The Martian-Noir Red City by Daniel Corey, Anthony Diecidue, and Chris Fenoglio has hit it's penultimate issue and answers abound. We get flashbacks and introspection, religion and fight scenes. And most of all, we get answers. This is what the series should've been all along. It mixes science fiction and detective stories astonishingly well. Between the character development and the stunning art, this issue has a lot going for it.
This issue is the parlor room reveal. A lot of answers are provided and we even get a few flashbacks to scenes we've both seen before from different angles and scenes that've only been alluded to. Daniel Corey gives us a great look into what has made Cal Talmage the man he is. From being an orphan and getting the snot beat out of him by native Martians, to his time as a detective, to a scene from his past in the war, we start to understand why Cal is taking his job so seriously. He's out to prove himself. But he's also kind of scared and human. His cocky bravado that he flaunted in the first two issues is meteorically toned down. He's still smooth and he's still a bit of a son of a bitch, but he's putting the pieces of himself together along with the case and he's becoming a lot more likable. His confrontation with the Colonel near the end where he explains the conspiracy serves both as a space for exposition as well as a place to show his maturity. When he apologizes to Rachel and promises to fix everything, it really feels like the first genuine thing he's said. He also doesn't put up a fight. Angel won't let him go willingly, but he throws his hands up and surrenders. After he's sprung and shares a moment with Angel, he (finally) proves himself as the man he wants to be by getting his ass back to Mars to see this mystery through to the end. We also learn a little bit more about the Kristietis faith. We see that they're a peaceful sect, but they also carry themselves with an air of militarism. They do occupy an old base after all. The leader of this particular group (the aforementioned Rachel) proves to be both accepting of people and willing to crack a few skulls (though Angel does most of the cracking). It's a religion on the run and it's practitioners will do anything to ensure they don't end up slaughtered. It's a nice bit of complicatedness that works well in the chaotic world that these people (alien and otherwise) live in.
The art by Anthony Diecidue is definitely on point this issue. But colorist Chris Fenoglio's painted flashbacks are the highlights of the issue. Particularly the scene from Cal's past in the war. Not only do we get to see exactly what happened between Obek and himself, but we get a glimpse of what the war itself was like. Also, the pages convey a kind of faded feeling that helps the nostalgia angle. The style also works well with Diecidue's art and it doesn't feel jarring or too radically different. Back to the main story, Diecidue does a great job at both motion and expression. The feelings of the characters, especially Angel and the Colonel really come on strong. There are a few moments in particular where Angel's face conveys so much while she (shockingly) remains silent. The first is when Cal surrenders to the Colonel's men. Her face swells with a not-so-hidden fury. Her brow furrows, her eyes narrow, and she slightly bites her bottom lip. In short, she's mad as hell. And she shows it by unleashing all kinds of hell on the soldiers around her. Later, she has a bit of silent communication with Rachel where they both wink and Angel not only knocks out the guard with his gun to her head, but then ramps her car up at the fleeing space-ship. It's awesome. Then there's the dynamic nature of Angel's moves as she just wrecks a bunch of FSO guards in a flurry of kicks and elbows. The blurring speed, the bursting lines and the plethora of shocked faces make the fight seem (one-sided and) alive. Fenoglio's colors are also great. Angel's redness is a great eye-catcher. She pops in every panel she's in (when she's not wearing the gray hoodie). Everyone else is pretty earth(mars?)-toned down. Angel is the fiery femme fatale. She pops. Everyone else (including Cal to a degree) are just there.
Science-fiction Noir is a time tested tradition. There are plenty of sources to pull ideas from. Red City stands out by being pretty unique whilst still fitting nicely into the genre. While the writing has been somewhat strained in the past two issues, Corey definitely finds a nice place now. Characters become three dimensional and actually interesting. Our unlikable protagonist shows some redeeming qualities and we get a bit of really well defined motives. Diecidue's art remains stellar and shows some impressive fluidity as well as more stoic moments of actual expressions. Painted flashbacks from Fenoglio compliment the progression in the characterization of Cal by showing a softer side of his hardened past. The series has definitely picked up and even though we've already seen a glimpse of how it all ends, it'll be interesting to see it all finally play out. Sam Spade on Mars doesn't seem like the most novel of ideas, but this issue nails it. Do yourself a favor and pick up this and the first two issues and try to wait for the finale. If this issue is any indication, the finale has promise to end on a high note.