Thursday, September 29, 2022

#IReadsYou Review: RED ROOM: Trigger Warnings #1


EDITOR: Eric Reynolds
COVER: Ed Piskor
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Jim Rugg; Peach Momoko; John Gallagher; Nick Alcorn; Trey Antley
MISC. ART: Diego Rodriguez; Felipe Gasparino Goncalves; Emalie Scipione; Ignacio Di Meglio; Alex Mercado; Barry Tan; Christian Meesey; Barrett Williamson; Isaac W. Stone; Gabriela Sepulveda; Christopher Roy; Vampire Frog; Kauz Hunter; Chris Mori; Ryan Brown; Kevin Alvir; Christopher Couse; Len Danovich; Ryan Bredahl
32pp, B&W with some color, $3.99 U.S. (December 2021)

Red Room: Trigger Warnings is a new four-issue comic book miniseries from cartoonist Ed Piskor.  It is part of an overall series, entitled Red Room, that Fantagraphics Books is publishing as three miniseries for a total of twelve issues.  Piskor is best known for Hip Hop Family Tree, a comic book that chronicles the early history of Hip-Hop culture.  It has been published in webcomic, graphic novel, and serial comic book form.

Red Room focuses on a murderous, dark web subculture in which a secretive audience pays with cryptocurrency so that it can view “murder for entertainment” in real time via webcam.  A “Red Room” is a place on the Internet with an encrypted I.P. address.  Each Red Room is a webcam stream where viewers can watch a “torture star” murder another human being in the most brutal, savage, vile, and stomach-turning ways.

Red Room: Trigger Warnings #1 opens in the family melodrama of Davis Fairfield and his daughter, Brianna, a budding journalist.  Davis lost his wife, Delores, and his other daughter, Hayley, in an automobile accident (as seen in Red Room #1: The Antisocial Network).

Davis is also a Red Room star.  He is “The Decimator,” and Pentagram Picture's “The Decimator Presents: The Rat Queens!” is a gruesome hit.  The bitcoins roll in for Davis and his boss, Mistress Pentagram, but there is trouble on that proverbial horizon.  Brianna is digging into her father's secrets.  What's with the heart attacks, and where does all the cash-on-hand he has come from?  The answers may doom them both.

THE LOWDOWN:  Red Room returns in a new miniseries, but things are as gruesome as ever.  I think that the element that makes Red Room work in all of its horrifying and horrible glory is Piskor's deft touch with his characters.

This is the balance of the series, how ordinary people are caught in the trap of the Dark Web and the Red Rooms.  One can make an argument that the owners and torture stars are inhuman, but the torture victims and the Red Room fans are human.  Their faults and foibles are amplified by their obsessions and lusts, and that makes them fascinating.  Piskor makes his reader want to hone in on the fools as well as the fouls.  Following Davis and Brianna (inadvertently) to their doom is like chasing a prize, but this would not work if Piskor did not create characters that we can engage.

Trigger Warnings does not miss a beat following The Antisocial Network.  There is a sense of verisimilitude even if the Red Rooms seem unbelievable because they are not unbelievable.  Torture, you say?!  Even the “Father of our Nation” owned humans as property and used them as he saw fit – even violently.  Oops, I should have offered a trigger warning.  Instead, I offer praise and encouragement that you, dear readers, at least once, try this truly amazing comic book.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Ed Piskor's work and of alternative comics as science fiction will want to read Red Room: Trigger Warnings.

10 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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