Red Rising: Sons of Ares #2
Red Rising: Sons of Ares is a prequel to Pierce’s Brown’s acclaimed Red Rising Trilogy. In the issue, script writer Rik Hoskin, who worked closely with Pierce Brown to create the series, explores the continued ascent of Fitchner au Barca as he becomes the leader of resistance group The Sons of Ares.
The line between freedom fighter and terrorist is, perhaps, one of perception. In the Red Rising Trilogy, Pierce Brown masterfully explores the murky art of war on a large scale, through the eyes of Darrow, a miner on Mars who is remade into one of the aristocracy in order to take it down from the inside. Here, Hoskin looks at the beginnings of the resistance movement that made that war possible.
Red Rising takes place hundreds of years after the colonization of the other planets. A strict Ancient Roman-based social class system has replaced “democracy”. The strong feed on the weak. Color is everything. At the top are the aristocratic Golds, the powerful rulers, and generals of the society. At the bottom are the laboring reds and the pinks, whose only purpose is to pleasure the Golds. Between are a variety of other colors, each with their own skill sets, which years of genetic modifications have perfected them for. There is no hope to rise in society and to fall usually means death.
Even within the golds, however, divisions exist. At the top are the peerless scarred, those that have survived The Institute (think school meets the Hunger Games, but on a much larger scale).
In issue one, Hoskin describes how Fitchner au Barca began life as a runt of a gold. He enters The Institute as little more than a sacrifice meant to be someone else’s kill, but survives through both desire and a willingness to commit acts that are even more violent than those of his peers.
Hoskin splits this issue, like the first, between Fitchner’s experiences growing up and an early act by the freedom fighters The Sons of Ares, led by Fitchner.
Here, readers see Fitchner, in the past, become a peerless only to be rejected by many of the elite golds because they still view him as lesser. This opens his eyes to the plight of those of the other Colors, who were born with much less than he was and have no opportunity to improve the world.
In the present, Fitchner and a motley crew of Colors kidnap Varus au Celinius, a gold because they need a passcode. The issue begins with the Sons of Ares, wearing masks of Greek Gods, surrounded and in danger of being captured. As is his modus operandi, Fitchner violently does what he needs to help his resistance group escape.
As Brown did in The Red Rising trilogy, Hoskin explores the complexity of both genetic alterations and classicism. The strongest part of the issue are the moments that take place in the past, where Hoskins develops the world enough that new readers can understand what is going on while also adding enough new in to keep readers of the original books satisfied.
The characterization is not, however, as strong in the present, perhaps partly because the Sons of Ares wear masks and partly because it is only about a third of the issue and primarily action oriented. I am certain that Hoskins will address this in further issues, but I want to know more about the other Sons of Ares, and not just Fitchner, their leader.
Eli Powell’s art and Jordan Boyd’s coloring add a great deal to the issue. Powell, who will be at HeroesCon selling original pages this weekend, captures both the bleakness of Brown’s world and the pompousness of the Golds. The Greek God masks that the Sons of Ares wear are particularly haunting.
The coloring is also grim, which works, although I would have preferred splashes of color here and there to represent the different social classes and to highlight the extreme excess of the ruling class.
In the end, the second issue of Red Rising: Sons of Ares works at its best when developing Fitchner’s backstory. My hope, however, is that moving forward, readers get to see more of the disturbingly beautiful systems at play in the larger Red Rising setting. In the Red Rising Trilogy, Brown did a phenomenal job of world building, and although we get a taste of that here, I want to see how the writer, Rik Hoskins, and the artists, Eli Powell and Jordan Boyd, tackle more of that world.
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