Red Thorn Vol. 1: Glasgow Kiss
David Baillie, writer; Meghan Hetrick, artist
Vertigo Comics, 2016
Gifted American artist Isla Mackintosh is a Scot at heart. Both of her parents were born in Glasgow, and 25 years ago her older sister Lauren vanished during a visit. So visiting Glasgow for the first time feels like a homecoming to her. She has a mission: following in her sister's footsteps, hoping to discover the truth behind her disappearance. She knows there is something unexplained--possibly supernatural--about her family. She herself saw the bizarre power of her drawings when an evil female spirit she had been sketching manifested herself at her high school. It made enough of an impression that she stopped drawing people.
But she can't stop drawing a mysterious figure. And when a fish monster delivers her sister's notebook to her, she discovers that Lauren had been sketching the same figure. Traveling to a place called Redcap Keep--the place her sister had disappeared--she finally meets the demigod Thorn, who her drawings had released after 1600 years of imprisonment. This happens in the first chapter, and the next five are about Isla gradually discovering just how large the stakes are, and the importance of her role. A conflict between ancient gods has commenced, and the fate of humanity is at stake.
Isla already knew that her drawings had power. But she finds that her drawings (and the maps of a young Moroccan mute) can actually alter reality. So much that she can actually change the past: always a slippery slope for storytellers. The seventh issue in this collection is a kind of epilogue to the "Glasgow Kiss" arc (illustrated by guest artist Steve Pugh). It reveals what happened to Lauren, tying her fate to Isla's storyline at the same time.
Baillie's dialog is full of references to Scottish speech, which I'm not sure about. I have visited Scotland, and am not entirely convinced. Hetrick's art is very much in Vertigo style. So the story can reasonably be described as a big supernatural story in the Vertigo tradition. I look forward to reading the conclusion in Vol. 2.
I'd heard of a Glasgow Smile, which is achieved by slicing a victim's face from each side of the mouth to the corresponding ear. I suspected Glasgow Kiss might be something equally nasty, and Wikipedia tells me that it is:
"In the United Kingdom, a headbutt is sometimes referred to as a Glasgow kiss, or Glasgow handshake. This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the city of Glasgow's violent reputation."
Does that inform the story in any way?
I think it does when she meets up with the guardians of Redcap Keep (called Redcaps, I think--you're straining my memory here!). They're certainly a violent bunch. This reminds me I need to get to the second volume before I forget too much more about the first.