Underrated: Red Thorn: Glasgow Kiss

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: Red Thorn: Glasgow Kiss

I had completely forgotten about Red Thorn until a copy of the first trade came into the comic shop the other day, and I remembered how much I had enjoyed the series. I don’t know if I ever finished it, for some reason I think I stopped picking up the comics around the 8th or 9th issue, but that’s something I’m happy to look into and fill out the remaining issues for my collection.

What’s the book about? Well, the blurb is copied below:

Although she grew up in America, gifted artist Isla Mackintosh is a Scot at heart. Both of her parents were born in Glasgow, and 25 years ago her older sister Lauren vanished during a visit to the land of her ancestry. Now, Isla is following in her sister’s footsteps, hoping to discover the truth behind her disappearance.
The secret she’s about to unearth, however, is far older and more dangerous than she ever could have guessed.
Something has been waiting for Isla, deep beneath the moors. A pagan demigod has been trapped there for millennia, caged inside the bones of ancient gods. He smells of the blood of a thousand enemies and the sweat of countless lovers. His name is Thorn, and Isla’s art is the key to his freedom.

Red Thorn is one of those comics that has something special about it. Whether it’s in the way David Baillie has crafted this issue, Meghan Hetrick‘s art work or the coluring of Steve Oliff, there’s something about this comic that draws you in.

With any comic I read, I always hope it’ll be good, but especially when picking up the first issue of a new series; if the first issue doesn’t grab you in some way then the chances you’ll be willing to pick up the next issue aren’t great. Thankfully, there’s something about Red Thorn that grabs a hold of  you and pulls you through the streets of Glasgow on wild ride that begins to edge onto the mythological history of writer David Baillie‘s native Scotland.

The story here is mostly fluid, with Baillie taking his time about delving too quickly into the mythology side of things that the series will undoubtedly feature strongly across later issues. It’s a smart choice, because by focusing less on the mythology he allows us to become familiar with Isla Mackintosh, the young American in Scotland with an unusual talent that I’m sure Baille will have some fun with as the series goes on.

The art from Meghan Hetrick is brilliant; I’ve never been to Scotland myself, but her scenery has a distinctly Scottish flavour (admittedly I’m basing that statement on the few images, movies and television shows I’ve seen set in and around the country). One of my favourite scenes in the opening issue is when we’re given a glimpse inside Isla‘s sketch book. It’s a jaw dropping double page spread that really highlights Hetrick‘s abilities and, combined with the colours of Steve Oliff, is an excellent window into the kind of person Isla is.

Red Thorn #1 is a brilliant example of the talented creative team working with a synchronicity that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect from the first issue in a series, and it only becomes stronger throughout the rest of the trade. 

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.