Another new edition of Ed Piskor’s ‘Red Room’ and another new character or two introduced. And with each new face we get a new layer of story added to this torture porn gore-fest. The plot thickens as the blood continues to spill.
Three issue into Ed Piskor’s horrifying shared universe and we begin to see a larger story emerging from the blood and guts. And as with the previous two issue we get a focus on a particular character and his story. In this case the story of tech savvy coder Levee Turks and to some extent his girlfriend, Rita, too.
Turks, it seems, is happy to make a deal with the Feds for the sweet taste of freedom, as it is quickly established that it is thanks to his meddling on the net and the code he created, alongside his lover, that the dark web an continue to exist and the Red Rooms can continue to make money from live-streaming torture porn and snuff. And, he’s the only one who can help them out. Even if that’s not his plan. He and Rita are literally the only two characters we’ve been introduced to who are not directly involved with the Red Rooms and so the reader cannot help but be drawn to them. But only because they are the best of a bad bunch.
In widening the lens to include such characters as Levee and Rita – even though they aren’t themselves sweet and innocent (is anyone in this gory galaxy?) – the story begins to add layers of complexity. It’s morphing into something far more than a gore-filled comic book and one with a more meaty plot. And while these first three issues follow a similar pattern of focussing on one character and their story and place in the Red Room universe, it’s certainly building into something as we begin to get connections being forged and the haunting theme of media effects raising its head as a subtext. Can viewers really get switched onto maiming and murder if they are exposed too often to the Red Room live-stream? Well, given the grim world being built by Piskor, I would say so. This is a series that thrives on horror and I can’t see that diminishing any time soon.
The art, as ever, is undeniably gorgeously gruesome as Piskor uses letratone like textures to add depth and a layer of grime to his artwork. Even when we are witness to scene of bliss between Leeve and Rita in a mansion built from her internet created wealth, there is still something at odds about it all. One panel, in which we witness Leave walking down a set of spiral stairs is a good example of this uneasiness that Piskor thrive on including in his work on this title. And again, Piskor evokes that classic grungy indie vibe of the very early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics with the use of black and white art and greys on sepia coloured paper which only compliments the creeped-out content even more so.
Furthermore, you singly cannot shake the worrying feeling that these two lovebirds will not live too long before they are inexorably dragged kicking and screaming into the dark world of the Red Room. I’ve seen enough horror films to know you can never remain unscathed for too long. And in this book, you get the creeping feeling that no-one is safe.
Having got used to the levels of grotesque and macabre horrors of Red Room it’s good to see this issue flesh out the world and the story with characters that while dodgy are not deadly, like all this who have come before. I liked this book already as a fan of horror, but now I’m intrigued by where this is all heading too. And that’s more than enough to have me come back again next months and the month after that too. When other series may start losing readers by this point, Piskor’s writing has actually grabbed my attention even more thoroughly thanks to the introduction of these two newest editions to the cast.
Red Room #3 is out Wednesday 28th July from Fantagraphics