‘Shanghai Red #3:’ Advance Comic Book Review

The idea of identity is one of the more prominent themes that seems to be recurring throughout Shanghai Red, and it’s one that I didn’t expect to be so invested in.

Shanghai Red #3 deals with the immediate fallout of Red’s/Jack’s first revenge killings. She is bloodied and beaten and taken into her sister’s job to recover—the same place where she was shanghaied three years ago. She soon learns that the small list of names that she has created may actually be part of a dossier of crime and corruption in Portland.

Throughout the issue, we learn - through the conversations Red has with her sister and the way she interacts with the world - that she sees Jack as someone who can get the job done, an invincible protector of sorts. Yet, that’s not the only aspect of identity we see on display: Katie, Liz’s sister, talks about Jack as just a mask that Red likes to put on, and yet she talks about him as though he were a different person. This play on the Jack persona helps us to see the mental state of Red’s mind.

Red see’s Jack as a different persona, one who shares a soul with her, but he’s also a fragile mask that she wears. When she is confronted with a trapdoor that is connected to the underbelly of Portland, Red returns, frozen in place. It’s almost as if Red is forcing the abuse she endured onto Jack and attempting to distance herself from him.  Obviously, the years after being kidnapped have left Red with some serious scars, both mentally and physically, as we see in this issue.  That’s actually one of the most interesting aspects of this series: We can see the damage and harm that have befallen Red. The bruised-up face, the scars on her back, the cuts and bullet wounds are all on display, and they look like they hurt. It’s a testament to Josh Hixson’s illustrative skills that make you want to flinch when seeing the injuries on Red’s body.

This isn’t to say that the artwork is the only outstanding aspect of this story. Christopher Sebela once again adds another layer of depth to this comic. At first, we were to believe that Red’s/Jack’s vengeance relied on only a handful of people, but now, we may be seeing something bigger.

I don’t know what yet if Jack will become the Dark Knight of old-time Portland, a protector of sorts, teaming up with the working girls and creating a haven of sorts akin to Old Town from the Sin City series by Frank Miller.  Nevertheless, the fact that there is so much potential for this story makes Shanghai Red one of the most enticing reads on the market.

Creative Team:  Christopher Sebela (writer), Josh Hixson (artist), Hasaan Otsmane-Elhaou (Letters)

Publisher:  Image Comics
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