Review: Red Sands

Review by David Ferguson

Art by Cormac Hughes (Red Sands) and Robert Carey (Red Sands: Testament)
Story by Ciaran Marcantonio and Robert Carey (Red Sands: Testament)
Colours by Triona Farrell (Red Sands) and Ruth Redmond (Red Sands: Testament)
Letters by Miaram Abuin
Cover Art by Stephen Mooney and Ruth Redmond
Interior Design & Layout by Wayne Talbot

Red Sands

I think I’ve mentioned before that I was late to the Cormac Hughes’ fan club. The first time I really took notice of his work was in a story called “Red Lotus”, written by Darrin O’Toole and published in Lightning Strike Issue 5. He had come a long way from his work on the first issue of Lightning Strike. Even in this issue, you can see improvement (The first part of the issue was originally published Lightning Strike Issue 6 in 2015). His character design work was already excellent (I really love the look of the main characters) but you can see him upping his game a bit in this with the design of characters like The Mechanic. What has really improved, for me, is his background work. You can see this in particular in the page where you first see The Pitstop. His linework has a finer detail to it that moves it from the cartoon end of the spectrum that doesn’t appeal as much to me. I think if he continues to improve the way he has, he will definitely become an in demand artist.

One thing that really helps Cormac Hughes’ art is working with Triona Farrell. In a country that has produced a number of brilliant colourists, Triona still stands out. I don’t know who made the colouring choices but I think it is the main thing that makes it stand out on the shelves. It helps create an off kilter feel (right down to the caption boxes) that really serves the story being told. I think the era of the colourist as an aid to story telling has arrived and this story is feeling it. I go back to the page where The Pitstop first appears to highlight this. You can actually get the feeling of an unforgiving sun slowly baking the earth below.

From a story point of view, it has the style of a good 80s apocalyptic action flick (or wrestling PPV). It grabs you by the throat with an opening action sequence which is a mixture of Mad Max and Buffy The Vampire Slayer before getting down to telling a good story. What I was happy to see in this issue was some “quiet scenes” where we had a chance to see some character development and the addition of more cast members. This of course was due to the space constraints of an anthology. The section used in Lightning Strike 6 fit the shape of a good anthology story but it has spread to fit a great first issue. We get some action, some conflict and enough character development to satisfy the reader. The extended story moves further away from a Mad Max/Buffy pastiche to something that stands on its own. I particularly enjoyed the not entirely revealed relationship between the main character and The Mechanic. I look forward to seeing more.

Red Sands: Testament

This is a reprint of the story printed in Lightning Strike issue 8 and I pretty much stick to my original comments on the story. This story also has the feel of an 80s apocalyptic movie. The ones I most enjoyed weren’t really about an apocalyptic future but about the society we live in. This story, set in the same world as Red Sands, has decided to look at religion. Father Solomon and Sister Abagail are fighting a holy war against the demonic creatures of this world. We see a certain level of zealotry here. I’ll be interested in seeing where this story goes and seeing that it’s Robert Carey and Ciaran Marcantonio on writing, I’m almost certain there’s a Wyatt Family reference in there. Ruth Redmond’s colours really make the art pop and I like how it stays within the colour palette established in Red Sands.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the cover. Ciaran Marcantonio really brought in the big guns for this one. It is interesting to see Stephen Mooney’s take on Red Suns main character. I think he really captures the attitude of the character and, assisted by Ruth Redmond, the feel of the story.