The Red Road
Now, I praised Hathaway’s art in Dirty Rotten Comics 5, as “a fragment thing, each panel disconnected from the text that recounts the reason the woman is dragging a case around a railway station, but the interaction of text and Hathaway’s lovely artwork is spot on”.
And that fragmentary feel continues here in The Red Road, a dream tale of darkness, brutality and ultimately acceptance and rebirth. It’s a tale of spirit animals and finding a path to something, possibly redemption, possibly simply peace.
It’s a very simple, very short tale, playing on the Native American ideas of the spiritual path, and a path of recovery, Hathaway’s story relying on few words, the art carrying it almost all the way through. And it does so exceptionally well, relying on you, the reader, to pick up on the visual ideas and motifs along the way on this Red Road.
Tonally, it opens in near dark, in woods…
That’s a gorgeous opening page, nature in all it’s (dark) glory there. But the darkness comes through in the opening words:
I was plagued
by these memories.
from these toxic nightmares.”
Each line a new caption across three pages of floating leaves eventually resolving onto a single figure, naked, woman, curled in foetal position, the implication of great pain so obvious…
After this we open to a new dawn, again of nature, but now brighter, as the girl awakes, and finds herself surrounded, (spirit?) animals here to help her …
As I say, this is a redemption tale, or if not redemption, then maybe acceptance, the Red Road leading to a relief of sorts. But as with so many tone poems of this sort, the ending is one left deliberately open.
And Hathaway does such a fine, fine job of telling this woman’s tale in here, making us eek every last iota of meaning and emotion from what we see on the page, making every panel important… but never more so than this… painful and brutal…
It’s very, very wrong to describe that triptych of panels as brilliant, as they’re so utterly brutal, so horrible, but Hathaway deserves fulsome praise for delivering something so brutal, so powerful, in such simple terms. This is good comics.