REVIEW: Crimson Blade #1

Crimson Blade #1

Crimson Blade #1

Writer: Robert Curley
Art & Cover: David O’ Sullivan
Publisher: Atomic Diner
Reviewed by: Colin O’Mahoney
You don’t run a comic store for 18 years without picking up a thing or two about the business of selling comics. Robert Curley’s Atomic Diner publishing house has certainly benefited from his time behind the counter; the fruits of this experience are all over the cover of Crimson Blade #1. This is a standout example of how covers should be done. Artist David O’ Sullivan uses a simple monochrome pattern broken with one brilliant splash of colour; one hero amongst the horde. Very little in the way of logos or unnecessary declarations of ‘amazing first issue’ etc. are allowed to obscure this. It’s simple, it works. Short of being put next to a David Aja comic, this will stand out, even amongst the likes of Marvel and DC. Small press publishers take note: Covers can sell your books; make them count.
David O’ Sullivan’s great work continues inside the comic with gorgeous detail and shading. This and his command of lighting marks him out as a serious talent. For a historical book like Crimson Blade, you need an artist capable of aptly representing a time and place, as well as the usual story-telling requirements. Here, O’ Sullivan makes mixing these elements look easy, and gives a superbly natural sense of 18th century Ireland in both character and background.
Crimson Blade is the tale of a fictional masked avenger rooted in this very real Irish setting. Ireland at the time was a complicated landscape of religion, politics and conflict; particularly so for a Catholic brought up by a Protestant family, as the protagonist is. So for a reader to fully appreciate the character, a lot of scene setting is required in the book. But while this background detail is necessary, its delivery could have been handled a little better. Parts of Crimson Blade #1 are weighed down with long sequences of discussions on current affairs, which feel too much like exposition and only serve to interrupt the flow of the story. However, time being spent setting up a good reason for a character getting into costume is infinitely preferable to someone just jumping into spandex for no better reason than they are in a superhero book. There’s enough of this type of nonsense being pedalled en masse to readers on a monthly basis that Crimson Blade is to be admired for at least attempting the high road, and making its hero feel real.
Crimson Blade #1 falls a little shy of delivering the impact a first issue should. However there is plenty enough of interest in the character, and where the story may be leading, to make me pick up the next issue. And of course, enough can’t be said about a publisher willing to take a punt on developing original Irish heroes and comics of this standard, in a market over-saturated with spandex catalogues masquerading as quality original content.
On a final note; the PDF copy I reviewed came with a preview of the cover for issue #2, and while it doesn’t give much of the plot away, it did present one major spoiler: The creative team have nailed the cover again. Keep up the good work, guys.