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PopCultHQ Comic Book Review – Red Lance #1 (Extensive Look)

PopCultHQ got the opportunity to review Red Lance #1, an independent comic birthed out of a Kickstarter campaign. Here is our extensive, and spoiler-free, review of this debut issue and all the details you would want to know about this story.

Red Lance Issue #1 – “Rise of Cataclysm
Can the heroes of recently formed Red Lance defeat Cataclysm as he rampages through the city?

Writer: Gary Bloom (@gbbloom)
Illustrator: Brian McCranie (@brianmccranie)
Lettering: Taylor Esposito (@TaylorEspo)
Publication Date: January 27, 2016

A powerful villainess twists the mind of a genius… and causes a Cataclysm! Will the heroes of Red Lance rise to the challenge? The adventure begins with the digital comic’s issue 1!

PopCultHQ’s Spoiler-Free Review Of Red Lance #1:

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Writer Gary Bloom has created a wonderful concept of a tight-knit, elite group who are trained by an aging hero, protecting their city in true superhero fashion… with team members serving specific functions according to their abilities, working in unison, and focused on eliminating the impending threat that terrorizes the city. The teamwork of the group is fluid, as if they have been working alongside one another for years. Bloom’s narrative immediately immerses the reader into this near-future world, amidst a terrorizing presence, that keeps your adrenaline up as you follow along with the Red Lance team. I like the idea of a former hero mentoring and training a new generation of heroes. Ones that are chosen for their abilities and talent, and not by their race or gender.

One of the very first things that stood out to me, even before reading the issue, is the brilliant use of colors. By using more secondary and tertiary colors, rather than typical superhero primary colors (red, yellow, blue), it gives off a feel of realism and not cartoony. The shading applied to the team accentuates their features in a hero-like way, but also makes the characters larger than life. The costumes of the superheroes are drawn in a way that is believable. No flashy, unrealistic outfits; these look like how costumes could appear if ever a team with powers existed in the real world.

The foundation has been laid well and, in such a way, I can visualize many possibilities as to where Bloom could take this story. There is a lot of room to expand this universe, to strengthen this team and city, go deeper in character development, and lay the grounds for a new way of looking at peacekeeping people with powers.

In using the character profiles found below (found on their website), I found it helpful to put together some of the pieces from the story. There’s only so much you can put in a premiere issue. A lot of #1 issues spend too much time on character development and not enough on the things it will take to get the reader to pick up issue 2. Not the case here. How the story moved, the concept of this #GenderEquality team’s uniting, and the outstanding artwork, there was more than sufficient reasons for me to come back for more. Where it did lack in delivering deeper character development, the website more than helps you out to fill in those pieces.

PopCultHQ Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

PCHQ 4.5


Meet the characters of Red Lance:

RL1 CinderhawkCinderhawk

Marjorie Bannon and her brother, Ryan, lost their parents at a young age. A paramedic and an ER doctor, they were murdered by a wounded Drenal who’d been brought into the ER by Marjorie’s mother. The Drenal had attempted to take down a building, and was shot by police in the process. In the emergency room, he lashed out in pain, and lost control of his abilities. His unchecked, raw electrical powers caused equipment discharges, short circuits, and a feedback loop resulting in multiple explosions.

The event was emotionally staggering for the Bannon siblings. Only 18 years old, however, Marjorie rose up, stepping in to assume legal guardianship of her 13-year old brother. With Ryan’s powers in their earliest stages, Marjorie sought to keep her brother as safe as possible. Her abilities had already begun to blossom, but she remembered what the first months felt like. Marjorie hoped to keep him from doing anything too foolish, while doling out occasional punishment for whatever criminal element they came into contact with.

Doing her best to project the most optimistic facade she could maintain, Marjorie worked tirelessly. She wanted nothing more than to create a happy childhood for her younger brother. As he grew, she found herself unable to trust others to do what she knew that she could accomplish on her own. In her quest to secure a blissfully ignorant world for Ryan, she became isolated, and mildly suspicious.

Marjorie was certain that her raw fire powers could keep them safe. It wasn’t until the siblings were caught in an unexpected trap, however, that she’d accepted the possible need for help. At the age of 18, Ryan had become incredibly strong, although his sister preferred to keep him from fighting. When cornered, she had no choice but to let him loose, and hope she wasn’t endangering him. Despite an inability to perfectly control his abilities, Ryan attempted to punch his way through their tormentors. Unleashing a steady stream of fire, Marjorie opened her powers up as fully as she dared; sadly, it wasn’t quite enough.

