Yes, it’s set in the late 1800s and the story begins on a ship and there is a mutiny, but if you’re expecting to see a pirate story on the high seas, you would be mistaken and doing yourself a disservice. Shanghai Red is a revenge tale about the main character, Red, who was drugged, kidnapped, and forced to work off a “debt” for a year. The story begins after this year, where Red slaughters the previous crew and heads to Portland to enact vengeance.
Along the way, we learn about Red’s background and how the story got to where it came to be, and all of this is presented in a fluid and fast-paced way in under 30 pages. Writer Christopher Sebela has created a world that is all too relatable with motivations that are all too understandable. Sebela doesn’t hold our hand throughout the story either; he provides a story and circumstances in a way that do not feel rushed nor confusing. We know exactly what the motivations of the characters and why they do what they do, even the minor characters.
With all of this in mind, the creation of the world wouldn’t have been possible without the art of Joshua Hixson whose use of shadows contrasting with the light help to build the atmosphere of the world in the comic. It hearkens back to Bill Willingham’s Fables with an update to appease modern readers.
I won’t lie and say that I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a pirate adventure (Look at the cover and tell me it doesn’t look like a swashbuckling escapade!), but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best preludes to a revenge story that I’ve read in a long time.
Shanghai Red is a story to look out for. It’s a refreshing revenge tale that keeps your eyes glued on the page and makes you want to read more of Red’s plan for vengeance once you’ve realized the issue is over.
Creative Team: Christopher Sebela (writer), Josh Hixson (artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
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