Sleek Art Is Burdened By Spy Thriller Tropes In Crimson Lotus #1

by Josh Davison

[*Mild Spoilers Ahead!]
On February 9th, 1904, a little Japanese girl witnesses the carnage of the Russo-Japanese War off the coast. She sees the sorcerer Rasputin and his men enter a temple, and she sees them kill her father. Later, in Harbin, China in 1932, one of his men, Colonel Suriv, goes missing, and Juntong, Chinese Intelligence, wants to know where he went. On top of his disappearance in Harbin, the citizens of the city have been found dead and witnesses claim strange, massive creatures are responsible. Officer Hao of the Juntong is charged with investigating this mystery.

Crimson Lotus #1 cover by Tonci Zonjic
Crimson Lotus #1 cover by Tonci Zonjic

Crimson Lotus #1 takes place in the Mike Mignola Hellboy universe, and it tells of Chinese attempts to curtail the actions of Rasputin’s agents and their enemies during the early stages of World War II.
It’s aiming to be a spy thriller of sorts, but the first issue is badly weighed down by the least interesting and most predictable tropes of spy thrillers.
Much of the comic is simply Hao being briefed on what is happening in Harbin. The remainder of the comic is setup, with the reader not even meeting Hao until the halfway point of the story.
It’s easy to see where much of the story is going, with the young Japanese girl, Miryoku, being an assassin and responsible for the disappearance of Suriv.
It’s possible, and even likely, that much of this is tied to deep Mignolaverse lore that I simply don’t know about. Unfortunately, I’m not well-read on much of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. Regardless, that doesn’t change how deadeningly boring and trope-filled Crimson Lotus #1 is.
Crimson Lotus #1 art by Mindy Lee, Michelle Madsen, and letterer Clem Robins
Crimson Lotus #1 art by Mindy Lee, Michelle Madsen, and letterer Clem Robins

Mindy Lee’s artwork is solid at least. Her style is at once sleek and gritty, giving the world the needed sense of ugliness while looking constantly in motion. It’s also quite gruesome at times, and in a manner that does look quite creative. Michelle Madsen’s color work is appropriately grim and mysterious as well, and it serves the book quite well.
Crimson Lotus #1 is a disappointing venture. While the remainder of the series could pick up, this first issue offers little but backstory and James Bond mimicry. While the art is good, I can’t quite recommend this comic. I suggest giving it a pass.
Crimson Lotus #1 comes to us from writer John Arcudi, artist Mindy Lee, color artist Michelle Madsen, letterer Clem Robins, and cover artist Tonci Zonjic.

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