Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Comics Review: "THE RIBBON QUEEN #1" Put Me on My Knees


STORY: Garth Ennis
PENCILS: Jacen Burrows
INKS: Guillermo Ortego
COLORS: Dan Brown
LETTERS: Rob Steen
COVER: Declan Shalvey
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Fay Dalton; Chris Ferguson and Jacen Burrows; Declan Shalvey
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (July 2023)

Rated: “Mature”

Chapter 1: “Here's to the Health of Her Majesty”

The Ribbon Queen is a new eight-issue miniseries from AWA Studios.  The series focuses on an ancient and terrible force that is loose in the modern world.  It is written by Garth Ennis; drawn by Jacen Burrows (pencils) and Guillermo Ortego (inks); colored by Dan Brown; and lettered by Rob Steen.

The Ribbon Queen #1 (“Here's to the Health of Her Majesty”) introduces NYPD Detective Amy Sun, who has something of a troubled history as a law enforcement officer.  But she has a problem.  Three years ago, a young woman named Bella Rhineback was rescued from a serial killer by a police tactical unit.  Now she’s dead, and Amy has a bad feeling that the SWAT team leader, Keith Connolly, is responsible.  Now, as she investigates her own department, she discovers something old and awakened.  And it will confront everything she believes.

THE LOWDOWN:  AWA Studios marketing recently began providing me with PDF review copies of their comic book publications.  The Ribbon Queen #1 is the latest.

Many comic book readers know writer Garth Ennis from his work in British and American comic books, which spans four decades.  The highlights include his creator owned titled, Preacher, (DC Comics, 1995-2000), created with the late artist, Steve Dillon.  There is his two-decade run on various titles starring The Punisher for Marvel Comics (2000-20).  And of course, there is The Boys (DC Comics, 2006-07; Dynamite Entertainment, 2007-12), with series co-creator, artist Darick Robertson.

Fewer readers are familiar with Ennis and artist Goran Sudzuka's A Walk Through Hell (AfterShock, 2018-19).  The series was creepy, unsettling, and disturbing, but it was also much quieter than the tone of Ennis' usual writing.  While Preacher featured supernatural and horror fiction elements, I find that it was never as disturbing in tone as A Walk Through Hell.

The Ribbon Queen reminds me of A Walk Through Hell, but not because they are similar in subject matter and story.  They are both... eerie and unsettling and depict modern crime and corrupting in disquieting ways.  Yes, there are also hints of old things and magical, occultic things that demand a sacrifice, say in a wicker man.  I won't spoil it for you, dear readers, but some of you know that Ennis … shall we say – fucking brings it.  So he does here.

The art team of Jacen Burrows (pencils) and Guillermo Ortego (inks) in a way are summoning Steve Dillon's spirit.  No one captured the disquiet and banal madness and evil of an Ennis comic book like the late British artist.  My experience is that people profusely praised Ennis and did not praise Dillon enough.  Ennis' scripts became the powerful comic books they were because of Dillon.

So here is an opportunity to praise an Ennis collaborator.  The Ribbon Queen wouldn't feel like a memento from the Grim Reaper without the insanity-infused pencil art of Jacen Burrows (who is thoroughly underrated).  Ortego's inks catch the subtleties of the madness, and Dan Brown's colors are understated, but are really crazy, too.  There is a workman-like quality to Rob Steen's lettering, which quietly builds up this first chapter's tension and intensity.

The Ribbon Queen is yet another fantastic title from AWA Studios.  Dear readers, you don't have to keep reading (Marvel and DC) comic books that make you unhappy when good stuff like The Ribbon Queen and Sins of the Salton Sea are waiting for you.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Garth Ennis and (ought-to-be) fans of Jacen Burrows will want to read The Ribbon Queen.


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

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