Fortunately, Stonefish, a powered vigilante, newly arrived in Centerpoint, came to their rescue. While she helped the Bannons extricate themselves from the mess, Stonefish offered them a simple command: ‘My mentor wants to meet you.’ It was no request. Following along, more out of gratitude than anything else, the pair met Vindic, the now-retired hero, who had certainly reached her age of power drain. While her Drenal abilities had vanished, her mind was still sharp. Recruiting the pair, Vindic offered sanctuary, support and training. While Kyle was quick to accept, Marjorie was reluctant, but felt no choice if she was to look after her brother.

Naming her Cinderhawk, Vindic helped the bold 23-year old to better harness and channel her powers. Building a costume that would both seal her identity and protect her from herself, Vindic honed not just Cinderhawk’s flame throwing talents, but her innate leadership abilities as well. When choosing to form the Red Lance, she set the then 24-year old as the team’s field commander. While Stonefish found herself more than marginally irritated, Cinderhawk was at least pleased to have the opportunity to both guard and guide Ryan.


RL1 RacewayRaceway

Derek Kast had come into his powers mid-way through high school. More intrigued with academics than athletics, however, he chose to channel his newfound abilities into speed reading over sprinting. When he reached college, Kast was able to expand his cognitive speed functions. Finishing with dueling degrees in finance and literature, he intended to put his enhancements to further use in the finance industry. Marrying his girlfriend Daniela one year after graduation, Derek eschewed a hero’s role, instead building a career online as a successful financial blogger. His wife, also in possession of low-level Drenal powers, held a different position, however; she utilized her fire-resistant skin as a professional fire fighter.

Late one night, Daniela Kast responded to a call for an apartment building fire in downtown Centerpoint. As Derek watched the blaze on the news, he’d noticed that a vile looking Drenal was actually fueling the fire. No one had seen this rogue before. Hovering in the air, on a self-generated updraft, he was pouring more heat into the building even as Daniela’s crew fought to control the blaze.

Concerned for the fire team’s welfare, urged on by a strange gut instinct, Derek left the house. Driving towards the inferno, he found himself locked in a traffic jam. Never before interested in the physical aspect of his powers, Derek was now certain that he could help the firefighters empty that building before it collapsed. His aim was simple: enable the fire fighters, especially his wife, to pull back before disaster struck.

Sitting in the car, slamming on the horn, he debated jumping out. Gaps in the gridlock enabled him brief moments of movement, further crippling his decisions. With the building, and its heat-powered tormentor, finally in sight, he made a decision. Realizing that it was his only real choice, Derek got up and began to run, sprinting as quickly as possible towards the raging inferno.

For the rest of his life, Derek would remember that it was hesitation that left him just shy of the truck, and several yards from the front door when tragedy struck. It was a mistake he vowed never to repeat. The villain, having melted just enough of the super structure, succeeded in collapsing the front of several floors. Concrete sloughed off the facade and caught up two firefighters exiting the building carrying children; one of them was Daniela. Surviving the tip to the hospital, she died shortly after arrival, taking an unknown, unborn child with her.

Days after the funeral, Derek was approached at his home by a strange visitor. Struggling to think of ways to move on, to live his life, to continue writing his financial blog (which now felt meaningless), a knock at his door dragged him from his thoughts. It was Sasha Vallington. On more than one occasion, Derek had solicited Vallington Financial for an interview with her husband, and firm head, Elijah. In fact, he’d tried for years. What he’d learned when the door shut, however, was that Sasha was the far more powerful of the Vallingtons. Revealing herself as the retired hero Vindic, she offered to teach Derek how to utilize his skills, and how to make decisions as quickly as he read and moved. With Vindic’s promise, Derek swore to never be too late again.


RL1 StonefishStonefish

Weni Lee began developing her powers at age 17. In a fortutous moment, they manifested when she and fellow underaged friends were caught in the midst of a bar fight. When one of the combatants missed his intended target, and flew towards Lee, she quickly deflected and floored the drunkard. Angry at being shown up by someone who was clearly too young to be in the pub, the second combatant launched himself at Weni. He, too, was made short work as the teen clumsily dispatched the man, breaking his nose. Her friends, quite worried, ran for the door while she was fighting, but Weni was caught by the owner when she finally tried to leave. Police officers were summoned to drag her to the Centerpoint precinct.

