Mother Russia Reimagined
The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3
by Christian Gossett
The other day, we were having a conversation in our offices about words that sometimes just sound funny or inappropriate. Some examples that came up were: wipe, moist, dangle, ointment, masticate. This led to us talking about certain words that are innocuous in and of themselves, but when paired up with other words are more harmful: thrust thusly; tickle your fancy; tug on that. The conversation then developed into what is the most harsh-sounding term for female genitalia. I won't list any of the words/phrases that came up during that, but I will say that some of the newer terms are way out there. Language has really come a long way since my days on the elementary school playground, and this is no more strongly evidenced than by the myriad synonyms now available for the more precious feminine parts.
This led to us discussing how often such words are used in everyday conversation outside of the J!NX fortress. Somehow, that turned into me boastfully declaring how I would use all of them in my column somehow. The uses above don't count, and I *should* be able to use them all in ways that are not terribly contrived. Let's find out.
The tale of The Red Star is pretty tragic. By that, I'm referring to both the content of the story, as well as the story of the publishing history of the book. It started out being published by Image during their renaissance around 2001-2002. At that time, Image was publishing some new titles including The Red Star, Powers (which I reviewed before), Soul Saga, EVE Protomecha, and some other books that were really bringing Image back in the game.
Then they switched publishing over to CrossGen, which was blowing up at the time. That proved to be a terrible decision, as CrossGen is no longer with us, may she rest in peace. Ever since, they've been self-publishing, which gets expensive, more so because they don't run any ads in their books.
So, Archangel Studios, the company behind the book, publishes it when they can. This is the third issue in the Sword of Lies arc, and issue 2 came out like over a year ago. Having to wait that long between issues sucks, because the book is so damn good.
The first thing that anyone would notice is the beautiful artwork. Christian Gossett (the man who designed the original double-sided Lightsaber)is the creator/writer/penciler of the book, but he has a full design team backing him up. It's like he lays down the pencils, and then the team comes up from behind to masticate all of the digital painting and rendering duties.
My wife looked over this last issue and mentioned that it looked very "epic". That might be because the design team is the Weta Workshop. Sound familiar - yeah, they've designed a bunch of collectibles for LOTR, Superman Returns, Hellgate: London, King Kong. So they know how to really capture and convey some epic moments. Gentle Giant Studios also has a piece of the design work on the book, and you should check out their site if it tickles your fancy.
IMHO, though, I think the greater strength of The Red Star is the story that Gossett has been telling. It's an alternate (or possibly future) reality tale about Russia and the struggles that it has faced. Gossett clearly has a deep admiration for Russian history, especially their struggle to rise as a nation, only to be betrayed by those that come to power. He incorporates technology and mysticism into his battles, where the spirits of ancestors are harnessed as weapons to wipe entire opposing battalions.
In addition, he has created some very inspiring characters, much as Russia has had in its storied history. At this point, you can tell that Gossett knows the readers are emotionally invested, but he doesn't just gratuitously tug on that. Any emotion that you feel while reading the book is genuine, and not contrived just to stir some superficial reaction.
If you can find it (I'm not sure on the availability), try to pick up the first volume, The Battle of Kar Dathra's Gate. The one I have is an oversized edition, and it's worth whatever you might have to pay for it. It sets up the immersive world in which the Red Star takes place. It has some awesome weapons, and as much magic as you would find in any Forgotten Realms tale.
I don't know how Gossett plans to end the saga that he's creating, but don't expect any sort of happily ever after. I don't think he'll incorporate 15 different endings the way that LOTR: ROTK manged to do, but it should be on some sort of grand scale. That's how the entire series has been, so I wouldn't expect any less. But, if it follows the reality of Russian history, the characters we have come to love may tragically end up being worse off than they were before.
Who should read this book:
People who are into alternate histories.
People who enjoy politically relevant fiction.
People who like to dangle moist ointment.