Rose & Thorn #1

Written by Gail Simone
Penciled by Adriana Melo
Inked by Dan Green
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I first came across Rose and Thorn in the pages of the Superman titles over a decade ago. There was something instantly intriguing about this woman, who by day was Rose, only to have an alter ego take over at night and fight organized crime. It wasn’t the idea of two identities that grabbed me, but rather the fact that Rose and Thorn were two distinct personalities housed in the same person, each operating with their own ideas and motives. Now Gail Simone’s taken this character out of mothballs to try and redefine her for the 21st century—and it’s great to see that she clearly saw the same appeal in her.

Rhosyn Forrest has had better days. She’s in a youth care facility, having gone psychotically violent after the death of her parents. Doctor Warren Chritlow thinks he can change that, though, with the help of a new psychiatric procedure. Rhosyn is going to mentally separate all the violence and anger out of her personality into a second personality, named Thorn. If all the negative behavior stays locked up with Thorn, then it will only leave good parts of a personality for Rose. But did Doctor Chritlow anticipate what would happen if Rose let Thorn come out?

Simone is playing her cards close to her chest in Rose & Thorn #1, and it works quite well. We don’t have the full details of how Rose’s parents died yet, for instance, or why Rose feels responsible for their death. We’ve got some pretty good hints, though, and the bits and pieces are just enough to make us want to know more. What really got me sucked in, though, was the idea that Rose and Thorn’s two personalities didn’t evolve on their own, but were a deliberate act brought on by a third party. Suddenly Rhosyn’s state of being becomes more of a tragedy than something to celebrate, and Simone’s introduction to the two becomes far more chilling and mature than anything I ever remember seeing with the character.

I don’t recall seeing penciler Adriana Melo’s work before, but I like what I see. Melo, coupled with veteran inker Dan Green, draws a book that reminds me a bit of some of the art from WildStorm studios. The opening splash introduction of Rhosyn, with her thick curls of hair and dramatic attack pose are all carefully rendered, but Melo and Green always keep Rhosyn grounded in the real world. Maybe that’s why Melo’s panels of inside Rhosyn’s head to where the Thorn personality is contained look so creepy, because they’re such a disassociation from the reality-based art up until that point. It’s like Bill Sienkiewicz at his prime has come in to draw these pieces of the book, with their harsh, jagged edges that counter the rounded curves of Melo’s pencils, and the splattered colors and static overlaying our glimpse into Thorn’s world are a sharp contrast to the crisp, clear vision of the real world. Melo’s art really helps draw the line between Rose and Thorn, an important distinction in this book.

Rose & Thorn #1 is a really sharp introduction to this mini-series; if what happens next is as strong as this first issue, I think we as readers are going to have a great time. With stories this emotionally strong, it’s easy to see why DC Comics recently signed Simone to an exclusive contract. Rose & Thorn #1 is the first part of a six-issue mini-series.

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