January 28, 2007

Reviews of RED PROPHET

Red Prophet:  Tales of Alvin Maker by Roland Bernard BrownStarting with the obvious, Red Prophet: Tales of Alvin Maker is a straight-up adaptation of the second book in Card’s lengthy series about the seventh son of a seventh son, Alvin, who has a special ‘knack’. Issue #1 encompasses the first forty or so pages of Red Prophet using much of Card’s original text to tell the story. Set in a late eighteenth, early nineteenth century America that is equal parts alternative history, legend and magic, the Alvin Maker books have an earthy charm about them that could have been hard to translate into a visual medium. Thankfully artist Renato Arlem manages to assuage any concerns about the visual style of Red Prophet with highly detailed artwork that fully renders the frontier world of Alvin Maker, making it at once recognisable yet fresh.

What springs out immediately from the first few pages is how busy the comic book is, there is a lot going on in each panel both in terms of the artwork and the narrative structure. Each panel’s artwork has a vividness of purpose that makes it appear as if the events are moving forward of their own accord, but unfortunately this is hampered by the way Brown tells the story. Many pages are littered with numerous narrative and speech bubbles that occupy a significant amount of space on the page, cluttering the artwork and creating the impression that this is very much a comic ‘book’.
Red Prophet #2 by Roland Bernard BrownWhat began as a promising first issue has been followed up by a very enjoyable, if again too brief second issue. Red Prophet #2 begins to explain the background to Lolla-Wossiky and why, of all the ‘likkered Reds’, his story is important. In this second issue we learn why he is so dependent on whiskey and what the real reason behind his drinking is. As was the case with the first issue, issue two continues in the style that anyone familiar with Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series has become accustomed to. Roland Bernard Brown and Renato Arlem have settled quickly into the title with few adjustments required, which makes the transition between issues smooth and familiar.

Centring on Lolla-Wossiky’s journey North to find his dream beast and escape his reliance on the whiskey of Governor Harrison, Red Prophet #2 uses Lolla-Wossiky to expand the reader’s understanding of the world and finally bring us within touching distance of Alvin. The journey itself is a beautifully drawn mixture of the peaceful green and disturbing black, balancing the problems Lolla-Wossiky suffers with the truth of his heritage. Wossiky’s missing eye is used intelligently as the main story-telling tool, seeing things in a different way and making the reader wonder whether he is a little crazy after all. Unfortunately the pacing of Red Prophet #2 has to be brought into question. Understandably some amount of time must be spent on the tale of Lolla-Wossiky, as it is central to the tale as a whole, however given the monthly release of the title, it’s lack of size and the limited length of it’s run, it seems too much of a luxury to go two issues without meeting the titular character. This second issue also feels like a setting of the stage, which, although unavoidable to a degree, is still disappointing because we’re not into the meat of the story yet.
Comment:  I disagree with Owen Jones's negative comments. The narrative captions and the time spent exploring the characters are exactly what make this series stand out. Reading RED PROPHET #2, I realized it was taking a whole 15 minutes instead of the usual 9-10. That's a sign one is actually reading, not just looking at pretty pictures.

If Jones wants less literary comics, he has about a thousand to choose from. Let's not prod this title to be like the other 999.

Also, I believe Lolla-Wossiky is the Red Prophet of the series, not Alvin Maker. So issue #2 is all about the titular character.

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