Red City #
Written by Daniel Corey
Art by Mark Dos Santos
Published by Image Comics
I love film noir and all its attendant complexity and moral ambiguity. It’s a genre that places decent-but-flawed characters in tricky situations and forces them to deal with all of the difficult moral questions that can be found out in the real world. The plots are usually Byzantine in their construction and easy answers are hard to come by. Red City is in this tradition and takes place in the far future, with numerous alien species spread across our Solar System. One detective attempts to find a missing girl in Mars Central and is soon wrapped up in a far larger conspiracy.
Attempting to unravel the plot or even go through every motion in this review would be an exercise in futility, so I will simply focus on background and premise. In the distant future, our Solar System has joined into a confederacy called the New Solar System. Each planet is populated by different alien species, some of whom are native to those worlds. Each planet acts as a sovereign state, and there are barely-contained tensions between Neptune and Venus, former allies in a war, and the other planets. Cal Talmadge, an investigator working for the NSS government, is sent down to Mars, where he grew up, to track down the missing daughter of the Mercurian Ambassador. He soon finds himself in a much deeper mystery concerning Martian politics, old crime lords, and a mysterious woman. Appropriately, it ends on a cliffhanger.
This comic throws a lot of names, alien species, history and other assorted facts at the reader, which makes the book into a slow read. This isn’t unique to this comic and is one of the chief characteristics of crime noir. When Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was being filmed in Hollywood, one of the screenwriters asked Raymond Chandler who had killed one of the characters. Chandler famously responded that he had no idea. To this book’s credit, you don’t have to have a spreadsheet handy to keep track of everything, but don’t skim it either. There’s too much going on here to try and figure it out after the fact.
The art, narration and general style of the comic also bring something nice to the genre. For once, there’s a noir story without excessive shadow and darkness. Here, everything is crisp and clean, even when the setting is dingy or poorly kept. Talmadge thinks to himself like Philip Marlowe if Philip Marlowe could take a space shuttle between planets and knew aliens with one eye. The setting itself is an homage to earlier generations of Science-Fiction, with lots of different aliens and life everywhere in our Solar System. If those two things appeal to you, this is a comic book to follow in the coming months.