Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Crimson Flower’ #1, out January 20 from Dark Horse Comics.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘CRIMSON FLOWER’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Micky Rivera. Folklore and comics go together like a shack on chicken legs—which is to say it’s a bizarre combination at first but makes sense once you realize how entertaining it is. Matt Kindt and Matt Lesniewski’s upcoming comic, Crimson Flower, toys with folkloric undertones as it tells the tale of a nameless heroine on a bloody quest to avenge the grisly murder of her father which she was forced to witness as a child. Touting some bold and energetic visuals by Lesniewski and hypnagogic storytelling by Kindt, this comic delivers a satisfying dose of mythical surrealism.
The mind of Crimson Flower’s protagonist is a bit of a black box, but it’s clear that something is off. She peddles mental health pharmaceuticals around Russia door-to-door, and is quite good at it, but is seen popping doses of who-knows-what on each ride to the next potential customer. Her employment feels incidental but convenient. She’s plagued by disturbing thoughts of the past and by hallucinations, which are kept in check with medication. Her travel-centric line of work provides her with the pretext and resources to hunt.
Our heroine’s Beatrix Kiddo-style quest for vengeance has the heart of a fairy tale but the bite of an atypical revenge story. When time comes to put boots to faces she bares her teeth like a wolf surrounded by enemies, and any notion of her being a mere victim goes out the window. It’s dizzying to see her switch from the sterility of her saleswoman life to the bone breaking strength she displays in pursuit of justice, but it works. Even more confounding is the way her world drifts between the real world and the world inside her mind. Crimson Flower reads like a strange dream that follows you into your waking life, making you look sideways at strangers wondering whether their faces are going to spontaneously morph into something toothy and grotesque.
As for the art, well, I’ve been keeping up with Matt Lesniewski’s work for a couple years now—his highly caricatured and sinewy portraits of virtually any superhero you can think of have made me pause and gawk countless times. Over the years his style has evolved into something exquisite and professional but still certifiably fresh, and totally suited to Kindt’s fairy-tale story telling. Like the hallucinations that follow us through the narrative, Lesniewski’s artwork, balanced by Bill Crabtree’s earth tone colors, imbues the characters and world with elasticity. He dials up his signature style in those moments of the book when the world turns arch and menacing—it’s a perfect fit. And his cross-hatching chops are truly unmatched.
Crimson Flower is such an odd book, both artistically and narratively. Furiously spinning within is an unidentified Slavic whirlwind on a revenge-fueled rampage. This urban folktale woven by Kindt and Lesniewski crackles with peculiar energy like an unfamiliar daydream—I want to know what it all means but they are spare with the details. What we get is more than enough though: a dose of childhood trauma, a measure of magical realism, and a whole bucket of cold Russian ass-kicking splashed in our faces.
Dark Horse Comics / $3.99
Written by Matt Kindt.
Art by Matt Lesniewski.
Colors by Bill Crabtree.
8 out of 10
‘Crimson Flower’ hits stores January 20, 2021. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: NOV200184)
You can read DoomRocket’s 10 THINGS CONCERNING… interview with Matt Kindt here.
Check out Malachi Ward’s variant cover for ‘Crimson Flower’ #1: