Editor and creator Paul R. Michaels’ comic, The Rise of Red Moon, follows Jane Armstrong, a court stenographer who suffers from intense nightmares about a grotesque landscape filled with strange creatures. When the dreams start bleeding into her mundane reality, she decides to take matters into her own hands and forges herself into a hero who can protect our world from the horrors lurking in the darkness.
I had to read through The Rise of Red Moon twice before I fully understood how Jane’s dreams and reality affected one another. Being in Jane’s mind in the beginning pages is a little disorienting, although given her own sense of mental instability that might be deliberate. Once Jane’s dreams start manifesting in the “real world,” the plot becomes clearer and moves much more quickly. The final pages set up Jane’s concrete motivation for moving forward as Red Moon, and I sense her development as a hero or vigilante will grow in later installments.
I honestly had a bit of a love-hate relationship with The Rise of Red Moon as I read through it. Seeing a story with a strong female character intrigued me, and I loved that Jane was shown having a healthy friendship with another woman, Ondria, that didn’t revolve around men. (I don’t count Jane’s father/daughter relationship with Ondria’s father in this category, and yes, this comic passes the Bechdel test.) Both women also maintain active social, work, and emotional lives without needing romantic entanglements as a primary focus. As an added bonus, Ondria and her father are both people of color, adding representation to the book’s strengths. I also enjoyed Jane’s hard work to build her strength instead of magically possessing heroic abilities; Jane’s only extraordinary power comes from her dreams. So, what didn’t I appreciate? As a large-busted woman, Jane’s low-cut crime-fighting costume struck me as ridiculous and impractical (She couldn’t wear a bra in it, which is a must for physical activity, if you’re over a B cup or so.), and the short skirt seemed more designed to show off her legs than because it made sense. The cover artwork, the inclusion of a locker room scene with Ondria and Jane, and some of the pin ups felt distinctly like The Rise of Red Moon catered to a male gaze. Given Jane’s patent lack of sexuality in the story, it fit poorly; however, if she morphs into a female heroine like Red Sonja, who is both sexual and strong, the two sides may blend better. It just could be off-putting for some female readers, myself included.
Aside from my criticism of Jane’s Red Moon outfit, the artwork from The Rise of Red Moon is solid, and the use of a model shows in the various fight scenes. Nothing looked impossible for the human body, and Jane’s fight with a mostly invisible attacker flows well and is visually dynamic. Andjelkovic draws distinct characters, and I had no difficulty identifying each player in the story just from the panels.
If you love stories about ordinary individuals battling extraordinary odds to protect humanity, The Rise of Red Moon should be on your reading list. Jane’s solidly mundane persona that morphs into the chosen one might inspire some of you to take on injustice. Clearly, this is just the start of Jane’s story; the real question is whether she will successfully hold back the darkness or be consumed.