Monday, May 19, 2008

"Redmask" Reviewed

I like science fiction where there are fewer people, not more. Films like Omega Man, The Road Warrior and The Quiet Earth come to mind.

I can't take the claustrophobia of star ships with thousands of crew. Floating cities, forget it.

Malachi Sharlow's brilliant Red Mask takes place in and around a city, but the population is sparse. What's better, the entire population is a completely original anthropomorphic form consisting of a sack of protoplasm and an eerily tiny face -- or "mask" -- that floats above what might be called the head. No two creatures are exactly the same, and when a mob is needed, robot soldiers suffice.

Among a world of disparate body types, Ab Redmask stands out. His face and body are colors not seen on others, and his body is huge. His eyes glow red when he is inflamed, which is often. Redmask is the most irascible hero I have encountered since Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. He's a bastard, and if you get in his way he'll pop your face off.

He's also a man with a secret, and when hints of his past become known to the most powerful businessman in the city, we have a test of wills, high speed barge chases and plenty of body liquid spillage.

Redmask isn't the kind of silly action hero who holds an army at bay while bullets bounce off him. He is ruthless, cunning, immoral and indifferent. His emotions, when they appear, are volcanic. He is everything you want to be while you smash your enemies, and therefore a great hero.

Unlike most web comics, Redmask is created in the 3D rendering program Blender. Close-ups have a polished look, like a water-smoothed boulder you can't resist touching. Backgrounds, which tend to be cavernous, like in video games, are shades of charcoal and not ornamented. We're already about four chapters in, which looks to be the halfway mark, and the art has gone from adequate to smooth.

Redmask should appeal to science fiction, horror and game fans, and to anyone who likes a tense, gripping and original saga. I could see it as a film some day.

All Floating Lightbulb comic reviews are now archived on The Psychedelic Treehouse. You can look them up alphabetically and read them any time.