Vault Comics is back with a new series from writer Sebastian Girner, artist John Bivens, colorist Iris Monahan, and letterer Jeff Powell. The Devil's Red Bride is described in the first issue's solicitation as a "love letter to samurai fiction" that follows Ketsuko, a woman with a blood-drenched backstory and, it seems, possibly an even more violent future.
The Devil's Red Bride is a jarring experience as a reader, cutting back and forth between timelines before we get a sense of who the characters are. This is partly due to the purposeful structure and partly due to the number of characters speaking off-panel before we even know who the characters are. As we find our footing halfway through the issue, and the story comes into focus, Girner's story becomes more enjoyable. It's a bloody story about appearances, gender roles, and honor that will thrill anyone who already loves samurai fiction, but for those looking to find characters to root for and invest in, this issue delivers little in the way of character development so far. The concept is interesting, though, and with the way, the issue leaves off in both the flashback story and the events happening "now" (three years following the bloody clash of the past), there is great potential here for this to be a comic that subverts tropes with style.
Bivens and Monahan's artwork is the big draw of this issue, featuring dynamic, stylized characters and action that thrives in both the bursts of violence and quiet tension. While Vault Comics, with the exception of She Will Destroy, seems to trend toward series that prioritize high concept over character in their debut issues, the artists on these series do incredible work to bring these characters to life. The Devil's Red Bride shines on the art front, and Powell's choice lettering adds dimension as well.