Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Comics Review: "RED ZONE #2" Won't Let Readers Escape Its Thrilling Chase

RED ZONE #2 (OF 4)

STORY: Cullen Bunn
ART: Mike Deodato, Jr.
COLORS: Lee Loughridge
LETTERS: Steve Wands
COVER: Rahzzah
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Mike Deodato, Jr. with Lee Loughridge
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (April 2023)

Rated: “Teen+”

Red Zone is a new four-issue comic book miniseries from writer Cullen Bunn and artist Mike Deodato, Jr.  Published by AWA Studios, the series focuses on an American professor who must fight his way out of Russia where he lived a former life full of long-buried secrets.  Colorist Lee Loughridge and letterer Steve Wands complete the series creative team.

Red Zone introduces Randall Crane, an unassuming professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU.  By request, he becomes part of U. S. Army Special Forces secret extraction mission into Russia.  The target is Elena Sidorov, once a very close friend of the professor's.  What she knows makes her a high priority asset to the U.S.  When the mission goes wrong, however, Randall is alone and forced to summon the secrets of his past.

Red Zone #2 opens in the wake of the extraction team disaster.  Now, Crane has to use his “particular set of skills” if he and Nika are to survive.  Who is Nika?  She is the daughter of the old friend he was supposed to rescue.  Yeah, Crane has a lot of old friends … and old enemies, and they are coming so fast and furious that Crane and Nika may go from the red zone to the dead zone.

THE LOWDOWN:  AWA Studios marketing recently began providing me with PDF review copies of their comic book publications.  My second PDF is Red Zone #2.

The thriller is a popular genre, but this genre and its sub-genres are filled will misfires and failures.  Film thrillers featuring big guys with big guns – from police special units to military special units and diplomatic special teams – fill the ranks of direct-to-DVD or direct to pay TV releases.  It's not easy to get this genre right.

Writer Cullen Bunn gets it right with Red Zone.  He sprinkles this second issue with menacing new characters and questionable allies, and the surprises are... well, quite surprising.  Bunn uses every act of violence to make Randall Crane more mysterious and more intriguing, and in the end, that is as good for the narrative as any action scene.

The page and graphic design that artist Mike Deodato, Jr. uses for these first two issues of Red Zone are similar to the design artist B. Krigstein used for the classic EC Comics short story “Master Race” (Impact, April 1955).  Deodato creates the visual suggestion that Crane and Nika are trapped at every turn – and they practically are.  Around each page, on the borders and edges, however, are slivers of panels that anticipate the coming drama and action.  It makes the art seems active rather than static.

This first issue of Red Zone is an excellent introduction to the series, and I think it will make readers want to come back.  Red Zone #2 is like an assurance that the first issue is no fluke.  Red Zone is the real deal in thrillers, and you will want feel those thrilling sensations, dear readers.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of action and espionage in comic books will want to read Red Zone.


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

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