Welcome to The Pull List, a weekly column where we check out a first issue of a new series and tell you whether or not to follow the comic based only on that. This week was a little bit slow at my local comic shop, and so I ended up, at complete random, picking up the first issue of Red One, a new image series that left me… a little underwhelmed.
The story behind Red One is pretty well encapsulated on its back cover, with the logline “What happens when America’s greatest superhero is a Russian spy?” You’d be forgiven for thinking that sounds like an awesome idea, and I was immediately interested in seeing how this story would unfold.
Unfortunately, the story unfolds over an extended 32 pages, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it certainly felt like a lot. Little moments that could very easily be done away with in a single panel take literal pages in this book, and I honestly had to ask why we were still dealing with certain things.
For example, Vera, our titular soon-to-be-superhero/Russian spy, is given the assignment of coming to America and getting a job as a driver for a Hollywood director. It takes the book about five pages between the time she gets this assignment and her actually arriving at the guys house, and everything in-between is useless nonsense that either reaffirms character traits we already know (Vera likes motorcycles, vroom vroom!) or answers questions that no one was asking anyway (what happened to the cab driver that was supposed to pick up the director?).
A comic that takes its time wouldn’t be so bad, though, if it actually had anything to say. There’s references to the Westboro Baptist Church (even though the comic takes place in the 1970’s), but they’re nothing more than that – mere references. There’s no commentary or message on their inclusion in this comic or their connection to the story, it’s the comic book equivalent of all those spoof movies “from the guys that brought you Scary Movie” that simply include someone that looks like Britney Spears and expect you to laugh.
There’s also a porn shoot that Vera stumbles upon, again played without commentary, it’s just there. More annoyingly though is Vera’s over sexualization. She’s drawn with the ridiculous proportions of a comic book superhero, but there’s no intention behind that besides “hey, people like seeing big breasts and impossibly thin waists and thigh gaps, right?” Vera herself is both coy and free-giving with her sexuality (one character points out that she has never used sex for the government for which she is a spy, but she casually has sex with a stranger on a plane later).
In the end this, combined with her superhuman strength and abilities (attributed to her disciplined upbringing from a young age), make Vera less an actual character and more an object. She’s something to be marveled at and impressed by, but little more. Big spoiler alert here, though, guys: it’s a comic book. We’re all aware that you can draw her as sexy as you want, and that you can have her lift as many weights as you want, because it’s fictional.
When you’re not actually digging any deeper than “it’s so cool how strong she is and how sexy she is,” it’s really nothing more than fluff. Which, I guess if you’re into that sort of thing, go for it, but personally, I want characters with actual traits and stories that actually move somewhere and say something, rather than carrying on about nothing for 32 pages.