Story: Sebastian Girner
Art: John Bivens
Colors: Iris Monahan
Letterer: Jeff Powell
What They Say:
16th century Japan. The fates of warlords ebb and flow like tides of blood, none more than the Aragami Clan who follow their lord clad in the ‘Red Devil’ mask into every battle. But when Lord Aragami succumbs to illness, his daughter, the fierce Ketsuko, hatches a plot to save her people, no matter the cost…
Years later, as Ketsuko wanders the heaving battlefields of her ruined homeland, she discovers a chance to avenge the terrible wrong done to her clan, even if it means stepping back onto a road steeped in slaughter.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Coming from an anime and manga background, I’ve read and seen my fair share of samurai tales over the years. I don’t cringe or mind when they’re done by folks outside of Japan because there are solid staples to work with and different cultural views can bring in some wonderful views and alignments on something familiar. Sebastian Girner has a good tale at hand here that I like even if the structure frustrated me a bit but it delivers the kind of tale that fits and flows well. John Bivens works a really strong visual design that’s quite appealing, especially with how Iris Monahan blends and weaves the colors throughout it. It’s not a limited palette by any means but it has something that makes it feel distinctively red and black and white, even though it’s not. The tones used throughout really drives that into your mind, especially with the cover artwork.
The premise here is one that places us three years past a deadly event where we now have the remaining retainers of the Matsutaka clan in the 1600s setting off for revenge. With their lord destroyed all those years ago, they’re looking to go out in a blaze of glory and need a ronin that they’ve contracted to guide them to where they’re headed through the mountains. Unfortunately, he was just killed for the abuse placed upon a young woman that served as his retainer of sorts and that’s now created a problem. The mysterious woman who killed him to protect the servant is now protecting her but she does have a contract to fulfill. Particularly since she was the one that was really going to be the guide anyway. It’s within this that we see our mysterious swordswoman align herself with the servant, Fubei, to accompany this group to their mission as Fubei wants no more blood spilled.
This comes wrapped in some slightly more complicated pages that aren’t all that clear with how they’re presented, though colored by how it’s revealed in the retail description. Here, we see how a young man name Isanosuke is being put into the role of the main warrior for the Aragami clan and that comes with a powerful red suit of armor with the devil’s mask. Isanosuke is clearly not the warrior type but the demands are thrust upon him and we see just how bad a fit it is. Trying to protect him is his (step?)sister Ketsuko but she’s roundly dealt with by the stepmother. But the reality is that before things went south for the clan, Ketsuko was the one truly wearing the armor as she could be hidden and had the skill to pull off some really strong attacks and then would have Isanosuke show himself afterward. The downfall has lead her to where we are in the main story in the present, which visually is wonderfully presented as there’s some deep-seated anger and pain being held onto there that’s driving her forward.
The Devil’s Red Bride has plenty of good things going for it, though more with the main story for me than the flashback pieces to what helped to put Ketsuko in this position. That all works well enough and is obvious but is just slightly convoluted in a way that didn’t flow well while trying to get a handle on the foundations of the series. With her in the present time and how she comes about the new mission she has definitely works better and is a lot more interesting when it comes to the character, especially with the visual design and the haunting elements about how she comes across. It’s a standard-ish kind of revenge tale so far but it can go weird and wonky in a lot of ways that could be a lot of fun still, so I’m definitely curious as to the full path that they have in store here.
Age Rating: 12+
Released By: Vault Comics
Release Date: October 14th, 2020