With the “The Red Mother” #1, Jeremy Haun delivers what is very likely his most anticipated series yet. Undoubtedly, many readers will love the pervasive creepy tone and psychological depth. Some may be scared off, however, by it’s slow-burn structure and minimal action. (Warning: may contain minor spoilers.)
Written by Jeremy Haun
Illustrated and Colored
by Danny Luckert
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
After losing her eye and the man she loves in a brutal mugging, Daisy McDonough is left trying to put the pieces of her life back together. Just when she begins to think she can heal and move on, she begins to see strange things through her new prosthetic eye. And The Red Mother sees her in return.
Almost a full week before “The Red Mother” #1 went on sale to the public, BOOM! Studios announced that the book’s second printing had already sold out at the distributor level and was being fast-tracked for a third printing. For fans and critics who love writer Jeremy Haun’s high concept series “The Beauty” – for which he’s also done interior art and covers – it’s not exactly a shock that his forthcoming title is getting a ton of attention. Haun has shown an definite knack for exploring topical issues while bending and blending genres to wondrous effect. Still, it’s a little unusual for a decidedly slow burn first issue to arrive with so much fanfare – a clear testament to not only Haun’s track record, but his unique, refreshing vision.
In “The Beauty” Haun combines elements of body horror, science fiction, thriller and even police procedural. Here, he begins with a narrative deeply rooted in body horror, then adds additional layers of mystery, suspense and urban fantasy.
Actually, after he opens the book with an eerie, supernatural sequence in which the entire first page is bathed in crimson red, he switches the tone completely, delivering a tender scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an indie rom-com. The dialogue is great, the characters are authentic, and the moment is heartfelt. With the initial image of a macabre, skeletal figure still lingering, however, we know it will never last. Almost immediately, the horrific scene alluded to in the promo copy and on the cover, unfolds with sudden, startling violence. From there, we see protagonist Daisy McDonough – who somehow survived the attack – wake up in a hospital bed and the rest of the story centers on her as she recovers, grieves, and tries to piece her shattered life back together.
Visually, artist Danny Luckert’s inks not only support the naturalistic tone of Haun’s dialogue, they also add subtle layers of psychological complexity and incredible detail. His sequencing, in particular, is precise, efficient, and seemingly effortless. Two representative scenes demonstrate this perfectly. It begins with a one-page montage that intercuts nightmares and pills with a one-panel doctor visit and the painstaking creation of Daisy’s prosthetic eye, which somehow exudes a banal creepiness that puts the reader on edge.
Next, we see Daisy with the ocularist, followed immediately by an interruptive visit by Daisy’s jet-setting friend Pari. It’s here, at the heart of the book, that everything comes together. The contrast between the two characters couldn’t be more stark. Pari’s body language and demeanor epitomize her barely restrained extroversion, throwing herself at Daisy as she goes in for a hug. In stark contrast Daisy remains highly guarded, wounded and withdrawn, barely keeping it together, downing another round of pills and sloshy glasses of red wine.
Certainly, the dialogue underscores the awkward, tentative mood, but Luckert’s careful framing and scrupulous attention to detail essentially make the words an additional layer of information more than a necessity. The characters’ complex emotions are clear from their facial expressions, movements, and body language. In fact, how they act and react physically to each other seems more like text than subtext. The real story is on the surface, in how they carry themselves
Unfortunately, Haun and Luckert’s superb characterizations leave little room for much else. Specifically, we learn almost nothing about the titular Red Mother. No doubt her presence literally colors the entire narrative. Beyond that, however, clues are few and far between. There’s an abundance of mystery, but without any burning questions, no real cause for speculation.
Notably, Luckert also did his own colors. For the most part they’re very well matched to his “fly on the wall” realistic style. Every scene and location essentially features its own distinctive palette, although the ocularist’s office gets somewhat lost in the suffle therefore feels like a lost opportunity. The night scene at the start, however, is exceptionally well done, a spot-on representation of a nighttime cityscape rife with light pollution and occasional long shadows. Regrettably, in the midst of this organic and highly effective aesthetic, the Red Mother’s in-your-face crimson comes across like a gimmick, especially for a book that otherwise showcases so much authentic, unvarnished human emotion. There’s a powerful story here. The creators need not rely on unsubtle tricks or ploys
Final Verdict: 8.3 “The Red Mother” #1 features great character depth in both its script and artwork. No doubt it will all pay off as the series unfolds, but so far the creepiness is more ambient than active.