One of the best things about being a comic book fan is taking a risk by trying out a new title, and having that gamble pay off. By that measure, The Red Mother by Boom! Studios is a hands-down winner.
Writer Jeremy Haun and artist Danny Luckert, along with letterer Ed Dukeshire, harness the visual power of the comic book medium to tell a captivating modern supernatural tale. Daisy McDonough and her boyfriend Luke, on their way home after a date, fall prey to… something… When Daisy wakes up, Luke is missing, and so is her right eye.
Trauma and Recovery in The Red Mother
Throughout the title’s first two issues, she struggles to deal with the trauma and cope with her injury. After receiving a glass eye, Daisy starts to get flashes of the world through a blood-red filter, with occasional glimpses of an threatening skeletal figure stalking her.
Perhaps the best thing about the storytelling is the pacing. So much of these two issues are focused on the mundane day-to-day existence of a modern adult – albeit one dealing with some very inexplicable and traumatizing experiences. But that mundane life doesn’t serve to bog down the story. Like any good horror story, it establishes a sense of context and safety, building a world that readers understand and connect with. Then, when things get spooky, the effect is to emphasize the unease and fear inherent to the supernatural elements of the book.
Haun does a great job with writing the dialogue. The character dynamics and interactions are relatable and, perhaps most importantly, believable. It’s such an overlooked aspect of books or comics or film, but when writers take a minute to identify how a real person would react or behave, it helps ground the characters and makes it easier for audiences to connect with them… which just makes the audiences more likely to feel those visceral emotions more readily.
Of course, no comic book can truly shine on dialogue and pacing alone. The visuals are integral to making a poignant story work, and Luckert does a damn good job on that front. His style is very realistic, but still allows for some artistic license and stylistic choices. He captures the atmosphere of a scene or the mood of a character through a strong use of color, movement, and emotion, and it helps the reader feel what the creative team wants to evoke.
A couple details through these two issues bear specific callouts. First, Dais doesn’t react fearfully to the weird things happening in her life until the end of the second issue. Prior to that, she gets angry, or she reacts out of pain. She doesn’t run from the skeletal figure in her crimson visions until well into issue #2. Is she made of sterner stuff than the average person? Is there something bigger going on with her?
The next thing is that both issues 1 & 2 start with poor Luke getting dragged away by the Red Mother. It could just be a coincidence, or it could be a deliberate pattern emerging that will help to propel the story forward. Maybe Luke continues to appear and give Daisy cryptic warnings to further the plot at the beginning of each issue?
Another thing that deserves special mention is the weird Rubik’s… dodecahedron… in Daisy’s therapist’s office. First off, how does that even work? Anyway, the shapes on each side form a pentagram, which can’t be a coincidence. An icon of the supernatural, and often attributed to dark magic, the pentagram could hint that the therapist has a deeper, perhaps darker, interest in Daisy’s case.
Finally, the fact that Daisy works in puzzle & game design is more than a passing detail. The Rubik’s puzzle she has at her therapist’s is covered in pentagrams, and she receives a …
Um… well, let’s put this here… SPOILER ALERT …
She receives a strange mechanic heart in the mail that looks like a puzzle lock. Also, Daisy solves that Rubik’s pentagram pretty quickly, so she must be smart and good at puzzles. The puzzle theme has got to be important later, right?
Anyway, definitely pick up The Red Mother and see if you can piece together what’s going on!
What do you think? Did you like The Red Mother? What do you think is happening? Let us know in the comments below, and check out our review of Boom! Studios’ The Outlaw Ma Reynolds as well.