In THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1, civil war has come to Japan, as clan fights clan for dominion. The Kamimura have toppled the Shifune, and only a remnant remains, swearing vengeance. A chance encounter on the road reveals Ketsuko, the Devil’s Red Bride…
THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1
Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: John Bivens
Colorist: Iris Monahan
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Release Date: October 14th, 2020
Previously in THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE: the Kamimura clan seeks dominion over Japan, and war with the Shifune. Having won, the Kamimura control the east of Japan, and fight to spread their rule. But the remnants of the Shifune seek vengeance, and now, as the moment to strike nears, a new thread is woven into the tapestry, as the daughter of the fallen Lord Aragami of the Shifune, emerges…
THE DEVIL’S RED RIDE
THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1 was a real pleasure to read. A dark and gritty tale of war and vengeance, it embraces a number of recognizable tropes, and while not doing too much that is original with them, writer Sebastian Girner does make the most of them. The setting, which appears to be during the Sengoku period, was a time of social and political upheaval, as clan for clan for dominion. It is a time ripe for good storytelling, and Girner has made fantastic use of it.
Lord Aragami seeks to educate his son, Isanosuke, in being a leader of people and soldiers. It is readily, apparent, however, that the boy isn’t strong enough for the role tradition dictates he must assume. His sister, Ketsuko, however, is made of sterner stuff, and bridles at the curbs tradition places on her choices in life. As ever, however, war is the great lubricant that overthrows the old truths as ties of blood and honor begin to crumble.
Three years after the opening of THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1, Ketsuko makes a seemingly chance discovery of some of her father’s old retainers, men who have sworn to avenge Lord Aragami’s death by hunting down and killing Lord Kamimura, who defeated their lord in battle. Ketsuko, as she did for her brother, has hidden her true talents. But now, with the chance for vengeance so close, she emerges from the shadows and takes her place with the men she meets on the road.
There are hints in THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1 that Ketsuko is something more than simply a young woman with a talent for war. The hint, of course, is in the title of the story, as we catch an occasional glimpse, by medium of the lettering, that Ketsuko harbors…something that fuels her ability to kill and kill again. It is an intriguing note in an otherwise solidly supernatural tale of grief, death and vengeance.
I was particularly taken by John Bivens artwork, which is grittily realistic about the horrors and scale of close combat, and Iris Monahan’s coloring, which brings to vivid life the battles that are strewn through this opening issue. Again, the title of this series gives a hint to the predominant color that readers will bear witness too. Bivens’ brings to life the chaos of the battlefield, as spear wielding soldiers fight in cramped conditions, the horror and fear stamped on the faces of the dead and dying. There is an undeniable excitement that bubbles up in the blood when a sword wielding figure in red armor rides into the battle, carving a path through the invaders at the head of a swarm of men on horseback.
THE DEVIL’S RED HAND
Aside from all the fighting, there are excellent moments of characterization that indicate Girner’s ability to shape characters and moments. Ketsuko’s stepmother clashing with Ketsuko indicates to the reader the nature of the traditional Japanese society at that time. Women should be seen, not heard, even when in the case of Ketsuko, she is clearly more capable than her brother to assume command of the clan. A ronin’s treatment of his female servant again illustrates that in a male dominated society, women are treated much like the furniture – useful for given tasks, but the idea that they could rise above their station is laughable. Happily (though probably not realistically, but who cares, really?) Ketsuko’s willingness to don the red armor in her brother’s stead proves that it is character, not gender, that should be the dominating feature.
BOTTOM LINE: EXCITING
An excellent opening issue, which mixes blood curdling battle scenes with more quiet moments of menace and characterization, THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1 is one of the stand out titles of 2020. With an interesting setting in post-feudal Japan, it promises a look and feel different to what most readers might be familiar with. In the character of Ketsuko, we have a young woman donning a male’s role, and being far better at it than most. There is the promise in this opening issue of more bloody warfare and political and human intrigue to come.
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The Devil's Red Bride #1
THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #1 is a strong opener to a series that promises much, and on the basis of this first issue, is highly likely to deliver on those promises. Strong writing, with a strong central character, ensures a taut and exciting debut. There’s so much good stuff in this issue, I’ll certainly be back for more.