Orlando Harding gives the tale of Little Red Riding Hood a modern, kickass twist in R.R.H. via First Comics and Devil’s Due.
PUBLISHER: Devil’s Due/1First Comics
WRITER: Orlando Harding
ILLUSTRATOR: Andres Esparza
COLORS: Steve Cobb
LETTERS: Ed Dukeshire
I’ve always been annoyed by the fact that Little Red Riding Hood featured two seemingly helpless females trying to stay alive while an anthropomorphic wolf preyed upon, and in some cases devoured, them. But I love a good fairytale, and part of the fun and appeal they hold as you get older is finally being in on the “joke”. The adult overtones are clear, and the tales are just a bit darker, more sinister, and in some cases depraved than any kid’s film could ever get away with. The originals are dark and terrifyingly good, but the modern retellings are just as good, when done well, and R.R.H. is done very well. Orlando Harding manages to add his own spin to Little Red and company by not only adding a strong family dynamic, but by turning “Red” into a legit huntress. There are no shrinking violets here.
Sydney Woodman is an average American teen girl in an average town living an average life. There’s not a whole lot that’s remarkable about her, until on her seventeenth birthday a stranger warns her about the blood moon, and her cat ends up worse for the wear (I won’t spoil it for you). The jig is up so her parents tell her what her destiny in life is to carry on the mission of The Order of the Red Hood, as she is a direct descendant of Red Riding Hood. Everybody in the family is involved in The Order, and she is learns that all that hunting and redneck-y training she had growing up wasn’t just for fun. It was to prepare her for what is coming her way. And what’s coming her way is a legion of werewolves and other hellish beings hellbent on taking over the world.
Sydney has very little time to process this massive shift in her life before all hell breaks loose, and the monsters come out from under the bed, and on top of her car. And this is where the fun really began for me. This is where the R.R.H. really stood out. Harding had already woven an enjoyable read from the first few pages, but the second and third issue in the first volume of R.R.H. is where the blood-pumping action really starts. Never trust a wolf in a kind stranger’s clothing, Red.
Let me say that it was brutal, and for some, it may be hard to read. I know part of me wanted to look away, and that’s because Andres Esparza and Steve Cobb really brought Harding’s vision to life in a most graphic way. I don’t want to be one of those people that love to use the word “trigger” for everything, but the art; the illustrations can be quite triggering. Sydney is beaten to a bloody pulp. The brutality and the aggression was so realistic, I felt a palpable sense of discomfort, and I almost wanted to stop. Let me be clear, Harding isn’t using violence for the fun of it. This is her destiny as a hunter of these evil beings. The evil they are capable is what Harding highlights in these panels, and inker Ulises Curiel takes Esparza and Cobb’s amazing artwork to the grimmest of levels. Sydney’s wounds are scarlet and purple, and the cuts are crusted over with blood, and you know it’s gotta hurt just looking at her face, to the point that you cringe when you see her face again. That’s how you illustrate a comic properly. The lines are gritty, and not edited to the point of muting or understating what the character has gone through, or the evil present in the face of the aggressor. Harding’s writing demanded some great artwork, and he bloody got it. Towards the end, however, I was hoping that some characters’ faces would’ve been softened, and the grittier approach abandoned, but that was my only gripe.
No worries, however. Syd gave as good as she got at one point, and proved that she is and will be a worthy adversary just as soon as she wraps her head around the gravity of what she’s been entrusted with. And I can’t wait to see how R.R.H. progresses, and how her character grows.