If you’ve ever looked at any of the books from Image Comics’ new “Massiveverse” line of books, then you can tell the influences from various Tokusatsu media – specifically stuff like Super Sentai, Power Rangers and Kamen Rider. An initiative that started through Radiant Black by writer Kyle Higgins, this shouldn’t come off as surprising, though, given the successful Power Rangers comic series over at BOOM! that he kickstarted with his fellow creatives.
In that same fashion, Inferno Girl Red by Mat Groom, also of Power Rangers fame as well as Ultraman, Erica D’Urso, Igor Monti, and Becca Carey builds on those similar tones and aesthetics, writing something that’s very Kamen Rider in terms of presentation (minus motorcycles) mixed with western superhero storytelling. It’s a match made in heaven, and they honestly pull it off spectacularly.
There’s a few things that immediately drew me into the book: the first being just how cool that cover is. It’s simple, with the credits and logo being visible but still drawn out enough to give full focus on a close up shot of Inferno Girl Red in all her glory. It’s eye-catching and really invites you to pick it up and start reading.
The second was the immediate diversity on display. Having not read the other Massiveverse books, it was really cool to see an entire core cast of characters that’s exclusively non-white. In an era where big superhero comics still don’t understand how to do their POC justice, it’s amazing to see characters like this shine and given the depth that they deserve. The main character, Cássia, having vitiligo was really cool, too, given that’s something we straight up just don’t see in popular comics, and I appreciate the commitment of the art team to make sure that’s always treated right and never forgotten.
The story is paced very well, being broken into three acts. Originally published as three parts of a singular book, it’s good to be able to read it all in one collection here. From the get-go, we’re introduced to two of our core cast – Cássia and her mother Ana, as well as the original Inferno Girl Red before the book opens up. Over the course of the first chapter, the cast and some of their backstories are introduced, and the beginning of the story is set up before we’re thrust right into the action. Throughout the next two chapters, Cássia goes on the heroes’ journey, learning to accept her powers and the responsibility of being a hero. It’s all done pretty well, and given that it is a ‘Book One,’ it ends on the cliffhanger right at the revelation stage of The Heroes’ Journey. Even so, it does feel like Cássia goes through an entire character arc – and thus, it doesn’t feel incomplete. The big villain reveal, however, isn’t something that is explored enough but rather comes out of the blue. Even if, in hindsight, there are hints here and there, I wish there were more, but that’s a minor gripe.
Of course, this would be impossible without the fantastic art by Erica D’Urso and Igor Monti. Right from the original Inferno Girl Red’s first appearance, you can immediately see the Tokusatsu inspiration burst out of the page. The bright colours, the corny one-liners, the kinetic panel composition along with the flashy powers and entrance all line up to tell you that you’re in for a treat, and it absolutely delivers. Throughout the book, even during the non-superhero moments, D’Urso never fully sticks to traditional squares and rectangles throughout. There’s always something interesting in a page, whether it be panels aligned from the right, or panels overlapping with others, or mini-splashes for new character introductions to make them pop, it all comes together quite nicely, and it’s a breath of fresh air, and Igor Monti’s colours really put all of this in a neat bow.
Becca Carey’s lettering is amazing here too. The way the sound effects are presented really brings that entire Tokusatsu vibe together, blending when it needs to and popping out to stand out otherwise. I was also a big fan of the way the monster dialogue is lettered, breaking out of the speech bubbles to really emphasize that feeling of chaos. Inferno Girl Red’s speech bubbles being pale red with a darker red for text absolutely makes her stand out, too, even during those panels when she’s shifting back to Cássia.
All of these aspects are in perfect sync during those slick fight scenes, though. One of the most inspiring parts about this book is how confident it is in the over-exaggeration of it all. Flashy moves with panels that emulate the movement of the characters, coupled with very bright colours and unique lettering work in tandem to really make you feel like you’re watching one of these shows again, and it’s just so damn cool seeing it come to life every single time. There’s a big splash page during these fights to introduce a new player on the scene, and seeing that play out truly brings that feeling of childlike wonder, staring at awe at how cool all of this is. It rules.
As a collection, though, I do wish they collected some of the bonuses in the single-issue releases, such as the concept art, scripts, work process, and the bonus Kickstarter story. I also wish the letterer was given more of a focus, given there’s nothing found in the Messages to the Team section and the credits blurb on the back cover. An unfortunate oversight, one that I hope is corrected next time around given how important a letterer is to the comic-making process and the final presentation.
Honestly, if you love superheroes, you’re going to love this. I absolutely recommend checking this out. I’m very excited about Book 2 of Inferno Girl Red, and I’m looking forward to getting into the rest of the Massiveverse, for which this feels like a very good entry point.