Today we have a writer's commentary from Rik Hoskin, who is co-writing Red Rising: Sons of Ares #3 with author Pierce Brown. Cover by Toby Cypress, interiors by Eli Powell.
Comics aren't films or books, which means we can do things in different ways. For Sons of Ares I started by proposing the different colors (or castes) have different colored speech balloons to further differentiate them — we might think of these colors as accents. That enhances how we open this issue, clarifying who is speaking as we pan down from the magnificent Martian city of Agea to the grimy service tunnels where our protagonists are engaged in their first act of defiance against society.
I often specify panel shape, and I wanted this sequence to consist of narrow, tall panels to emphasize the claustrophobic environment. This progresses into a flashback, where open space seems just as claustrophobic for Fitchner, our narrator.
We have been very fortunate to have artist Eli Powell on this comic, and this double page spread is a great example of why — he excels in bringing the industrial complex on Triton to grimy life.
Our wonderful colorists Jordan Boyd and Dee Cunniffe have effortlessly enhanced everything Eli does too, I am in a continued state of awe when the color pages roll in.
Fitchner is totally withdrawn at this point in the past, and Eli gets across the body language of that perfectly. I had in mind that Fitchner's suffering from PTSD from his brutal education at the Institute in issues 1 and 2.
Red Rising creator and Sons of Ares master-planner Pierce Brown especially loved the stream of brutal head shots on page 8 when I proposed them. Part of the fun of working with Pierce — who plotted this comic and has a strong hand in the final dialogue — is how generous he is in collaborating, he's very involved and very open to new ideas.
I love how ominous Eli makes the Obsidians in these final panels, he really ran with that idea.
I wanted the ground-quake to be initially subtle and slightly surreal, before we reach the reveal of its ongoing destruction, to make the sequence more human. Eli captures it beautifully, and the whole thing is brought to life with fantastic color to really cap it off.
Continuing with the mundanity of the unexpected, Licensus dies in an instant — he's there and then he's not. You'll see that Fitchner's reaction is almost clinical, he's become so detached from humanity, or at least, what that means to the upper echelons of this society.
But then we realize that Fitchner is affected by the plight of the lower echelons. His narration repeats what Fitchner and his contemporaries were told during their education, and shows how Fitchner has twisted it to believe he should help the locolors — the opposite of the indoctrination of snobbery or superiority it was associated with.
The woman helping Fitchner in that final panel is Bryn, who's already known to readers of the Red Rising books. This is how the two characters meet.
As a Gold, Fitchner is treated almost like a god by those below him. Here we see that at its most surreal, when the staff and other patients at the medical facility treat him with awed reverence despite his all-too human wounds–his appearance here is an honor for them, as if he's somehow chosen to lose a limb and thus lower himself to walk among them.
Fitchner and Bryn are properly introduced, beginning the romance that will color not just Fitchner's life but everything that the "Sons of Ares" movement comes to embody.
Fitchner finds himself at ease with the Reds, more so than he ever was among his own people, the Golds.
Fitchner and Bryn fall in love, struggling to overcome the differences society has impressed upon them. Pierce and I shared a lot of notes to get this sequence right, and Eli's artwork just sings throughout.
Another transition, once again beautifully handled by Eli and our colorists. The narrative switches from hope to fear as we go from past to present.
For more on Red Rising: Sons of Ares #3, click here.