THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #2, available from Vault Comics on November 18th, follows Ketsuko and Fubei on their guide mission to avenge the Aragami clan. Sebastian Girner’s story picks up the tale immediately after the events of issue #1 (read our review of issue #1 here) and shows how the bloodlust for battle within Ketsuko is so very close to becoming an all-consuming possession.
John Biven’s cover perfectly lays out what the reader can expect in this issue. Ketsuko will draw her blade for battle, in the present day and flashbacks. The specter of the Aragami clan’s red mask looms large as it urges her forward to feed its insatiable bloodlust, and the ronin she travels with are left in stunned disarray after the carnage they witness.
Girner makes a wise move in the sophomore issue to unleash Ketsuko’s full power in combat against seemingly overwhelming odds. Ketsuko is now established as a formidable fighter. One that may be struggling with inner conflict to hold back the instincts that push her towards indiscriminate killing.
It’s not clear if there’s something supernatural at work within Ketsuko, but that uncertainty makes the issue more mysterious in a thoroughly entertaining way. When the Tengu attacks her group, the ease with which Ketsuko defeats them is almost otherworldly. Her prowess instills fear in her group that creates welcome anticipation for future conflict in the series. This is a smart and enjoyable issue by Girner.
John Bivens takes the opportunity to have fun with tons of mayhem and gore in this issue. The battles are brutally swift and messy. Ketsuko is expertly portrayed as a swordsman of the highest caliber with short, efficient strokes consistent with Japanese fighting styles. By portraying the swordplay in a manner consistent with actual Japanese teachings, Bivens demonstrates an admirable level of respect and honor for the training the samurai have made legendary through the centuries.
What doesn’t work is the rough detail in the character rendering, especially during quiet dialog exchanges. Those are the opportunities for the characters to emote and punctuate the conflicts of each scene, but sometimes the character renderings are a little too rough for the acting to come through. The rough style overall works in this series to accentuate the rough and tumble nature of traveling ronin, but I’d like to see the quiet moments drawn with a little more care and precision so that the characters’ acting can come through.
Iris Monahan’s coloring work makes great use of a minimal palette. If not for the flowing red of Ketsuko’s robes, her armor, and the bloody aftermath of her battles, this would be a black and white story. Monahan places just the right amounts of red in just the right places to maximize the impact for visual attention.
Jeff Powell’s lettering work is excellent in this issue. The highlight of Powell’s work is the quiet, red voice of the Aragami mask as it yearns to be let out. To feed. It peppers in and out like a small voice whispering to be released, and it adds creepiness to the story that accentuates the possibility of a supernatural force at work.
THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #2, available from Vault Comics on November 18th, slices a path of bloody carnage on the trek through the mountainside. The art grabs your attention, and the story continues to build a fully fleshed out world ripe for the killing. This is a highly recommended issue.