ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Shanghai Red’ Trade Paperback

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Shanghai Red

Shanghai Red is published by Image Comics and created by writer Christopher Sebela, artist Joshua Hixson, letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou with color flattening by Roman Stevens. The trade paperback of the series collects issues #1-5.

Throughout the history of humanity, we often ask, how did they overcome such horrific circumstances, treatment, violence and so forth? The simple answer is they didn’t. Surviving is not the same as overcoming. Shanghai Red follows the story of Red who is one of the hundreds of people who were shanghaied out of Portland in the late 1800s.. Aren’t sure what that means? We have you covered. Shanghaied is being forced to join a ship lacking a full crew usually by someone drugging them or using other underhanded means.

After finally facing the idea of her freedom, Red instead takes her life back into her own hands. She has survived the horror but can she return to her family and truly overcome what she has faced?

People have asked me how I overcame hardships in my life. The short answer is I didn’t, I just adapted. Red and I are similar in that regard. Despite having a complicated relationship with her father, Red is fiercely loyal to him, her mother, and her sister. Prior to being kidnapped, Red dressed as a man and took over being the “man of the house” once her father left. Her absence puts a serious strain on her mother and sister’s ability to provide for themselves. As Red attempts to return to them she does so with a heavy heart, full of trauma and guilt.

Red is such a fascinating and complex character. Despite taking place in the late 1800’s Sebela is able to create an oddly relatable story thanks to his empathetic writing. While moments of the comic are slow and the pacing isn’t the best, Red is a standout character. Hixson’s art is doused with the brilliant hues from Stevens’ coloring.

The choice of such deep saturation on the page helps further a lot of the themes of violence and revenge within the story. The panels soaked in red are juxtaposed to those colored in deep blues. The character of Red is drawn fairly androgynous which is important since at multiple points in the book she is portrayed as a man.

Overall, Shanghai Red is a dark and unique female-driven period piece that presents readers with a much more masculine and androgynous female lead. Red is a welcome addition to the long line of female comic book characters who can hold their own. However, her grit, determination, and loyalty make her stand out.

If you enjoy gritty westerns or period pieces this comic will be right up your alley. Shanghai Red hits comic books stores and digital retailers everywhere January 30, 2019

Shanghai Red
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TL;DR

Overall, Shanghai Red is a dark and unique female-driven period piece that presents readers with a much more masculine and androgynous female lead. Red is a welcome addition to the long line of female comic book characters who can hold their own. However, her grit, determination, and loyalty make her stand out.