Ed Piskor’s ‘Red Room’ #1 is a gloriously gory modern day E.C. comic book that delivers on visceral, graphically detailed horror delivered with the blackest of humour. And I loved it!
Here in the UK we have a savoury spread known as Marmite. A yeast extract that famously is either loved or loathed. And I think Ed Piskor’s Red Room #1 may very well be the comic book equivalent. But, unlike Marmite, I love this! But then, I was a child of the Video Nasties era and loved the gore of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Cannibal Holocaust and, more recently, Green Inferno. And given I have been something of a fan of Piskor’s since his magnum opus – Hip Hop Family Tree – all the way through to his most recent relationship with Marvel and the X-Men, I had an inclination I was going to like this. And I did. The gore, the graphic grimness of it all and the gritty sepia tinted black and white pages that felt one part underground comic and another part old-school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or even Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack. Boy, did Piskor push all my buttons.
From the very get go, you are immersed into a dirty, ugly world where no-one seems to be decent, and invariably shown their lack of upbringing through violent language an even more violent actions. Any good guys are soon swept up in the horror of this comic book universe that conjured up memories of Tim Vigil’s Faust, but without the over-the-top sex and nudity.
Even the central tragedy of a man who loses his wife and one of his two daughters in a car accident soon gets twisted out into something far more savage and sinister. But, I don’t want to spoil this eye-watering twist for anyone. Especially as it is one of the jaw-dropping, stand-out moments in this oversized first issue. All I’ll say is that his surviving daughter, Hayley, may need to do some growing up and pretty damn quickly if she’s to survive the slings and arrows of this rotten reality.
What I will reveal is the meaning behind the comic’s cryptic title; the red room referred to is a dark web torture porn site which sickos and psychos log into and gleefully watch as one by one, victims of the mysterious mistress are snuffed out. In very detailed and gruesome fashion as depicted in minute detail by Piskor. And, his opportunity to create a selection of masked gimps and ghouls. A hilariously horrific new angle on the costumed and caped community.
But, this is also a dark comedy at times, whether you believe me or not. But then, some of the best horror film are. The aforementioned Green Inferno being a great case-in-point. And in this blackest of humour, there is a stinking whiff of truth to this book; the use of cryptocurrency to anonymously log on, the voyeurism that the internet – and in particular the rather illegal operations on the dark web – and the addition to violence that often frames American pop culture, all served up as a kind of gory social commentary. Piskor ain’t no Charles Dickens but he’s certainly a street-level social commentator, with equally over-the-top caricatures, that draws from the same tradition as the 19th century author. Just with gore.
Red Room #1 is out now from Fantagraphics