As much as I love my superhero comics, I need to explore other universes. One of the places I enjoy going to is crime noir.

Criminal is one of the very best books out there in this genre, but I’ve discovered a comic that will give it a run for its money when it comes to crime drama. That book is Red Winter.

RED WINTER #1

Writer: Michael Gordon
Artist: Francisco Munoz
Colorist: Rolands Kalnins
Published by: Scout Comics
Cover price: $3.99

SOLICITATION: Eli Winter is a former NYPD Detective in his 50s, now living in Kapotnya, the most crime-ridden district of Moscow. Eli is employed by local crime boss, Nikolai Dubrovsky, without whom Eli would likely be rotting in an American prison. Eli hates Kapotnya, but sees a chance for redemption when he is enlisted to investigate the destruction of one of Dubrovsky’s meth labs. His men have been killed and all their blood money and merchandise have been stolen. Eli soon finds out the crime was committed by his estranged son, Joseph, as part of a rival gang initiation. Now Joseph needs his father’s help, as he’s in way over his head. Will Eli make the choice to protect his son from the vicious gang he works for and.is everything as it appears with Joseph Winter?

SHADES OF GRAY

So often in comics, there are the good guys, and there are the bad guys. What happens when there are NO good guys, as we know them?

That’s the basic idea behind Red Winter, a comic that takes readers to a part of Russia that has no superheroes, or even people who are committed to doing good. Crime bosses rule Kopatnya with an iron hand, and American Eli Winter owes one of them big time.

Eli was a dirty cop in New York, and now that he’s on the other side of the world, he’s still on the payroll of the bad guys. When he is recruited to punish those who killed some of Dubrovsky’s men along with a lucrative meth lab, he hopes to change his life.

The bad news is that the person behind the crime is his own son, Joseph. That brings a lot of conflict to Eli. Should he save his own skin, or should he save his own flesh and blood?

Eli is a rough guy, not afraid of physical conflict or taking punishment. But his son is his Achilles’ heel, and Joseph doesn’t make it easy for his father. The latter keeps getting into more and more trouble, and Eli must decide which way to go. It’s not going to be easy either way.

On the other side is the crime boss and HIS son, who also seems to relish making life difficult for his father. Of course, when all these people come into direct conflict, we might have trouble finding someone to root for.

The pacing is slow and determined most of the time, with things picking up when conflict happens. The dialogue is engrossing, and you need to read every word to get the most out of this book.

The interesting thing about Red Winter is that we actually start to care about these oh-so-flawed characters. Will they make it through this terrible event? What if they don’t?

ART PERFECT FOR THE STORY

The art in this title is an ideal match for the story. Craggy, scruffy characters abound as well as dark and moody people on the sidelines hoping someone will exhibit a moment of weakness that they can exploit. The facial expressions are moody and grim. Even when they’re smiling, it’s like a cat with a trapped mouse, delighting in the misery of others.

I have to give cudos to the coloring in this title. The palate is mirky and dim, reflecting the cold environment we’re thrust into. I honestly felt like I needed to put on a sweater while I was reading it! There are few if any bright colors in the book, with even the reds being subdued. Really special!

BOTTOM LINE: Get the Shower Ready

Many of the events in Red Winter are dirty and dark, and I agree with the person who said they felt they needed a shower after reading the first issue. It’s cold and ugly, but engrossing at the same time!

But I come away completely uncertain as to what will happen to these people, and I need to know! Even these characters deserve something good happening to them!

I have no idea who will survive this miniseries, or even IF any of them will. And that makes for gripping storytelling. It’s not like superhero stories, where we need the main good guys to come back for the next issue. These creators could truly kill off the entire cast, then return to this environment with a new cast. I’d miss the people we’ve already met, though, so I hope not, but you just never know!

This comic deserves the same readership that Criminal has, so if you love that series, you definitely need to get your hands on Red Winter! Really!


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About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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