Jack nears her long desired revenge while her sister Katie come to terms with what her sister has become in Shanghai Red #5.
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Art & Colors: Joshua Hixson
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 31, 2018
Previously in Shanghai Red: Stolen off the streets and forced to work a sailing ship, Molly lost everything in her life, even her name, as she transformed into Jack, burning with revenge for the man who sold her into sea-going slavery, Bunco Kelly. Now, cornered by the police and fighting a rebellion within, can Jack gain the revenge she believes she so richly deserves?
TO THE BITTER END
And so we reach the last issue of Shanghai Red. Holed up in a brothel, Jack (aka Molly) prepares herself to confront and kill, Bunco Kelly, a powerful member of the underworld who was instrumental in shanghaiing Jack onto a sailing ship and in the process losing her mother. Tensions rise in the brothel as the working girls discuss how the owner is using them to face down a regiment of police outside, who are preparing to storm the building in search of Jack. After a confrontation with her sister, Katie, Jack escapes via the sewers and her confrontation with Kelly begins.
Those who have stuck with Shanghai Red through its run should feel a great deal of satisfaction at the way writer Christopher Sebela concludes this story. Tales of bloody revenge often end in a welter of blood, with plenty of high stakes action in the lead-up. Shanghai Red #5 has plenty of that, but it also has a surprising amount of heart.
The key section of the issue is the confrontation between Kate and Jack. Jack once went by the name Molly, but after being forced onto the ship, her dire circumstances meant she had to sacrifice all that was good in Molly, to enable Jack to survive. As Jack says in response to Molly’s question about where her sister is, ‘She died out there on the ocean. First, because she had to. Then because I wanted her to.’
Sebela gives the reader a good handle on what Jack has sacrificed in her search for revenge. As much as that has been painful to watch, the pain that Katie has suffered, the desire to get her sister back in one piece, is starkly rendered in Shanghai Red #5. Jack has pushed her back repeatedly, when Molly, despite her best instincts, only wants to help. Again, this key scene demonstrates her putting aside her misgivings to help Jack prepare to face Kelly, and then later when she leads the prostitutes outside in a confrontation against the police. Jack’s revenge, it turns out, is as much Katie’s as well.
BLOOD ON THE WATER
As I mentioned in my review of issue #4, Joshua Hixson’s artwork and coloring add immeasurably to the enjoyment of the story. On every page, apt for a revenge tale, red is the key color. Whether washed out or bold, it infects every interaction and supports the revenge narrative taking place. The panels are ‘busy’ in the sense that they give the story its momentum as Jack’s quest for revenge barrels to its completion. Most striking, for me, is the excellent use of shadow, not only to define character’s features, but also the dark moral landscape that Jack is prepared to navigate to seek what she believes is rightfully hers.
BOTTOM LINE – RICH AND COMPELLING
Shanghai Red #5 is a satisfying conclusion to a very good evocation of an era lost to history. Revenge stories dealing with male protagonists are everywhere, from the Death Wish movies of the 70s and 80s to books like Testament, by David Morrell. While female protagonists in search of revenge aren’t new, Jack’s depiction here is nuanced, with the costs laid out for the reader. This is a violent story, told with a measure of restraint the subject matter occasionally lacks. It is also, in its depiction of two sisters coming to terms with what has been done, not merely a tale of bloody revenge, but an examination of family under enormous stress.
Shanghai Red #5
Sebela’s writing and Hixson’s art crash together in this vital, heart-aching tale of revenge in Shanghai Red #5