The Red Star

http://www.ottens.co.uk/gatehouse/the-red-star

So, anyway, I started reading this comic a few years ago (and will continue reading it, once my current literary backlog is trimmed a bit), and I was wondering if there are any other fans here.

Personally, I find I'm in two minds about it. On the one hand, the storytelling is terrific, the characters have heft, and the imagery is simply beautiful. As I said in the blog post, The Red Star is what I think of when someone says "dieselpunk."

However...however...I sometimes find that me and the comic butt heads over interpretations of the Soviet Union. I mean, the symbology and faux-Russianess of the universe makes it pretty much impossible not to see it as an allegory for the USSR. I suppose the problem may simply be how each of us go about interpreting the Soviet experience. TRS describes the USSR through mythic allegory, while I go about it using the shoddy tools of historical analysis. TRS is Soviet history as a heroic epic, wheras I see it as a bunch of people trying to do what they think is right and/or get rich, and never really succeeding for a variety of reasons. In TRS, good and evil are pretty clearly defined, while I tend to believe, as Lord Vetinari does, that there really isn't any good, and everyone is just a little bit evil all the time.

Anyway, that's my madness out in the open. Don't let it spoil your day or your enjoyment of this comic.

Comments

  • It looks positively spiffing, but that, I'm afraid, is all I can say, for I've never read it, nor will, probably... Dutch websites selling books don't seem to carry it, and there's not an awful lot of dedicated comic book stores around here. So please, do keep up informed from time to time about this!
  • If I can find it, I will definitely be looking into it. However, I haven't seen it on any of the shelves in my local comic stores. Also, the official website only offers volumes 1, 2 and 4 in trade paperback form. Where is volume 3? I can't find it on Amazon or Chapters/Indigo books either.
  • I agree that fairly frequently their vision of the USSR seems...different. Actually if I'm perfectly honest it all reads rather like a few Americans who once visited an art gallery doing an exhibition on the USSR and have done no other research. That said I think a sprawling techno-fantasy epic in faux-Soviet art styles could be totally awesome, its just that TRS is confused about what it wants to be. Hence the good vs. evil fantasy epic, the attempts at manga style tank battles etc.

    My biggest problem if I'm honest though is that the storytelling just isn't all that great. Its not bad either, just leaves me underwhelmed. The characters are all massive cliches, the big meta-narrative is just a copy-paste from any naff 1980's fantasy novel and the flashback/prequel mission was just a huge waste of time.

    Its still pretty mind and different enough to be interesting but more of a missed opportunity than anything else.

    On the other hand 'The Winter Men' is how you write a comic book on the Soviet Union. If you can I'd advise picking it up. There are only 6 issues and its a wonderful piece of work. You can usually grab it off eBay fairly cheap.
  • edited May 2009
    Multi-reply time!

    Ottens, you can order everything from The Red Store or Amazon.
    If I can find it, I will definitely be looking into it. However, I haven't seen it on any of the shelves in my local comic stores. Also, the official website only offers volumes 1, 2 and 4 in trade paperback form. Where is volume 3? I can't find it on Amazon or Chapters/Indigo books either.
    That may be partly my fault, actually. For some strange reason, they sent me 2 copies of books 3 and 4. I'm still waiting for them to tell me how to send the extra copies back. Thankfully, I don't appear to have been billed twice.

    Failing that, there may be another print run at some point. If you're desperate, you can still order the individual comics from the website. I believe that book 3 collects Volume 2, issues 1-5.
    xeoran wrote:
    I agree that fairly frequently their vision of the USSR seems...different. Actually if I'm perfectly honest it all reads rather like a few Americans who once visited an art gallery doing an exhibition on the USSR and have done no other research. That said I think a sprawling techno-fantasy epic in faux-Soviet art styles could be totally awesome, its just that TRS is confused about what it wants to be. Hence the good vs. evil fantasy epic, the attempts at manga style tank battles etc.

    My biggest problem if I'm honest though is that the storytelling just isn't all that great. Its not bad either, just leaves me underwhelmed. The characters are all massive cliches, the big meta-narrative is just a copy-paste from any naff 1980's fantasy novel and the flashback/prequel mission was just a huge waste of time.

    Its still pretty mind and different enough to be interesting but more of a missed opportunity than anything else.

    On the other hand 'The Winter Men' is how you write a comic book on the Soviet Union. If you can I'd advise picking it up. There are only 6 issues and its a wonderful piece of work. You can usually grab it off eBay fairly cheap.
    xeoran, thanks for The Winter Men shout-out. I managed to track down issues 3 through 5, but I'm planning on waiting for the trade paperback in December. Of course, considering the publication history of The Winter Men, it's probably going to be on shelves in March 2017.

    As for the storytelling, I'll admit that since they're depicting Soviet history as an epic high fantasy epic, so a lot of historical truth is going to be bowdlerized just to fit the conventions of the genre. At the same time, the creative team does seem to operate on a sort of black-and-white idealistic left-wing worldview, one that seems to have attracted notice in their other major title.

    Still, judging from the titles listed in the bibliography in the TPBs (which I am integrating into my own collection, thank you Amazon), they are doing their research. They're just not doing what I would've done with it.

    At any rate, Hollywood has finally taken notice, and there's currently a project in the works (tenatively slated for release in 2012) being helmed by Timur Bekmambetov, aka Russia's answer to Michael Bay. I'm actually a little interested in how this movie turns out, if only because I'd like to know what the Russian reaction to The Red Star is. Well, beyond disgust tinged with bemusement, of course.
  • Hey, xeoran, I caved in and ordered the remaining Winter Man comics I didn't have and...wow. Even though Wildstorm treated this series like crap, it's still an excellent read. It seems somewhat appropriate that this series shows that, even if you can bend steel with your bare hands, you can't escape the networks and endless plotting of contemporary Russian life.
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