Dynamite has sent over a new writer’s commentary featuring Rik Hoskin talking about Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Sons of Ares #5. The book has a cover by Toby Cypress and interiors by Eli Powell.
* * * * *
Before I talk about this issue let me just admire the amazing cover art that Toby Cyprus has been providing alongside our regular artist, Eli Powell. Toby’s covers are both beautiful and unsettling, and have added another dimension to this series.
On to the issue, and we start at …
The society of Red Rising is segregated, and I’ve tried to use our pages to subliminally reinforce that throughout the series. Thus, we begin with a cross-section of the Board of Quality Control building, showing our bad guy – Arturius – at the top, and our heroes – the nascent Sons of Ares – at the bottom, breaking in via the sewers. I also wanted a visual way to represent the distance of the heroes’ task here, and so I settled on the cross-section idea. It was quite a challenge to describe, but Eli totally nailed it.
We delve into what Arturius knows about Bryn and Fitchner. Arturius is toying with Bryn, like a cat with a mouse, and we should rightfully be repulsed by him. Visually, things are intentionally very tight here, metaphorically boxing Bryn in — especially the eight-panel page. That helps reflect Bryn’s sense of desperation at being trapped.
Our story’s about division and how the characters are divided, so what better way to go into the flashback than show Bryn’s split across time. I chose the title “Raw War“ because I wanted it to be palindromic, to further show the dichotomy of Bryn’s life — everything she thought she and Fitchner had is being reversed.
In the flashback, it’s crucial how the stress is beginning to take its toll on Fitchner. He’s found happiness with Bryn and their newborn son, and yet his whole life is conflicted. Every aspect of Fitchner’s life has become compartmentalized, no one else knows the full truth anymore, and he has no one he can share that with as it eats away at him.
In the present, we see the heroes’ varied reactions to the death of their ally, Doran. I wanted Ryanna to react with guilt that Doran loved her and she didn’t feel the same about him. I think death brings out guilt in people because no one knows how to react to grief. The way Fenix (the Gray) brings her back to reality with his pragmatism took a little back and forth between me and Pierce when we were scripting this scene — we both knew what we wanted here but it had to feel natural.
Again, a visual division! This is an unusual page because it’s designed to be read in two vertical columns, showing the present and past. I wanted to use columns because the heroes are climbing an elevator shaft and I felt this would further emphasize that it’s narrow and enclosed. The lettering placement guides the eye to make that work, of course. Yeah, great lettering by Tom Napolitano — he must dread my scripts by now!
I wrote a lot of this issue as visuals first to get the pace right. This page is a result of that. I think Eli did a splendid job with representing Arturius as a shadow in the very moment he is at his most sneaky and wicked — it’s a perfect touch, he’s hidden and yet appears to be open with Fitchner.
Fitchner is turning his back on his every support network, and he has become wildly reckless. Arturius may be a manipulative swine, but he does so within the bounds of his societal upbringing, something Fitchner rejects outright.
It’s all movement from here on; pages get faster, fights are mostly silent — the whole pace of events should feel out of anyone’s control. You may note that Arturius’s whip disappears during page 16 — that will become crucial later, and it’s a hint of how arrogant he is whilst questioning Bryn.
This is the connective tissue that leads our flashbacks into where we began in issue 1. Fitchner has been building his house on sand, and now it’s come crashing down. I love Dee Cunniffe’s bright colors here, it underscores how Fitchner’s despair is inconsequential in this world — and isn’t that so often the case with our private tragedies?
This is a flashback to issue 1, where Fitchner adopts his masked identity to–we now realize–save his wife from the man who was once his contemporary and his only friend.
Pierce and I always wanted that big Fitchner fight moment. He’s rage personified, yet eerily hidden behind this static, emotionless mask. I think this moment shows just how scary it would be to be around Fitchner; you never know which way he’ll jump.
Eli coordinates this wonderfully as we get all the characters in place for what I promise is a brutal, Howlerific finale next issue. Although appropriate, the next issue caption is a little pun for fans of the Red Rising books.
Find out more on the penultimate issue of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Sons of Ares here.