(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: Sep 15, 2021 Fantagraphics Books
The breakout smash hit of 2021 wraps up its debut four-issue monthly “season” with a trio of tales inspired by the great EC Comics such as Tales from the Crypt and focusing on Donna Butcher, the original Queen of the Red Rooms! “Cyclical Territory,” “Pure Evil,” and “Snuff Said” explore Butcher’s origins in the VHS/Betamax era of torture porn before twisting into a contemporary revenge fantasy gone wrong. Another stand alone masterpiece from creator of X-Men: Grand Design and Hip Hop Family Tree! As seen on Cartoonist Kayfabe (YouTube)!
(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: Jul 28, 2021 SRP: $3.99
Levee Turks was an encryption software prodigy serving a life sentence for creating an online drug empire until the feds proposed a deal: infiltrate red rooms and help the FBI crack down on these deepest corners of the dark web. But Turks soon finds that prison might be a better fate… Another killer stand-alone issue of the all-new monthly series from the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design! As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!
(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: Jun 30, 2021 SRP: $3.99
Grooming victims to be slaughtered on the DARK WEB for the enjoyment of psychopaths requires lots of work to keep them from being identified. The Poker Face organization, one of the most successful black market Red Room companies on the internet, goes to great lengths to fulfill their customers’ depraved fantasies while avoiding law enforcement every step of the way. From the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design comes this ALL-NEW monthly comic book series! A cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk deep dive into the subculture of criminals who live-stream and patronize webcam murders for entertainment in the darkest corners of the web with nearly untraceable crypto-currency. As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!
Fresh off a couple of illustrated Wikipedia summary comics, writer/artist Ed Piskor turns in his first comic of original content in nine years, Red Room #1. It shows the inner workings of Red Rooms, which are online webcam sites on the dark web where viewers pay in cryptocurrency to watch cartoonish figures murder people in creative ways. There’s also a parallel story of Davis Mayfield, a pathetic, hypocritical court clerk, who is dealing with the death of his wife and daughter in a drunk driving accident and trying to provide for his surviving daughter, Brianna, to go to NYU. Piskor does a much better job handling the chat room banter and drawing the truly grotesque ways in which the even more gruesome-looking victims of the Red Rooms are dispatched than showing the real world of tragedy, loss, and even simple things like jobs and conversations. With the exception of Brianna and her friend, who are written like 1990s transplants instead of present-day teenagers (And it’s probably for the best.), the cast of Red Room, both in the “real world” and the complex are meant to be objects of derision, laughter, and disgust.
If I had to describe Red Room #1 in one catchy pull quote, it would be “The Invisibles for incels.” There’s conspiracies, initiations, and a cast of characters in fetish wear with names connected to Aleister Crowley. However, the only thing they’re hiding is unfettered exploitation with the origin of the “herd” or “cows” that Mistress Pentagram (A Red Room exec, I guess.) being more chilling than the actual on-panel violence. And Ed Piskor definitely seems to be having fun with the old ultraviolence creating an immersive environment with an attention to detail in the Red Room’s user interface probably born out of long hours on Chaturbate with the audience commentary adding context to the wannabe EC Horror or Clive Barker style images on the screen. To his credit, he does make references to Barker in the first Red Room video seen in the comic, and this kind of metacommentary acts as a shield his work from being derivative.
Even though there are lapses in his storytelling (The death of Davis’ wife and daughter is weirdly staged and melodramatic, Piskor’s work really pops in black and white, and you can see all kinds of gross and occasionally interesting details in his line art like the graffiti on Davis’ desk and the contempt that everyone shows him. The outlaw comic and splatterpunk comparisons have been mentioned a lot in the press material for Red Room, but Ed Piskor draws a lot on the work on Daniel Clowes in both his figure work and lettering. (Plus Brianna cosplays as Enid Coleslaw in a very old school take on a comic book convention, or maybe it was a dead ringer for East Coast Comicon…) The stylized “ha ha’s” at the cop bar when Davis is roasted for working a desk job and look like a serial killer could be directed towards Seymour or Daniel Pussey or any of Clowes’ pathetic protagonists, and this extends to his facial expressions and the way he holds his weight. Davis is this close to recording extreme closeup videos of QAnon rants in his car, or worse because this is Red Room.