Her parents, livid at coming to get her in the middle of the night, were deathly silent. Lee was to have been studying for mid-terms and spending the night at her study partner’s house. The only words she caught from her father were grumbles of how ashamed he was at his parental failures, and his substandard daughter. They would be his last words, as the car was sideswiped by a drunk driver. Waking up in the hospital two days hence, Weni learned that only she had survived the crash.

A week before she was to be released from the hospital, Lee received a visit from someone unexpected: Sasha Vallington. Vallington’s husband was the head of Vallington financial, for whom both of her parents had worked. Sasha remarked that her parents had been good people, and that the Vallingtons had taken an interest in Weni from a young age. They’d begun proceedings, per the last version of the Lees’ will, to adopt Weni.

On the day of her release, Sasha appeared to drive Weni to her new home. When she inquired about the Vallington madame driving herself, Sasha explained that it was important to maintain autonomy, and a little secrecy. It’s how she’d been at the bar that night, and had confirmed just how special the girl was. It was then that Weni was taken not straight to her home, but to the hero Vindic’s bunker.

Vindic explained that her days as a hero has wound down, and her powers were no longer enough to get the job done. Weni’s powers, however, appeared to be quite similar, and likely surpassing, those of the retiring hero. She wished to train the young woman in the arts of combat, philosophy, psychology and sleuthing. Offering her a way to prove her father’s last impressions incorrect, Weni agreed to become Stonefish, the apprentice of Vindic.


RL1 BrickerBricker

Ryan Bannon and his sister, Marjorie, lost their parents at a young age. A paramedic and an ER doctor, they were murdered by a wounded Drenal brought into the ER by Marjorie’s mother. As he understood it, there was an explosion when the Drenal lost control of his powers. Ryan was never entirely certain what had happened. While it was difficult on him, his life felt more like a whirlwind from then on.

At the age of 13, Ryan became the ward of his 18-year old sister. It was, of course, only the second biggest change in his life. As the child of two minor Drenals, and the younger brother of an emerging dynamo, it was unsurprising that the youngest Bannon would develop his own abilities. Ryan’s talents emerged not long after his parents’ deaths. The sadness over their loss was mitigated by the strange things happening to him. Ryan found himself growing stronger and stronger, week by week, able to absorb more and more pain with minimal difficulty.

In his early years, his talents weren’t enough to be too obvious to be outed. As his baseball swing began to match those in the pros while only fifteen, however, things changed. He was expelled from the team, and banned from all scholastic sports, for unfair advantages. To his sister’s dismay, the ousting fabricated an unexpected celebrity.

Ryan found quite the crowd of admirers in the weight room, hitting baseballs with his friends, and other random acts. As his leg strength increased, the youth manifested an ability to jump exceptionally high. Ryan took pleasure in showing off even more for the legions of beautiful girls looking his way. Shockingly, however, at seventeen he discovered his sister’s upbeat attitude masked a moonlight career punishing local area roughnecks.

It wasn’t until a year later that he was finally tested. Her typical disguise easy to see through, a number of the local thugs banded together to lay a trap. When the Bannon siblings were caught in the snare, Ryan immediately began trying to punch his way out of the situation. Hoping to match his brawn with his sister’s fire, he found a flaw in his plan; despite being strong, he couldn’t fight. Unable to do much, and watching his sister overmatched, he was relieved when the vigilante Stonefish not only saved them, but asked them to follow her.

Arriving in the presence of the retired hero Vindic, Ryan was only too happy to enter her tutelage. His willingness likely swayed Marjorie as well. Taking on the name Bricker, the younger Bannon vowed to learn how to improve his martial skills… and to earn a date with Stonefish.


RL1 CataclysmVycia

Vycia learnned a love for tormenting others at a young age. Even before she had developed her powers, and was young Sandra Alfred, she found pleasure in pain. Twisting the secrets of classmates and revealing them in ways that were difficult to deny, she would smile and laugh as they twisted in emotional pain. As she grew, Sandra even grew to find ways to physically injure others; unfortunately, physical torture didn’t seem to deliver as much enjoyment. Watching people writhe in physical agony was amusing, for certain, but there were far more pleasurable struggles to cause.

When Sandra’s powers emerged, she found the ability to psychically probe those around her to detect their fears. It was great fun to maneuver high schoolers, and later college mates, into terrifying situations. As time wore on, she learned to give psionic pushes, influencing people around her. She’d convince them to do things that they’d be unlikely to try, resulting in their fears realized. Vycia ate it as if candy!

