Monday, July 19, 2021

Comics Review: "RED ROOM: The Antisocial Network #2" Shows a Deadly Poker Face


EDITOR: Eric Reynolds
COVER: Ed Piskor
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Ed Piskor; Troy Nixey; Jim Rugg
22pp, B&W with some color, $6.99 U.S. (June 2021)

Red Room: The Antisocial Network is a 12-issue new comic book series from cartoonist Ed Piskor.  Piskor is best known for Hip Hop Family Tree, a comic book that chronicles the early history of Hip-hop culture and that has been published in both graphic novel and serial comic book form.  Piskor also produced a highly unusual history of Marvel Comics' X-Men via a series of comic book miniseries entitled X-Men Grand Design.

Publisher Fantagraphics Books describes Red Room: The Antisocial Network as “a cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk masterpiece.”  Red Room focuses on a murderous, dark web subculture in which a secretive audience pays to view webcam murders with crypto-currency.  A “Red Room” is a place on the Internet with an encrypted I.P. address.  Each Red Room is a webcam stream where viewers can watch a “torture star” murder another human being in the most brutal, savage, vile, and stomach-turning ways.  With the help of untraceable crypto-currency, a subculture of criminals has emerged in which one side patronizes the webcam murders for entertainment and in which the other side gleefully kills to entertain in what seems like the evolution of the snuff films of folklore.

As Red Room: The Antisocial Network #2 opens, Pentagram Pictures streams the latest act of butchery from torture star, “Decimator.”  Elsewhere, former multiple Super Bowl champion, Mike Wilkins, is using a flood rescue as a “recruiting mission” to help the people behind torture star, “Poker Face,” find their next Red Room victim.  So how do you turn a guy named Damian into a victim no one will recognize?  You force Doctor Daniels, plastic surgeon, to work on him … because Poker Face needs fresh meat!

THE LOWDOWN:  Red Room is a science fiction comic book series, albeit a dark one.  It has elements of dystopian sci-fi, speculative fiction, and contemporary drama.  It would be easy to call this new series depraved, which it is not.  In a real world in which rich people want what they want and have the super-wealth to get it, the darkest corners of the web will one day offer murder and mayhem like that seen Red Room.  Or maybe it already is.  Each ISIS beheading was Internet ready.

Red Room #2 is a stand alone issue, as was the first issue.  In fact, the entire series will be comprised of stand alone, single-issue tales that are part of a larger narrative world.  This issue, Piskor, with this story of Damian as a man who needs to be saved (several times), tugs at the heart as much as Poker Face will tug on his intestines.  What keeps Red Room from being a joke or torture porn is that Piskor can depict humanity in the the most embarrassing and most horrifying scenes.

Here is something that I noticed before, but to which I never really paid attention.  For a cartoonist, Piskor is an exceptionally skilled illustrator.  From perspective to figure drawing, Piskor's compositions are full of exaggeration and surrealism, but everything and everyone looks correctly drawn (for instance, the floodwaters sequence).  It is a kind of cartoon realism that not everyone could pull off … realistically.  So I highly recommend, Red Room: The Antisocial Network to you, dear readers.  Don't be antisocial and not read Red Room.  Reviews and quotes don't really capture the complex and multi-layered nature of this title.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Ed Piskor's work and of alternative comics as science fiction will want to read Red Room.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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