Old Red 203X #1
by Rory Morris
A lot can be gleaned by the cover of a comic book, and that is true in the case of Old Red 203X. The new series from digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics features a cartoony style with a slant towards and older audience. The cover also features a significant favoring of reds and purples as the dominant colors on display, reflected in the story pages. In a world of anthropomorphized dogs, Harley and Georgie are members of the Freak Crew Unit tasked with capturing mutated persons, labeled Freaks.
In this first issue, readers are introduced to the protagonists through a field operation. Harley and Georgie are likable characters. Morris does a good job introducing them through a dialogue that involves betting on whether or not this op will go south with the prize being that of a slushy. Having paired such casual interaction juxtaposed with seemingly serious terminology, Morris frames the situation well. The events that follow do so in a way that are not quite accepted and it makes for an enjoyable experience. While the situations and threat ultimately seem routine, it again does well to further develop the protagonists of the series.
Readers also experience a majority of the universe building in two simple pages featuring a few sentences in an 8-bit style. These two pages establish everything that the audience needs to know. This is an impressive use of the space, and while the design choice seems unnecessary, the information conveyed is done well enough to overcome any distractions by the method in which it is delivered. Morris explains that the members of the Freak Crew Unit are failed local police department officers and are armed with non-lethal weapons. With that in mind, the level of confidence and cool surrounding the leads, while seemingly now contradictory, further cements their personas.
The issue goes by quickly and almost feels like an introduction more than a true full issue. It, like many digital comics, is shorter in length and may feel a bit thin in its experience. Morris does an excellent job emoting and presenting the physicality of the leads to further convey their personalities. However, much of the rest of the art in the story is lacking. Designs of the tertiary characters are quite minimal and often times backgrounds completely drop away. Though this may be used as a way of accenting the foreground action, when paired with the character designs, it creates a sense of feeling almost unfinished as a whole.
Morris has a good handle on writing situations and does a very solid job developing his leads without relying on much exposition. There is a curious world being established in this series and it looks to be an entertaining title. However, the length of the issue and the shortcomings in the art put a damper on the overall experience with this opening.