Even though his writing (Especially his dialogue for non-white people) has a ways to go, Ed Piskor does continue to have a distinct art style in Red Room as he sheds the old school, four color superhero hijinks of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design for old school indie. (Black and White Explosion, weird old non-Hernandez Brothers Fantagraphics comics) However, Piskor’s plotting is direct to DVD horror, and his characters are definitely stock types as he tries to tell a father/daughter story when it definitely seems like he’d rather be delving into mob and serial killer conspiracies and coming up with different Red Room studios that are scarily close to drawing on stereotypes about sex workers. So, going a different route and focusing on Davis might have a better idea in the long run.
I definitely can’t recommend Red Room #1 as a story beyond some cool storytelling tricks from Ed Piskor. (He uses bullet casings to make sound effect lettering.) However, its utter contempt for humanity and 4chan-filtered-through 1990s nostalgia (Its sole connective tissue to the last volume of X-Men: Grand Design.) and dusty old paperbacks perspective on what makes society tick stimulates the doom-scrolling through Facebook comment threads and binge-watching 90 Day Fiance part of my brain so I might be making a return visit to this book…
Story: Ed PiskorArt: Ed Piskor Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.8 Recommendation: Pass
Fantagraphics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in
Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!
Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.
Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 (Marvel) – A new take on the Fantastic Four looking at their lives in real time across the years.
Home #2 (Image Comics) – The series takes a hard look at immigration. The first issue delivered a finale that took the series in a fantastical direction and we’re intrigued as to where it goes from there.
Nottingham #3 (Mad Cave Studios) – A fresh take on the Robin Hood mythology.
Phantom on the Scan #2 (AfterShock) – The first issue had a solid X-Files vibe to it and we want to learn more about these characters, their powers, and why they’re dying.
Rangers of the Divide #1 (Dark Horse) – A new series following a Commander who stumbles upon a team of cadets after the nation’s peace keepers disappear.
Red Room #1 (Fantagraphics) – Ed Piskor’s new monthly comic series kicks off with a double-sized issue. Red Room is cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk, entertainment.
Shang-Chi #1 (Marvel) – The previous miniseries was fantastic and we’re expecting no less when it comes to this new series.
Stray Dogs #4 (Image Comics) – We really don’t know if murders actually took place. But, we’re sucked into this series that’s kept us guessing what’s going on with every issue.
Way of X #2 (Marvel) – Nightcrawler explores the world of Krakoa and that includes the bad that lies underneath. The first issue was a solid exploration of the new world of the X-Men from a different perspective.
We Live Vol. 1 (AfterShock) – If you missed the individual issues, you have no excuse now. This is an emotional journey and one hell of a debut.
White Lily #3 (Red 5 Comics) – Based on real history, the story focuses on a Russian female fighter pilot during World War II, one of the best ever.
Wonder Girl #1 (DC Comics) – The new Wonder Girl starts off here! From what we know from Future State, this is going to be a major character in the DC Universe for years to come!
(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: May 19, 2021 SRP: $6.99
From the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design comes this ALL-NEW monthly comic book series, with a specially priced, self-contained, double-sized debut issue! Red Room is a cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk masterpiece. Aided by the anonymous dark web and nearly untraceable crypto-currency, there has emerged a subculture of criminals who live-stream and patronize webcam murders for entertainment. Who are the murderers? Who are the victims? How do we stop it? As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!
Eisner Award-winning, indie cartoonist Ed Piskor is releasing Red Room, an ambitious, new sci-fi horror comic with Fantagraphics. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the best-selling Hip Hop Family Tree graphic novels and for distilling more than 8,000 pages of Marvel Comics continuity into the seamless masterpiece X-Men Grand Design, Red Room represents a significant milestone for the cartoonist: the creation of his first creator-owned, shared universe. Red Room will debut from Fantagraphics in May with an oversized 64-page first issue.
In Red Room, criminals livestream murders on the dark web for fun and profit. The series will be told through a series of interconnected, stand-alone stories, focusing on unsavory characters that lurk in the most grotesque corners of cyberspace. The murders are a mystery, the victims unknown. Aided by the anonymous dark web and nearly untraceable crypto-currency, business is booming and the viewership is ever-growing.
Red Room will be released in a variety of formats. The series will be published as monthly, four-issue arcs in a standard 32-page comic book format at $3.99 each, with the exception of May’s first issue, which will be a specially priced, 64-page double-sized issue selling for $6.99. In the fall of 2021, the first four issues will be collected into a trade paperback. Once the Red Room saga is complete, there will be a total of 12 single issues and three trade paperbacks.