"Crimson: Volume 1" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Originally published as Crimson #1 - #12
Written by Brian Augustyn
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
1998, 312 Pages
Graphic novel released on August 26th, 2015
Oh, the '90s. We look back on you now and laugh, but at the time you were all the rage. Whether it was snap bracelets and pogs or, in the comic book industry, foil embossed covers and muscles on top of pouches on top of muscles, it was a strange time for all of us. Comics came through it though, and now we can look back at that period with a bit of nostalgia. I'm not sure where Crimson fits just yet.
Originally released in 1998, Crimson follows teenager Alex Elder after he survives a horrific massacre from a group of vampires in Central Park. He didn't get away unscathed though, as he's become a bloodsucker himself, taken in by the mysterious and powerful Ekimus. It turns out Alex has a heavy destiny as he's The Chosen One. He has powers unlike any other vampire to date.
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None of this really matters to Alex because he's a teenager and all teenagers are kind of stupid. He's brash, short-tempered, and rude. Ekimus represents a new authority figure and you can bet your ass that he's not going to listen to this new old guy. Alex knows everything and he's invincible. Of course, this doesn't get him very far. It gets frustrated to read about this kid's struggles. Yes, he's been through some horrible things, watching his friends brutally murdered, almost dying himself, and being ripped away from his family, perhaps never to see or speak to them again. I'd be more sympathetic to him if he wasn't such an impudent douchebag.
Alex's choice of wardrobe is questionable as well. Again, this was the '90s and leather was in. It doesn't excuse his outfit that basically looks like the gimp suit from Pulp Fiction, without the mask. He looks like a reject from a BDSM shoot. He's pencil thin, so he's basically a few lanky leather-covered limbs with way too many buckles. Alex sports an oversized duster jacket over this ensemble to complete the tortured loner look. The outfits on the other characters are also rather dated. There are a lot of baggy pants.
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The real saving grace with Crimson is the artwork. I think I first saw Humberto Ramos' work on Wolverine during the Civil War storyline. Even back in Crimson several years prior, there's an energy to it, like it's a coiled spring about to pop. He has a style that is uniquely his.
The vampires are what really shine through. Their teeth are so huge that they can't even close their mouths. They're jagged and dangerous with an animal-like quality. The blood flows freely and it comes down in buckets. Later on in the book, a group of mindless yet vicious child vampires are introduced. Somehow, their teeth are even bigger than the fully grown vampires. In groups, they can be even scarier.
Crimson is a unique read, showcasing a much derided era of comic book history. It's definitely an element of its time, highlighting the “exxxtreme.” This was an age where art ruled and story was a distant second. Alex is a tough character to sympathize with. Granted, I'm far outside of his age range now. It takes some time before you stop rooting for him to die on every page. If you wanted a time capsule to give you an idea of what the '90s were like in comics, pick this up.
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