As an adult, Vycia travels the Earth looking to inspire terror and manipulate the populace. Her most fun playmate turned to be Dr Kly Perrels. Finding Kly’s intense fear of loneliness, she pushed him beyond terror with a psionic suggestion. All around him, Dr Perrels witnessed people succumbing to a mysterious illness, perishing in his presence. His brilliant mind worked against him, extrapolating the meaning. He was, it appeared, immune to the disease, but no one else was. The disease was driven by contact and proximity, and as such, crowds of people would contribute to the epidemic. If he, and he alone, did not do something to solve the issue, the people of the world would perish inside a year, and he would be left painfully alone.

Creating the unwitting villain Cataclysm, Vycia was left in absolute, orgasmic pleasure from his pain. His exploits became monumental enough that she could simply follow him remotely. Television stations and internet streams broadcast her handy-work everywhere. Of course, following him closely was her favorite pasttime, able to pick up such raw fear from so many, so often, and so closely.


RL1 Cataclysm2Cataclysm

Dr Kly Perrels is the world’s foremost authority on automaton technology. Graduating college by age 15, he had already received his first handful of patents prior to his junior year. Initially, his creations found use in assisting the elderly and infirm. As Kly grew older, obtaining dual doctorates in computer design and pyschology, his machines increased in intelligence and ability. At age 20, he received his first government contract to build weaponized drones and low-level mechanized soldiers.

Despite his intelligence, or perhaps because of it, Dr Perrels found himself painfully isolated. He’d had trouble making friends throughout schooling, unable to traverse cavernous gaps in age, intelligence, or both. To help tolerate his loneliness, he created a mechanized assistant that he named Gideon. Part lab partner, part confidant, Gideon became the only being that Kly could easily speak to.

Despite his difficulty interacting with people, however, Dr Perrels loved to be surrounded by them. Rarely reaching out to speak, he would position himself in food courts, parks or libraries with a book, laptop or notebook. While he feared people, his greatest fear was to be without them. It was that fear that the villanous Vycia preyed upon.

Finding Kly’s anxieties whetting her appetite, Vycia pushed him beyond terror with a psionic suggestion. All around him, Dr Perrels witnessed people succumbing to a mysterious illness, perishing in his presence. His brilliant mind worked against him, extrapolating the meaning. He was, it appeared, immune to the disease, but no one else was. The disease was driven by contact and proximity, and as such, crowds of people would contribute to the epidemic. If he, and he alone, did not do something to solve the issue, the people of the world would perish inside a year, and he would be left painfully alone.

Unwilling to accept such a horrible fate, Perrels sought out a way to end the Cataclysm. He developed a neural interface which connected to some of his most vicious creations. The only way to eliminate a disease, his logical mind knew, was to attack and destroy it. Donning the device, and a carbon-fiber reinforced suit to protect him, Cataclysm set out to save the world, by eliminating people that he saw as a threat.


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Info from RedLanceComic.com:

Welcome to Red Lance Comic where men and women serve together as heroes. Join us on this adventure as we try to prevent a cataclysm and save the world!

Mission: Protect our city, Centerpoint, with heroes judged on powers, not gender or race.
Follow the adventures of Red Lance, the super powered comic book team established by the retired hero Vindic, Cinderhawk, Raceway, Stonefish & Bricker as they come together to protect Centerpoint from what goes bump in the night. Follow as they battle the disturbed Vycia, the insane Cataclysm & his Incinovores, and many more devious villains!

Red Lance is described as “a comic universe where stories are great, heroes are heroes regardless of gender, and no porn-styled costumes.” #GenderEquality


Brief bio on creator Gary Bloom:

Gary Bloom is the creator and author of the Olympus Union science fiction series. A comic lover of decades, he seeks to introduce his baby daughter into a new world where gender is just another attribute, not a defining character, nor a liability. His science fiction has always been about the story, not the race, gender or religion; that will carry over into Red Lance.

You can purchase Red Lance #1 now on Amazon and watch for our review of issue #2!
Be sure to follow Red Lance on their Facebook page, Twitter feed, Kickstarter campaign, and their website.
And follow creator Gary Bloom on his YouTube channel, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook page.

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Jason Bennett
Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ's senior editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. He is a big lover of coffee, cats, cooking and comics (plus all things Green Lantern). He is a strong supporter of indie comics, creators, and publishers and Chris Hardwick is his spirit animal (we don't know how to respond to that). Follow Jason on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @TahoeJBennett
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