THE DEVIL'S RED BRIDE
Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: John Bivens
Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
The Devil's Red Bride is the tale of a disgraced female ronin guiding the remnants of a warrior clan through shinobi warriors and demons on a quest for mutual vengeance against the clan who wronged them.
Think of it as a blend of the opening chapter of Frank Miller's Ronin with the chapter-to-chapter storytelling flow of a Shinichiro Watanabe anime.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The mighty Aragami clan, home to the fiercest warriors in all of Japan, has fallen to its rival, the Kamimura clan. With her homeland ravaged, Ketsuko, a lone ronin, yearns for revenge against the rival clan responsible. She finds her chance in escorting the remnants of another samurai clan through the mountains of Japan. Their target: the head of the Kamimura clan, her one chance to bring the Kamimura to justice.
With renewed vigor, Ketsuko guides the envoy through treacherous mountains, stealthy shinobi, and demonic entities hellbent on their destruction. How far will Ketsuko go for vengeance? Is she ready to face what awaits at the end of her journey?
Sebastian Girner is adept at crafting fulfilling stories that can be enjoyed as monthly standalone chapters and for the trade paperback. Whenever you feel you have a handle on the story, Girner throws a curveball into the mix which adds new wrinkles to the characters.
If you weren't familiar with John Bivens' work before The Devil's Red Bride, you will be after reading it. Bivens infuses this story with so much style. Fight scenes have a grotesque beauty – you can't help but soak in the carnage of a swift sword kill.
Iris Monahan complemented Bivens' artwork beautifully with their color palette, delivering a style that's appropriately muted for visceral war scenes but adds brighter tones for flashy action beats.
Jeff Powell's lettering is effective in guiding the reader's eye across the page with the real stylistic highlight being how he renders Ketsuko's internal captions. They immediately grab your attention whenever they're on the page with their intensity, and sell the war raging within Ketsuko throughout the story.
Ketsuko is a compelling hero with understandable motivations, wanting to become a warrior for her clan no matter the cost. The slow descent into her tragic past is layered well into the episodic narrative and the final confrontation with her past was a fitting conclusion.
The use of supernatural monsters is appropriately unnerving. It's as if they're invading the otherwise grounded reality of Ketsuko's world whenever they make their presence known. Credit to Bivens for rendering some truly disturbing imagery for these pages.
Girner and Bivens have a creative rhythm together that makes for a seamless reading experience. The word choice from Girner complements the energy of Bivens' pages, bringing out the best in their respective work.
The parallel between Ketsuko and the final antagonist is a fascinating one, serving as an even darker reflection of Ketsuko. For the sake of spoilers, the identity will remain hidden as it's well worth experiencing for yourself, but their dialogue exchange throughout the final issue was top-notch.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This book contains nudity, sexual content, graphic violence, and disturbing imagery.
In one of the spreads where the panels go from the left page over to the right, it's easy to miss the initial panel up top that conveys the spread. This makes it easy to read the pages in the wrong sequence if you're not careful.
While the final confrontation is compelling on a character level, it would have been nice to have more pages devoted to the fight sequence. The creative team up to the final issue crafted some compelling fights in the monthly format it would have been nice to see them cut loose with an oversized finale.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Devil's Red Bride took an already fun premise and elevated it into one of 2021's must-buy comics, balancing stylish action with a layered characterization of its hero.
Girner, Bivens, Monahan, and Powell have a chemistry together that gives the world and its characters so much energy, you can't help but read on and see which direction they'll take things in next. Hopefully, there'll be more stories from this team soon, whether as a direct sequel or another project. They're too good together for this to be a one-off collaboration.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 by Jody LeHeup, Sebastian Girner, Nil Vendrell & Mike Spicer
The Father of All Things by Sebastian Girner and Baldemar Rivas
Firepower by Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee
If you like the art:
Spread Vol. 3 by Justin Jordan, Felipe Sobreiro, John Bivens & Kyle Strathm
Ronin By Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon by Kaare Andrews
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Sebastian Girner (@SGirner) – Writer
Multitalented: Not only is Girner a writer, he's also the Editor-in-Chief of TKO Studios.
Name Recognition: He has edited several high-profile comics including Deadly Class and Southern Bastards.
John Bivens (@John_Bivens) – Artist
Award Winner: Bivens has contributed artwork for the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning anthology Comic Book Tattoo and the Harvey Award-winning Anthology Popgun Vol. 4.
Name Recognition: His artwork has been published by numerous comic publishers including Image Comics, Heavy Metal Magazine, Vault Comics, Valiant Comics, IDW Publishing, and more.
Iris Monahan (@croweffigies)– Colorist
New Face: Besides The Devil's Red Bride, Iris has also worked on Cult Classic: Creature #2 for Vault Comics.
Jeff Powell (@jeffcpowell) – Letterer
Prolific: Powell has been lettering and designing books for over 25 years including projects for Archie, Image, and Valiant.
Multitalented: Along with lettering comics, Jeff also works as the Production Director for TKO Studios.
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