Eduardo Risso may be the artist of Red Moon, but this is no 100 Bullets. Both writer Carlos Trillo and Risso are from Argentina and have worked on a variety of projects together over the years, including Vampire Boy, which some of you may know. Red Moon is the tale of young Moon, a flame-haired girl (Literally, her hair will light up a dark room, or cave, or basement.) and the daughter of the Lord of Burien. Her best friend becomes Antolin, an orphan and traveling acrobat, and together they embark on a variety of interconnected adventures. This is a wonderfully whimsical fantasy book, full of broad comedy and bizarre characters, and it oscillates between absurdly unexpected and ridiculously straightforward, all with joyous results.
Red Moon collects four stories, starting with the meeting of Moon and Antolin and their subsequent quest to save Moon’s father and the land of Burien from the nefarious Lord of Leona. This involves a journey to a floating fairy castle, a visit to the dream realm, and the collection of a cadre of unique characters to compile a traveling circus to covertly come in and save the day. It is zany, goofy, and exciting, and the way the team comes together is an absolute hoot. From then on out, the hoots just keep getting bigger and bigger as the stories swerves into absurdist territory with a trip to Never, a land ruled by a wicked witch who transforms her denizens into strange monsters, and a race to find the Achilles heel of a giant whose witch mother made a deal with all the things of the world to not hurt her son. It borders on abstract from time to time, but those abstractions fit perfectly into the crazy, fantastical land created by Trillo and Risso, and you just find yourself running with the unspooling danger and hilarity.
Risso’s art is gorgeous and full of the shadows, interesting character designs, full lips, snarls, and intense eyes that became a phenomenon with 100 Bullets. No matter what is happening in the story, the art is always intriguing and captivating and pulls you along from scene to scene, keeping everything connected no matter how fractured or outlandish the plot gets or the characters act. One thing that keeps the story slightly, and enjoyably, off-kilter is the fact that it is a translation. There are times when the dialogue is so obvious, so on-the-nose that it just cracks you up, because you know this isn’t the original language, and it probably reads quite differently in Spanish. But, Zeljko Medic does a solid job with the translation, and everything makes sense, even if it is a nonsensical kind of sense, and the awkwardness fits in with the style and tone of the tales, such as giving a castle a basement as opposed to a dungeon.
I knew Red Moon would be fun, and I was thoroughly pleased that it was so fanciful, goofy, imaginative, and outrageous, a book for kids and adults alike. Fantasy tropes abound, but Trillo and Risso turn them around, upside-down and inside-out, breathing a strange, new, unexpected life into each and every one. While you may be familiar with the underlying framework of the story or quest, you never know how it will unfold when Moon and Antolin are involved. Red Moon is full of surprises and action and laughs, all guided by the fierce and fearless Moon and the flexible, slightly less fearless Antolin, so if you want to experience a wondrous and weird new adventure, then pick your oddest talent and join their traveling circus. They’ll be glad to have you, and you’ll be happy to be a part of such a creative and entertaining team of heroes.