Sea of Red #1

Written by Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer
Art by Salgood Sam
32 pages, two-color
Published by Image Comics

I’ll admit it, I was a little skeptical. Admit it, if you heard “vampire pirates” you’d raise your eyebrows too, right? It just sounded, well, a little silly. I owe Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer, and Salgood Sam a big apology, though. Sea of Red is not only a distinctly non-silly book, it’s one of the better debuts of the year.

In 1533, Spanish sailor Marco Esperanza was pulled out of the ocean by a passing ship, after Marco’s own vessel sank. What Marco didn’t realize was that staying in the ocean may have been the safer bet. Aboard a ship full of vampires, Marco was stripped of the one thing that meant anything to him, transformed into a vampire… and that’s when things started to get really bad.

Remender and Dwyer’s editorial for Sea of Red #1 talks about how this series is going to try and transcend genres, and I can see where they’re going with that idea. You could try and point a finger at a single genre (horror, vampire, revenge, adventure) but it’s really an amalgamation of many different ideas and influences. What is important is that Sea of Red is exciting, it’s gripping, and it’s a fantastic set-up for an ongoing series. There are so many different directions that Sea of Red could go from here that it’s intriguing, with all of them having real possibilities. This is definitely the way to start a new series, giving the reader a story that begs the question, “What happens next?”

The art in Sea of Red is gorgeous; Sam’s art has an old-fashioned feel to it that is perfect for a story set in the 16th century. Each page is lushly illustrated with great care and precision, providing an epic feel to everything from an underwater imprisonment to a truly grisly feast. It’s a look unlike anything else I recall seeing in comics, and I really like it. Sam’s characters look amazingly real amidst their stylization; these are people you’ve definitely encountered before. It’s also one of the best uses of a two-color process that I’ve seen in a while, using the red ink wash to provide texture and depth to the art, as well as a way to set the mood of the story. The red almost burns your eyes like a heavily chlorinated pool, and it’s that sort of haze that settles amongst the bad situation that Marco’s found himself trapped in that really cements the entire story.

Sea of Red #1 is a fantastic debut to the series; reading this comic, you’ll not just enjoy it, you’ll be desperate for more. Remender, Dwyer, and Sam have created a book that defies all categorizations other than the most obvious one: excellent. A lot of new series appear on my desk, but it’s not often that I’ve read a first issue and instantly thought that we had a winner. Very well done, everyone involved.

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