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Rose & Thorn #5

Posted: Tuesday, May 4, 2004
By: Olivia Woodward



Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Adriana Melo (p), Dan Green (i)

Publisher: DC

Synopsis:
Thorn's one-woman assault on the criminal organization known as the "100" continues with ferocious violence and chilling madness. She's pruning back the layers of the organization, leaving a bloody harvest in her wake. A relentless quest for vengeance, she'll keep on cutting until the person behind the murder of her parents is revealed, and weeded from the garden.

But what of Rose, trapped beneath Thorn's dominating psyche? Locked away inside the dark spaces of her own fractured mind, Rose has a visitor. Long buried memories, frightening and enigmatic, are exposed like a movie projected upon the screen of her soul, a tale of betrayal and corruption. But armed with these new insights, can Rose regain control over her own body, overthrowing the domination of her sociopath alter ego?

To make the situation worse, Rose's enemies are closing in on her. The "100" is readying for a confrontation. And the pyromaniac, Ashleigh, is hot on Thorn's trail. Finally, Rose receives some more very unhelpful "help" from the unscrupulous Dr. Chritlow, at the worst possible moment. Part five of six, "Fields of Gold" sets the stage for a cataclysmic conclusion to this powerful series.

Critique:
"Don't move, Stevie. It's so sharp, so sharp. Know how I know? Know how I know, Stevie?"

Simone gives an impressive display of her artistry in this issue. The writing is tight and powerful. With a relentless pacing, the reader is pulled into Thorn's violent quest as it escalates from one brutal scene to another, leaving a number on each of her victim's forehead, apparently counting up to one hundred. These brutal action scenes are broken up by episodes in the surreal mental prison where Rose is held, with vagueness reminiscent of nightmares. The pacing rocks back and forth between the frantic and the forlorn with an insane tempo. It's a remarkable structuring of plot.

Despite the virtuoso plot management, Simone doesn't skimp on the characterization. Through sharp and focused dialogue, the diverse personalities of this story are made convincing, from the pathetic Chritlow, wallowing in selfish misery, to Thorn's menacing ravings. Giving rich color to the dialogue are the exceptional letters by Rob Leigh. The tone of the interior monologues of both Rose and Thorn are especially well conveyed through skillful lettering.

Of course, the art is exquisite. Rich with symbolism and compelling composition, the art's narrative strength is impressive. Facial and stance depiction clearly enforces character. The visual pacing keeps the reader engaged and turning the pages. Alex Bleyaert's colors are perfectly suited to this story, giving a harsh clarity to Thorn's mayhem and a splotchy roughness to Rose's mental explorations. Finally, Adam Hughes' cover art captures Thorn's lurid and macabre glee with a powerful image of her reaching out with a blood-drenched finger, as if to draw a number upon the forehead of the reader.

Appraisal:
"When I get out of here I'm going to have a thousand cats."

This psycho-thriller is one of the best "horror" comics around. It's a compelling exploration of madness, combined with a top-rate vigilante adventure plot. Every aspect of this production is of the highest quality, from the story elements to the graphic implementations. And they all combine to create a horrific moral fable of victimization and revenge. This title is rich in symbolism, including the protagonist(s). The Rose and Thorn dichotomy can be viewed symbolic of the psychological trauma that radical violence engenders; on one hand, Rose is spiritually crushed and submissive, while Thorn is a pure embodiment of rage.

It's a rare treat when a comic reaches for a tough thematic premise, like victimization. This title makes the ambitious effort, and does so tastefully without ever descending into crass "exploitation" power fantasy. The writing is clear and chilling in depicting Thorn not as some "kewl" vigilante avenger or "anti-hero," but as a seriously demented young woman, a victim who now is trapped in the perpetuation of an endless cycle of violence. It is the themes of fractured self and helplessness that make this a superb horror comic. I highly recommend it.



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