactions and tying up current dramatic storylines, the other showing the crew gearing up for the war with the Sect and their minions. It might be too much to ask for a title with an obviously short life, but as a reviewer I think I should mention it. Sea of Red is similar to other Remender books in this respect: the overall presentation of each issue is par excellence, but sometimes the execution does not equal up to Remender’s ambition. This is obviously an ambitious undertaking here, with vampires attacking major cities a la Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead. Yet there are lots of starts and stops in the action, particularly some character bonding scenes that are slightly extraneous. To me, it slowed things down and made this issue denser than it needed to be, considering that Sea of Red does survival horror.
On the positive side, Paul Harmon’s art continues to impress me with its rough beauty, dark reddish tones, and uniqueness of style. When I think of Sea of Red, his artwork is the first thing to come to mind, and I always look forward to his tasty, expressionistic imagery. He is the perfect artist for this series, and further emboldens my claim that Remender’s titles always have a great presentation. Also, the Christian references that explain many of the elements in Remender and Dwyer’s world are extremely inventive, particularly with the bloods of Jesus and Lazarus being a key component in the overall story. I liked that the rallying cry of the invading vampires is “Rise for He who bore you.” It gives the entire attack a biblical feeling, subliminally stating that the armies that have risen to take over the world are divine in nature, whether that nature be for good or evil. With this kind of revelation, you would figure that the authors would have made the sequences in this issue portray the power that is being unleashed on the Earth. However, I did not feel the thrill of this Armageddon, which will probably stand as a major problem with regular readers.
My final complaint, and why I rated this issue lower than I intended, is that readers who do not follow Sea of Red will probably think Issue #10 is a convoluted mess. Sea of Red should always have a "previous issue" description in each and every issue. I tried to think of Issue #10 from an outsider’s perspective, and there is little chance I would know what the heck is going on. Like TV shows such as MI-5 or Battlestar Galactica, you really have to begin at the beginning to understand all the dire consequences that occur in this issue. Pick up the excellent Volume 1 collection No Grave But the Sea, and see if this title is for you, oh un-experienced cabin boys out there!
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